Del Barber needs a romantic boost to charge his battery in his tenderly touching single and video Just A Little Heat — premiering exclusively on Tinnitist.
The latest standout from the Manitoba singer-songwriter’s recent release Stray Dogs: Collected B sides, Volume 1, the quietly intimate Just A Little Heat may seem like nothing more than another sweetly sincere Americana ballad, with a hickory-smoked crooner purring romantic words atop a gently caressed acoustic guitar. But a closer listen reveals the subtle beauty and brilliance of Barber’s understated songcraft — as he compares himself to a broken-down pickup in need of TLC, his richly detailed lyrics and conversational delivery flawlessly walk the line between playful, nostalgic, romantic and bittersweet, transforming and elevating this deceptively simple ditty into a compelling, memorable heartstring tugger. Not bad for a song he penned with one of his parents.
“My dad and I wrote this one,” Barber confirms. “It was his initial idea, and we both lost track of it for a few years. When I found it again I couldn’t believe it. It was like finding treasure at the bottom of a deep lake. This song is written from the perspective of an old truck. Once the pinnacle of usefulness and efficiency, it’s becoming increasingly obsolete, but the desire to work and love remains stronger and more keenly felt than ever before.”
Fittingly, the bulk of Stray Dogs — the followup to Barber’s 2020 Juno-nominated album Easy Keeper — finds the artist bridging past and present. Conceived during pandemic isolation at his rural Manitoba home, the eight songs on Stray Dogs are drawn mainly from Del’s large stock of previously unfinished demos, given renewed focus and polish by his longtime band and producer Scott Franchuk. Paring things down to the bone, the acoustic-based release captures the essence of Del’s art, of which Rolling Stone wrote, “Like John Prine (one of his primary influences), Barber writes the types of songs his characters might listen to themselves.”
From the first single Meantime — a show of support to his favourite venue in Winnipeg — to the heart-swelling closer Just A Little Heat, Stray Dogs is a powerful reflection of the resilience we have all displayed over the past year. It also shows how Del has emerged even stronger, and how he truly deserves a place among Canada’s most celebrated singer-songwriters.