Del Barber loves Manitoba, but he has a wandering eye

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DEL Barber was born a ramblin' man. He's on the road eight months a year and, at 28, has already worked in 15 states and eight provinces.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/10/2012 (3694 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

DEL Barber was born a ramblin’ man. He’s on the road eight months a year and, at 28, has already worked in 15 states and eight provinces.

Now, having just released his third full-length album in four years, Winnipeg’s wandering minstrel admits his wanderlust is giving him a bit of a guilty conscience where his, um, primary relationship is concerned.

“I’ve said this before, but I definitely feel it’s true: I feel like I’m married to Manitoba,” the lanky roots-country singer-songwriter says during an interview. “I’ve committed my life to Manitoba but then I end up cheating on her. I’m an unfaithful husband.”

Del Barber is trying to give people a Prairie esthetic onstage.

Barber can be forgiven his roving eye: He’s been busy searching for the source — of desire, freedom, love and loss, sadness and joy and other streams that run through a well-examined life.

His new album, Headwaters, explores the ways in which sources in our lives influence the directions we take, how our past dictates our future. “Rivers can’t change where they begin, or where they run, neither can we change our histories or escape their influence on us,” he writes in the bio on his website.

The release party takes place at the West End Cultural Centre on Friday at 8 p.m. — tickets are $17 through Ticketmaster and Winnipeg Folk Festival Music Store, $20 at the door.

Recorded partly in Winnipeg and partly in Maine, Headwaters is the result of whittling down (to 10 tracks) some 30-plus tunes he penned after spending months on the road — and of challenging his own perspective.

“I was a philosophy major, so I always have these big meta questions behind my writing. I get really frustrated with songs that I can’t hear and know that they’re about something,” says Barber, who earned a Juno nomination and two Western Canadian Music Awards for his last album, 2010’s career-making Love Songs for the Last 20.

“But I’m now moving further away from poetic, ethereal-sounding songs to more direct narratives. I’ve tried to move away from my own narrative and more into the sort of characters who would be from the Prairies.”

The son of a draft dodger, Barber grew up in southern Manitoba “on the line that separates town from country.” His heroes wielded hockey sticks and fishing rods and, later, guitars — i.e. John Prine, Townes Van Zandt, Merle Haggard, Bruce Springsteen — and he was drawn to the blue-collar world of his factory worker father.

“Before that, we were miners and farmers, so I’m pretty interested in those characters and how they define our prairie landscape and how we think about art because of that,” says Barber.

“I’ve never looking for another home, but I am trying to give people a Prairie esthetic onstage. I hope I’m representing us and some of the characters from this part of the world well.”

carolin.vesely@freepress.mb.ca

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