Taylor’s Turntable: Acoustic-pop singer Barnes is a modern Renaissance man

Columnist Taylor Ysteboe on a singer-songwriter who offers fans more than just gentle ballads.

By Taylor Ysteboe | Feb. 24, 2015

Tags: Music Reviews

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Some musicians are the whole package. They can write lyrics. They can play an instrument. They’re folks who you just want to sit down with and have a cup o’ joe. They’re more than just talented musicians — they’re awesome people.

Dave Barnes is one of those artists. Based in Tennessee, Barnes has been on the music scene for over a decade. Since releasing his first EP in 2002, Barnes has honed in on his acoustic pop style. He reaches deep into his heart to share his tender sentiments set against gentle guitar strumming.

His latest EP, “Hymns for Her,” is an earnest tribute of romance that crosses miles and changes.

The EP bounces to a whimsical start with “Darlin’.” A summery tune driven by a twangy guitar, Barnes sings about the pure simplicity of just being with your loved one. It’s all about the delightful pleasures of having your other half by your side. Barnes’ little bluesy and lilting voice gives the song a vibrant push, too.

“Tell Her You Do” is the next track, and it begins humbly with a guitar but builds up to a magical, spinning orchestra. Barnes’ voice sails across each note and soars when the strings mount. An honest singer writing from his own experiences, Barnes is able to unveil his soul yet still create sympathy in our hearts. This song encompasses the necessity of complete candor with the one you’re with. You know you love your darling because “her every word is a verse, oh, and you know the tune” so make sure she knows that you love her, darn it!

“Headlights” follows and tells the story of how Barnes and his wife fell in love during their long-distance phase. The song is warm as the orchestra builds until you feel it in your ribcage. The yearning is clear in his voice, and you can just imagine the joy he must have felt when he saw the headlights of the woman who is now his wife approach.

Barnes picks up the beat a bit with “The Little I Know.” This song is rich with imagery of oceans and angels and rain. Barnes’ voice sways like a dandelion blowing in the wind, carrying you with it.

Barnes’ family moved to Mississippi when he was young, so the next track off of “Hymns for Her” is entitled “Mississippi.” A gentle instrumental track, “Mississippi” serves as a pleasant interlude. The guitar hops up and down as the orchestra wraps itself around the powerful notes.

The EP ends with a joyful ring in “Good Day For Marrying You.” With a gospel wash, Barnes is accompanied by jubilant back-up singers as he sings about having a wedding underneath a shady tree. Dreams really do come true, folks.

But let me tell you, Mr. Barnes is a heck of a lot more than just a singer-songwriter. He’s one cool dude.

Not only does he compose darling ballads, he is a charming guy who will capture your heart the first time you watch any of his videos. And I’m not talking about music videos, though those are good, too. I’m talking about the videos that he produces to promote his music. From teaching his devoted fans about karate (he’s a yellow belt, ladies) to convincing mountain men how to capture their lovers’ hearts, Barnes is a real Renaissance man.

Barnes also has cool friends with whom he tours and writes. From Matt Wertz to Andrew Ripp to Marc Broussard, Barnes surrounds himself with the best so he can be the best, too.

Barnes gives new meaning to how an artist operates in 2015. He produces music. He can tell jokes. He can put on a show. He’s more than just a singer. He’s Dave Barnes, y’all.

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