Tim Barry – Manchester (CD)

Based on the past few years, you’d think every grizzled punk rocker wants nothing more than to be a folk musician. Hot Water Music front man Chuck Ragan put his band on ice for a year or two to pick up an acoustic guitar; Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin went rootsy on his solo record last year; and former Avail singer Tim Barry has been unplugged for several records now.

On his latest, Manchester, Barry seems to have perfected the punk/folk hybrid, bringing politically-charged lyrics (“South Hill”) and angst-tinged vocals all backed by subtle acoustic guitar and drums. The genre is ideal for Barry’s distinctive, emotion-laden voice that sounds just as powerful when he’s not competing with distorted guitars. Two thousand six’s Rivanna Junction was a solid release, but Barry has caught his stride with Manchester.

From the opening track (about nasty cops in Texas, aptly titled “Texas Cops”) Barry starts the record with a raucous defiance before switching to more somber topics. Barry has always had a knack for writing sharp commentaries that occasionally got lost in amongst the swirl of ferocious guitars while leading the guys in Avail. The beauty of his quieter records is that his lyrics are now front and center. There is something very punk rock about turning off the amps every now and then and picking up an acoustic guitar.

Top Tracks: Texas Cops, South Hill, C.R.F. (Retired)

Rating: 9/10

Tim Barry – Manchester (CD) / 2008 Suburban Home / 12 Tracks / http://www.timbarryrva.com

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