As our interest in Canadian music grew, naturally our catalog of artists did too. The first time I recall hearing a Matthew Barber track was several years ago, most notably “Lose Your Love” on CBC Sonica radio. We quickly found a few of his albums, and certainly enjoyed his material. Shortly afterwards, we would learn of his equally talented sister Jill Barber, whose “Mischievous Moon” album was picked up here in Central PA (go figure!). Following up with her French language release “Chansons,” we became instant fans and set about tracking down her previous releases too.
Imagine our delight when Matthew and Jill announced an upcoming collaboration titled “The Family Album.” We were certainly eager to hear how Matthew’s folk-pop would blend with Jill’s more recent crossover into the light jazz genre, and upon playing the new release, have certainly not been left disappointed. With eleven tracks on The Family Album, the siblings are credited with writing five new tunes; the remaining songs all being cover versions of songs that are held dearly by both artists. And with material from Townes Van Zandt, Ian Tyson, and Neil Young making the final cut, the album provides a perfect mix of old and new.
Last autumn, Matthew and Jill decided to take the new material to the road with The Family Album tour. Our own schedule did not intersect with those dates/locations, but with some ‘bonus’ spring dates added, we were able to secure tickets to the first show (after a five month hiatus) in Oakville, ON, this past weekend. With a full band in tow, Matthew and Jill Barber would perform a total of 19 songs at the Oakville Performing Arts Centre. All eleven tracks from the new album were included, along with a selection of their individual material.
Launching into the first set with the first three tracks from the new album, the band certainly showed littles signs of any ‘winter-rust,’ delivering the songs flawlessly. Jill took the spotlight to devote time to a couple of her popular tunes from her “Chances” album (title track and “Never Quit Loving You”), while Matthew would follow with hits such as “Magnet Eyes” and “True Believer” – the song that Jill asked him to perform at her wedding.
Matthew and Jill returned to the stage alone to commence the second set, standing front and center with an a capella version of the classic Everly Brothers tune “All I have to do is dream.” Matthew followed with “Where The River Bends,” before seating himself at the grand piano to perform the music for Jill’s “Ashes to Ashes.” The band would return to the stage halfway through this song (Matthew discreetly gave up keyboard duties) to close out the track, before launching once again into an uninterrupted stream of Family Album material. It was wonderful to hear “The Partisan” in this mix, with the vocal transition from English to French, and back again.
Jill would return once more to her “Chances” album, and take the lead on her up-tempo rendition of “Oh My My,” complete with full audience participation that would be the climatic end to the show. Not quite done yet, the band would return for a one-track encore, and close with the final track from the new album, a cover of the Neil Young song “Comes A Time.”
Matthew and Jill proved to be very entertaining, yet we felt that it was during the last two tracks that they really started to get going – at least in the sense that they had finally gotten the audience fully involved. The crowd seemed a little subdued through most of the set, making it difficult for Jill even to generate successful participation during “All I have to do is dream.” We were singing; we did our part, but most people around us chose to sit in silence, and we felt badly for the two siblings on stage who were doing their hardest to incorporate participation and feedback into their show. At least Team GDW knew and loved the artists, the material, and had a blast experiencing this unique event that brought brother and sister together for a one-time musical collaboration.
As always, we want to thank both Matthew and Jill for taking time to meet their fans after the show, and for not running to the hills when asked to autograph the bag-full of merchandise that we had bought along with us. Once again we found ourselves in the presence of wonderful, yet humble artists, who clearly love, and are grateful for, what they do. Matthew and Jill entertained us all evening, and we look forward to having another opportunity to see both artists perform their individual material at length some point in the future.
- I must be in a good place now
- Song to a young seagull
- One true love
- Magnet eyes
- Big picture window
- The sweeter the dawn
- True believer
- Never quit loving you
- All I have to do is dream
- Where the river bends
- Ashes to ashes
- Summer wages
- The partisan
- Grandpa Joe
- If I needed you
- Oh my my
- Comes a time