Jennah Barry: Young Men
I’m a sucker for great vocals and Jennah Barry delivers them. Her smooth, warm voice delivers on her debut solo album, Young Men. Her sweet voice delivers vulnerable lyrics while staying strong, a feat I didn’t think could be possible. Her Facebook page’s “About” section reads “Red hair, Blue eyes, 5’8”.” No, it’s not a dating profile. Yes, she is gorgeous. Her musical talents are just as stunning. She wrote all of the songs, played guitar, keyboard, horns, and glockenspiel on the album, plus she helped to produce it. Her beautiful voice is likely partially due to her mother, a choir director, giving her voice lessons as a child. She reminds me of other Canadian songstresses like Sarah Harmer, but her voice sets her apart.
I was shocked to find out how young Barry is. Though the lyrics speak of heartbreak, they are delivered with a maturity that suggests a lesson has been learned, something I didn’t expect from someone who was still in college while writing many of the songs. Of course, it makes a bit more sense when she sings about roommates in “To Be Patient.” Barry moved from a tiny ocean-side town in Nova Scotia to go to college in Toronto, a bustling metropolis. According to her Facebook page and Tumblr, she faced homesickness and heartbreak and became reclusive, doing much of her songwriting on her apartment floor in her final year of college. She moved back to Nova Scotia within days of graduating and recorded the “belly” of Young Men in a week with many of the former members of her old band, O’Darlings. Being back on familiar turf may have given her back the confidence that comes through on each track. Songs like “Black Hole” definitely speak of homesickness and sadness (“caught between a rock and a black hole.”) “Honey” covers making mistakes, losing, and cheating.
Despite the dark place Barry was in while writing the album, it’s not all doom and gloom. “Slow Dance” is an adorable song where she dresses up, greets her significant other upon his arrival home, and asks him to dance. It’s pretty adorable. “Dead Giveaway” is a peppy ode to some of the more confusing aspects of love. There’s a slight country twang to a couple of songs. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there should be more banjo in today’s songs. “Young Men” not only features some banjo, but it’s banjo played by a musician named Old Man Luedecke. I don’t think that can get any cooler. Along with the banjo are other unexpected instruments like strings, horns, pedal steel, and glockenspiel added to guitars, piano, keyboard, and drums along with layers of vocals to create interesting tracks. On first listen, the music seems simple to showcase the vocals, yet upon closer listen the instrumentals are complex and layered on their own.