John Lennon Songwriting Contest winner Rick Barry delivers another great batch of songs with the all-star home recordings of “Ruminations From Barrydise During an Apocalypse,” featuring several fellow Asbury Park music scenesters. ART BY ZACH WESTFALL
In the early days of the COVID shut down nearly nine months ago, while we were all figuring out what a Zoom meeting was and hoarding toilet paper, Rick Barry had been writing several new songs. Inspired by being lockdown in a roomful of guitars that he had no excuse but to play every day to keep from losing his mind, Rick released the tension into six great tunes gathered on the new EP, “Ruminations From Barrydise During an Apocalypse.”
Missing the camaraderie and communion that comes from making music with others, he recruited trustworthy and talented friends to produce and arrange the apocalyptic anthems in home studios from his base in Asbury Park to Nashville. Among the assembly is a reunion of sorts of No Wine for Kittens, Rick’s band with Justin and Emily Bornemann of Dentist and Andy Bova, the original drummer of both bands and now the owner of Simple Sound Studio in Oceanport.
“Ruminations” kicks off with “Curtain Call.” The beautiful, yet energetic tale chronicles the loss and regret in reaction to the unnecessarily uncontrollable pandemic and the continual need to quarantine and lockdown due to a lack of responsibility from the federal government, some states, and citizens who selfishly refuse to comply with science.
“A Sincere Critique of 45” is a wonderfully funny and sincere skewering of Trump and the many cruel ironies and inconsistencies that increase the death toll. A country beat and accompaniment provided by Justin on guitar, Remember Jones keyboardist Mark Masefield, and Nashville guitarist Alex Haddad is a nod to redneck Trump supporters.
“Ruminations,” a reflective quasi title track, features beautiful harmony vocals by Emily Bornemann, whose husband, Justin, produced and played guitars and bass. That’s followed by the standout “No Smoking,” a pretty piano-driven, string-spiced chronicle of the United States’ decline since 9/11.
The chorus-less anthem features powerful performances by Mark, who produced the “The City of New Orleans”-inspired track, and cellist Jenn Fantaccione and violinist-violist Nicole Scorsone, who overdubs three-quarters of their string quartet. Rick makes a fascinating comparison between the freedoms that smokers lost when driven out into the cold to the disregard for science of self-proclaimed patriots who refuse to a wear a mask during the pandemic (which, by the way, was considered the crime of disturbing the peace in 1918). I love the verse, “You say it’s sad that no one sees it coming. Everybody’s got a false sense of hope. The politicians they are the drug dealers, and fear is their dope. Everybody wants to pledge allegiance. Everybody wants to protect their home. But if you’re withdrawing from your freedom, remember false patriotism, it’s just like methadone.”
The fiercely epic “New Song Regarding Old Problems” is an indictment of elitism, racism and the incompetent administration that perpetuates both, along with a plague. In another powerfully poetic comparison, Rick likens the Black Lives Matters movement during a lockdown to the Middle Passage and border detention camps to the beginning of a real-life “Hungry Games.” He got a lot of help on “New Song” from both production and performances by Alex, fellow Nashville transplant Sarah Tomek on drums, and podcast safe music pioneer Brother Love on vocals.
Fueled by the understated trombone of Ian Gray (Billy Walton Band, Karmic Juggernaut), the closing Mark-produced apocalyptic blues “Week Five” compares the loneliness of the pandemic for some to the placid recklessness of others, as well as the denial of science to the collapse of Jersey Shore sea walls. Putting his money where his mouth is, Rick is donating proceeds from the exclusive Bandcamp release to to the social justice organizations NAACAP, Movement for Black Lives, Poor People's Campaign, and Center for Popular Democracy.