My name is Jerry Barry. I am a musician, singer, songwriter, comedian, producer, artist, writer and amateur cook. I live in North Florida with my partner Carol. I have been performing as a folksinger/comedian for over 25 years and have traveled and performed in nearly every state in the U.S. I have also produced or co produced nearly 20 albums from artist ranging from full folk/rock setup to solo guitar and harp to stand up comedy. I have performed on nearly thirty different recording projects including classic Folk albums by my bands The New Minstrel Revue and the legendary Minstrels of Mayhem.
This page is an overview of my work and other interests as well as a place for me to continue my work bringing you new songs, photos, video and writings. Its my first time with my own control of a web page so this might get weird.
This is my new recording, The Imperfectionist. I think the title speaks for itself.
Very soon it will be available here but for now I wanted to give a quick rundown of the songs with a bit more about them so the lucky few who were able to get a first run cd at a show could have more information.
Friends sometimes kid me for still using the word album. To me the word has nothing to do with the actual format. It describes a collection. This album is not just a collection of songs but a collection of recordings. Recorded on different instruments, in different locations with different equipment and because they were recorded over a ten year period, even my voice is quite different throughout. What I’ll attempt to do here is give you, the listener, more information about the when, where and why of the writing and recording of each song.
1. Bramblethorne Waltz- this is the most recent song. I spent a month and a half in my hometown in upstate NY last winter saying goodbye to and then burying my mother. During that time I spent many cold snowy nights alone in a large empty house. I would use my ipad and a guitar I had borrowed from the same brother-in-law who loaned me the house to write songs. Thanks Pat! This piece was written in that house on that guitar during during that time. I recorded it in June and wanted to call it Blackberry Waltz because of the abundance of blackberries in our yard this year but, of course, there is already a tune by that name. But with every blackberry there are many bramblethorns, and where there are brambles their is sometimes something sweet.
2. Your Love is Beautiful- on the morning of March 28, 2013 I woke up and after doing all of my other morning routines sat to have my oatmeal and check Facebook. I don’t post that much, a few videos and photos here and there, but when I’m at home I use it to check in on family and friends daily. What I saw was a flood of those red equality banners. It was an important day and to commemorate that day I wrote this song. I wanted to keep it simple and it came out as quick as any song I had ever written. When I was done I decided to immediately record a video demo and post it. For some reason I felt like the song did not actually belong to me. The response from family and friends was overwhelming and I knew I had made the the connection I had hoped. It is a statement of my feelings on the subject in the simplest terms I could find. I recorded it in June in my home studio.
3. Circus Parade- about six years ago, as a long term project, I began work on a musical about a circus freak show. I found out a bit later that there already is a fairly popular one but by then I was well into it and figured it would still make a good album, maybe with a small book of the story, so in my free time I worked on it. While I have many of the songs written and the entire story, but a few scenes written, I figure I’m still years away from finishing. So I wanted to share some of the better songs with you. This one is the first song I wrote for it. I recorded a full version with multiple instruments and harmony vocals but the original files got damaged and I was unable to recover them for this release. I went back and found the original demo I recorded the day I completed the song. While not the best recording, I like the song and hope, for the listener, the songwriting makes up for the sonic shortcomings.
4. Mary, Queen of Arkansas- this is the only cover song on the album. Written by Bruce Springsteen, it’s a song I have always loved but never had plans to record. One day while in Tennessee, my friend and longtime band mate Craig rented a hotel room so he could record a new song in relative quiet. With Brad as engineer on his roland digital recorder, the three of us knocked out Craig’s song in a few hours. Since we were set up we decided to just keep running songs. This is one I had just started working on and the performance has a couple of weird hesitations but I’ve always been struck by the passion in this recording and since there is only one take, we all must have liked it on the day. Since it continues the circus theme I decided to give Bruce his money and share his song with you. This recording is live with no edits or overdubs.
5. Light of Day – I don’t really write about myself that much anymore. I find it gets boring compared to being able to make up characters and situations. This song is at least partially about me. Or maybe it’s at least advice from the more cynical side of me but I have always liked it. It’s about 5 years old and I have played it around at jams so it’s grown on me. It was an experiment to try to write a song in the style of one of my favorite bands, the Mountain Goats. It doesn’t come off that way on the surface because of the vast differences in our vocal styles, but I came pretty close in the writing and playing part, except probably less cynical and with a few more chords. After all, I still have to be me. I’m not even sure where I recorded this. I know it was intended as a demo for Brad and Thomas to find parts to, but those sessions never developed.
6. Johnny Came Marching – probably the oldest song here. Written and recorded in the fall of 2005. The war was escalating, we were starting to see shattered young men coming home and I was seeing them treated like traitors when they didn’t tow the company line. I don’t tend to write topical songs but when I do I like to keep them short, simple and to the point. It was recorded live in a single session in a backstage room at a stage in Ohio. It was late at night and if you listen close you may hear some crickets.
