Special to The Record
The next doubleheader at the Sid Williams Theatre (Oct. 16) will feature music from two of Canada’s most distinct geographical regions.
Singer-songwriter Del Barber was born in rural Manitoba and still lives there. The Fortunate Ones are a pop-folk duo from Newfoundland.
Barber’s latest album is titled Prairieography.
What is it about the Prairies that leave a mark on its inhabitants, including a host of singer-songwriters?
“I think there’s a sparseness to the landscape,” Barber replied in a phone interview from Manitoba. “We all live very close to it (the land), and are influenced by the economic realities of the landscape, which points toward agriculture.”
Even Prairie cities such as Calgary, Winnipeg and Regina have close ties to manual labour, he commented.
“It’s a place where you need your neighbours,” he said, adding that a harsh climate tends to influence songwriters.
Recorded at Empire Recording in Winnipeg, his fourth album includes ambient sounds from combines and augers. Wanting an organic sound for Prairieography that’s true to the land, he recorded the reverb inside a 150-foot-high grain silo.
“Trying to write songs about place, you want them to sound like that place somehow.”
Barber sometimes tours with a band called the Profiteers, a deliberately ironic name because album sales have evaporated and touring is the only way musicians can make a living, he noted.
After a busy summer of performing at festivals, including the mammoth South By Southwest festival in Texas, Barber is back to playing halls and theatres. He doesn’t have a preference.
“You never really know what you’re going to get, and that’s part of the magic of live music. Even if you do it every night for two months … there’s never a chance for you to be a robot. It’s always a ride.”
Barber, winner of the fan-voted 2015 Sirius XM Indie Award for Folk/Roots Artist or Group of the Year, will perform solo Oct. 16 at the Sid Williams Theatre.
“In the right venue, it’s a dynamic show. I tell stories and make people laugh. Solo is still where I’m most comfortable and most at ease with an audience.”
He had good things to say about Andrew James O’Brien and Catherine Allan, also known as the Fortunate Ones with whom he will share the bill.
“I know them really well. I did a tour with them during the winter of Newfoundland, where they’re from. They’re absolutely lovely, and they’re really great live.”
Singer-guitarist O’Brien and singer-pianist-accordion player Allan have a reputation for wide-eyed energy and pragmatic optimism.
The Fortunate Ones have been selected as winners of the inaugural Allan Slaight Juno Master Class. They earned a trip to Toronto for a week-long customized artist development program, and a trip to next year’s Juno Awards in Calgary.
“Fortunate Ones are a rare gem. Two voices singing as one,” praises Great Big Sea singer Alan Doyle.
Del Barber and the Fortunate Ones perform Oct. 16 as part of the Blue Circle Series at the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay.
For details and tickets, visit sidwilliamstheatre.com, phone 250-338-2430 or visit the Sid box office at 442 Cliffe Ave. in Courtenay.