Several years ago, I said that Rick Barry was the next Billy Bragg. I can still remember Steven Bumbera joking that I must have meant Rick would have a career filled with incredible songs that nobody would ever hear. Well, with the release of his latest EP, "This Antediluvian World", it's clear that he no longer wants to be just a big fish in the Asbury Park scene - he's ready for the world to hear him. And, he's ready to shed the Billy Bragg title once and for all.
I used to imagine Rick dragging his acoustic guitar from town to town, performing a mix of political tunes that would rack the audience's mind and shake their world as if he was a modern-day Woody Guthrie. It always seemed to me that his best shows were always done solo, but he kept plugging away with band after band. From the Mourning After to playing with the members of Days Awake and Paperback Radio to the New Rick Barry's and No Wine For Kittens; I guess Rick was not only determined to find a band that fit with him, but on a quest. A quest, which apparently has led to his latest effort. And, with great success, I might add.
"This Antediluvian World" straddles the line between Rick's solo acoustic work and his full blown band efforts. The mixture is something which sounds almost brand new me. As I first listened to the CD, I realized I needed to treat this as a new band - to imagine it was the work of an artist whose CD just landed in my mailbox - rather than judge it upon his past catalog. The songs have layers upon layers of instrumentation, backing vocals from artists like Val Emmich, Eryn Shewell, and Allie Moss, and even horns on one track! Yet, in the end, the songs still come down to the words from Mr. Barry; someone I still consider a once in a generation talent.
Maybe I won't ever get to see Rick become the next Woody Guthrie, but that's fine with me. This record shows him emerging as an artist comfortable in his own skin - something that I think he grappled with on his first record (rock and roll) and his second (pure folk). It's good to see him ready to take that next step. My only complaint with the disc is that I don't really hear that "hit single" which could help him break as an artist. All of the tunes are good, I just don't hear that one which is better than the rest.
Favorite tunes on the disc are "Richard, Please", "A Thousand Words", and "Atlantis". All total there are five new tunes and a brief instrumental. Production is fantastic - one of the best I've heard for a local band in quite some time. Highly recommended!
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.