7. Rusulka – I wrote this a couple of years ago for NMR. It’s based on a story from Russian folklore. When you have amazing players like Brad, Thomas and Craig at your disposal the most fun you can have is to write a decent song that, by design, you know they will turn into something great. I wrote the words, the chords and the main head played at the beginning and end. Every other part was improvised and refined by the players. If you ever get the chance do do this, try it. It’s one of the coolest feelings in the world. We recorded it for a new NMR project but, as is fairly evident from this live take, our setup didn’t produce the results we had hoped for. This is recorded 100% live. No edits or overdubs. When you work this way you run the risk of too much bleed through on tracks, making mixing very difficult. Most of the work from these sessions was unusable. This take was such an amazing performance with such awesome solos, I couldn’t resist using it. What it suffers in sonic clarity and depth I feel is made up in passion and just plain old kick-assitude.
The New Minstrel Revue
8. The Girl with the Magic Shield and Helmet – I wrote this song about five years ago for a young friend who was being treated for cancer. She came to stay with us for awhile and I wrote and recorded this during that time. We often joked about her magic shield and helmet. Her strength and poise during that time has been an inspiration to me ever since. I had always meant to find some inspirational lyrics about survival or not giving up hope but in these situations words never seem enough to convey the complexity of life. So, now it’s an instrumental and my friend is 5 years cancer free. If you would like to help young people like my friend who need medical help and support you can visit www.RESCUfoundation.org
9. Doctor Krowe – this mystical man of medicine is the main villain in the previously mentioned untitled freakshow play/album. For those wondering about a certain line, I wrote this before The Dark Knight was released. It’s just a coincidence, sometimes a good line is a good line. But I will say I nearly cried after hearing what I thought was one of my best lines in a giant movie. I almost trashbinned the whole song. But now I’m over it. This and the next three songs feature Thomas Nuendel on violin and were all recorded at home.
10. Eleanor – this is the final inclusion of songs from the circus project. Sung by the male lead, a strongman, to the female lead, a tattooed dancer, it’s message is universal. It’s about putting the past where it belongs and working toward a happy present and future. So many people have pain in their lives. Often pain created by those so far in their past, resolution is near impossible. The best one can do is love and allow one’s self to be loved by those who are around them now. The others have no power, they’re only memories.
11. Ordinary Man – written in Louisiana as a middle section for the NMR song MacDougal’s Farm. After deciding it wouldn’t work there I kept it and started expanding and writing the lyrics, because it is rare that I get one keeper in a week, much less two. It started as a slower folk song. Sometimes, once I’m in the studio surrounded by instruments, songs will drastically change, as was the case here. It might be about me, but probably not.
12. Test Flight – recorded entirely on an iPad using a mixture of music apps and live instruments. I’ve been having great fun in my spare time creating more of this type of music and depending on the reactions I get from this, I may decide to release more stuff from a fairly large store of instrumental textural music I’ve created over the past fifteen years or so. I programmed the drum beat, all others; guitars, violin, keys, and synths played on various controllers were overdubbed using ios processing techniques. Welcome to the future.
13. Fare Thee Well – also know as Dink’s Song, this is a traditional song first compiled for the Smithsonian Anthology of Folk Music as sung by a former slave named Dink. I had sung it before and have studied the smithsonian collection extensively but never thought of it as something to record until my sister Kath, who has always been a big supporter of my music and a music lover in general, suggested it would be a great song for me. Once I started tearing it down and building it back up as I like to do in order to find my own personalized version of an old song, I really fell in love with it. I decided to forego the slave dialect favored in many versions and I tweaked the phrasing a bit but the original song still comes through. I recorded it in the spring of 2014. As is likely evident, I was trying to test whether I could mix natural acoustic instruments and midi sampled instruments successfully. However, whether or not I was successful is not really up to me at this point. Each listener can decide for themselves. At least until I have the kind of budget it would take to hire a band this big all I can do is write and dream. This was supposed to be the final song until I stumbled across an old recording of JHC.
14. JHC – this song was written many years ago specifically for my friends Dana and Shannon who perform a musical comedy show as two super cute nuns called Hey Nunnie Nunnie. It appeared on their CD Cruisin’ available at www.heynunnienunnie.com this is the original demo I sent to them so they could learn the song. About a month ago when I came across this on an old hard drive it really made me chuckle and I figured it would be a fun bonus track. Then I realized no one does bonus tracks anymore. So now it’s just a track. If you think because I wrote this song I want to talk to you about Jesus you are mistaken. My beliefs are complex and private and cannot be contained within a single conversation. If it somehow offends you, I’m sorry that you are so easily offended by general silliness with no malicious intent. It’s included here only because I wrote it and I think it’s cute and I hope you do too.
I hope you enjoyed this overview and I hope you like the album. Cheers.
A couple of years ago Brad Collier and I were hanging around one morning talking about YouTube. We decided, as an experiment, to see how quickly we could write a song and record it and get it out there. We picked a pretty easy target, wrote a fun song and here it is.