REVIEW: Matthew Barber & Jill Barber – The Family Album

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By Jan Smit

When I interviewed Matthew and Jill Barber in Amsterdam in October 2015 during their European tour, they announced the release of a new album that would be a mix of new material and covers of ‘hidden gems by people that we like’, as Matthew put it. By then, they had already finished the recordings of what was to become The Family Album. It will be released in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg in June 2016.

The Family Album consists of eleven tracks, six of which are cover songs. The other songs have been written by Jill (three) and Matthew (two). To embark on a project like this entails the risk of ending up with a collection of songs that do not have much in common style-wise. The fact that Matthew and Jill did separate sets on their show in the Sugarfactory in Amsterdam last October, reflects the difference between their musical styles: folky Matthew and jazzy Jill. Overall The Family Album is a folky album, as Matthew already announced during the Amsterdam interview.

Despite her inclination towards jazz, Jill has supplied songs that blend in well with the overall country-folk feel of The Family Album. The Barbers have succeeded in creating a coherent sound. In the Amsterdam interview Jill characterized the The Family Album in the following way: ‘I think in a lot of ways we each go back to our roots in terms of kind of doing what we used to do way back when we were teenagers: playing songs for each other on acoustic guitars and maybe singing along back up with each other and so there’s lots of harmonies.

The theme is one of nostalgia. I think it’s a really warm album.’ Brother and sister certainly have produced a collection of recorded songs that provide a warm listening experience. The choice to include new songs alongside the covers, does justice to the quality of the songwriting by the Barbers. For me The Sweeter The Dawn (Matthew) and Big Picture Window (Jill) stand out. The Family Album is well worth listening to. Hopefully Matthew and Jill find the time to tour Europe again and play The Family Album and other songs to their European fans.

Listen from The Family Album:

  • Song To A Young Seagull
  • The Sweeter The Dawn
  • Summer Wages
  • The Partisan

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