Brad Barr's Biography

For more than 20 years, Brad Barr has been counting the number 216. It’s a magical, mystical number that has appeared everywhere for him—from clocks and license plates to Ouija boards and receipts—and now it’s also sewn the fabric of a new album, like the 216 stitches on an officially-certified Major League baseball. The frontman for the Barr Brothers has set aside his band and his microphone and even his sheets of lyrics—picking up his instrument for a solo guitar album that ripples with immediacy, vulnerability, and the spell of six-cubed.

48 minutes, 12 tracks, recorded over the past two years during high times and low ones—but always as a man all alone, un-trespassed-upon. Barr has spent decades developing his unique and visceral approach to the guitar, first with The Slip and then across three LPs with the Barr Brothers. He first attempted a solo instrumental record in 2008, releasing The Fall Apartment with legendary folk label Tompkins Square. The Winter Mission is its follow-up, with its own winking title, and again the Montreal-based musician has tried to express the raw, unpredictable music of his unaccompanied muse—the sound of a single individual as he felt at one moment, cradling a guitar in his arms.

The album had its origins in a commission, landing just before the arrival of the Pandemic: an invitation to compose for New York City’s acclaimed off-Broadway All For One Theater. The theatre’s founder, Michael Wolk, knew The Fall Apartment and sought a set of similar instrumental tracks for on- and off-stage use. “It felt like a gift,” Barr recalls—as the world shut down and touring stopped, as Barr sought a sound he could explore all by himself, in this strange intermission.

Music for solo guitar—a tender inversion of the term “guitar solo” and all its grandstanding. Inspired by artists like Caetano Veloso, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Andrés Segovia, D’Gary, John Frusciante, and even local instrumental acts like Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld, Barr returned and returned to the image of a person alone with their instrument. He wanted to make music that was naked and unprocessed, with a fleetness to it—that could connect with others without his understanding quite how, reaching into their rooms and leaving something there. And he didn’t want it to be solely acoustic: for it to be “loud, too,” jarring and alien at times. All of this gives The Winter Mission a sense of active, wakeful intimacy—a gorgeous unsettledness that resists the drift into background music.

And 216 was there throughout. The first song Barr sent Wolk was titled “Untouchable Number”—an allusion to one of 216’s mathematical properties. 216’s a three-digit integer, a so-called “magic square” that the guitarist first noticed in his teens—rising to the forefront at the end of a marking acid trip. In the years since then it’s become a talisman—one of the rare places where Barr finds himself feeling mystical, sensing a genuine order in an otherwise chaotic universe. 216 has special status in the Mayan calendar, in Hindu prayer, in the Kabbalah. It’s a Friedman number, a Harshad number, and the sum of three primes. It’s the area-code for Cleveland, Ohio. But for Barr its power is at once smaller and greater, a “lucky number” that seems to rise up at important moments. It’s become part of his personal mythology—a secret that gives life some extra shine. And so it marks The Winter Mission, too—weaving through nearly all these songs.

Still, you don’t need to believe in 216 to fall in love with this record. You don’t even need to be able to count that high. It’s enough to feel the grace that shimmers beneath these tracks, a wild music’s secret scaffolding. 12 songs for solo guitar. A man alone with his instrument. A quiver in the air.

The Winter Mission is out with Secret City Records on January 21st.

Projets culturels

t. 514 244 7202
Facebook Twitter Rss


Liste d'envoi

Recevez nos communiqués par courriel
Veuillez entrer une adresse courriel valide
Nom    E-mail 
Public Média