Lee Barber & The Broken Cup
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Lee Barber & The Broken Cup

Austin, Texas, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | SELF

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2008
Band Americana Singer/Songwriter




"Record Review - The Missing Pages"

On his second solo effort, The Missing Pages, Lee Barber confirms he's not like everybody else. As with the New Orleans native's acclaimed 2009 bow Thief and Rescue, he painted the cover art, which all by itself will stop you in your tracks. Everything in its wake qualifies as singer-songwriter stuff, but it's just as distinctive, offbeat, and lyrical. The South Austinite's visions are fleeting, at times theatrical, at others jazzy. Alongside his producer and champion Brian Beattie, he accumulates quite the cast of local characters to bring his songs to life, including Sahara Smith, Scrappy Jud Newcomb, Dana Falconberry, Grace London, Craig Ross, and Dony Wynn. He delivers stories with the same wry affectation as James McMurtry, yet his songs bear the poetic artistry of Terry Allen. "Singing Boy Preacher" finds Barber at his most rocking, the sax-laden "Bicycle Hour" approaches soul, and "Cactus Tree" prickles desert blues. A musician, sure, but Lee Barber makes clear with The Missing Pages that he's first and foremost an artist. - Jim Caligiuri - The Austin Chronicle

"Lee Barber - The Missing Pages"

On “Picture This,” the closing track on this long-in-coming follow-up to his 2009 solo debut “Thief and Rescue,” Barber sings that “we’re on a slow boat between the earth and sky.” The lyric vividly captures the overarching feel of Barber’s music, which prioritizes open, spacious arrangements and gracefully measured deliberation. Working with producer Brian Beattie and a superb supporting cast including guitarists Craig Ross and Scrappy Jud Newcomb, drummers Dony Wynn and Jon Greene, and backing vocalists Dana Falconberry and Sahara Smith, Barber applies exquisite touches of divine damage to original tunes based in acoustic folk and blues. There are familiar elements here — echoes of the Beatles’ “Across the Universe” resonate in the masterful opening track “Modern Life” — but the end result is an 11-song suite of highly original and affecting songcraft. Release show June 27 at Strange Brew. A painter as well as a musician, Barber created a fascinating animated lyric video for the track “Sailor’s Song”. - Peter Blackstock - The Austin American Statesman

"Lee Barber - The Missing Pages"

It's been a good 6 years since an album by Austinite Lee Barber crossed my proverbial desk. Thief and Rescue earned some strong spins on R&B back in 2009. When Barber recently contacted me regarding a followup, I greeted the album gladly ... then let it rattle around in my Bag of Musical Wonder for a couple weeks. My bad. After a reminder email from the artist, I made a point of feeding it into the CD player on my way to the station. I'm quoted on Barber's site saying that Thief is "understated but excellent" (really a pretty vanilla quote as far as quotes go ...). Good news is that Lee Barber's Missing Pages finds the artist remaining both "understated" and "excellent" (to quote myself). With a decidedly light touch on production and arrangement, the new songs are given generous space within which to resonate, similar to a jazz record. Even on the CD's heaviest cut, the bluesy "Singing Boy Preacher", there is such a separation between the fuzz guitars, sloppy drums and Lou Reed-flat vocals: "There ain't a lot of conversation / Between a butcher and a hog". Like Joe Henry, Barber's songs ring with a romanticism and musical confidence more typical of a veteran comfortable in his skin. "Don't Talk" features a sweet duet with Sahara Smith who, along with Dana Falconberry, provides backing vocals throughout the collection. The coffeeshop blues of "Fall Away" demonstrates the humor and restraint of Richard Thompson, with an electric guitar on the brink of distortion but brushed with a gentle hand. "Coffee At Night" is a close backwoods cousin to "Whiter Shade of Pale" (which is itself borrowed from Bach) in its loose recklessness and tuneful progression: "A matchbook kiss / A telephone number on a grocery list / You didn't call ...". Once again, it's Lee Barber being both understated and excellent - bringing to mind Austin royalty like Alejandro Escovedo and Jon Dee Graham. Missing Pages is a an album created by a musical impressionist, a work that is playful and held together by splashes of mood and color. - Scott Foley - Routes & Branches

"Lee Barber & the Broken Cup CD Release"

“Lou Reed of the bayou” proclaimed this periodical upon the release of New Orleans native Lee Barber’s 2009 solo debut, Thief and Rescue. On follow-up The Missing Pages, the painter, draftsman, and South Austinite borrows a page from John Lennon’s “Across the Universe” for opener “Modern Life,” mirrors the observational burn of Bill Callahan on “Cactus Tree,” and uptempos a whiff of Billy Gibbons scruff on “Singing Boy Preacher.” Self-proclaimed purveyor of “Zen blues,” Lee Barber resonates like a Civil War ballad. - Raoul Hernandez - The Austin Chronicle

"Everyday Magic - Lee Barber's Emotional Rescue"

Everyday Magic
Lee Barber's emotional rescue

"You know, you take a pencil and you make a dark line, then you make a light line, and together it's a good line."
That line from Wings of Desire is spoken by Peter Falk, who plays himself in German director Wim Wenders' 1987 film about angels in existential crisis. He's telling one celestial being named Damiel how good it feels to be mortal, to lie, to experience a range of emotions.
"To smoke and have coffee. And if you do it together, it's fantastic."
Standing in Lee Barber's living room as he explains how the painting on the cover of his 2009 debut, Thief and Rescue, came together, that line came to mind. The dark and the light are in that image, if you stare long and hard.
"I started with something abstract, like a cloud," he says, staring long and hard. "I drew a few random lines, two figures, then added some random splotches of paint. That's how they start. Then I looked at it, tried to find the faces. I saw this face, then I saw the beast."
Why are their faces covered?
"I think ... masked figures can transcend the physical. You see there's something like a fire behind these trees? They're running away from whatever that is. He's either stealing it or rescuing it, which is why I called it Thief and Rescue, but either way, it's an ambivalent action. He's saving the creature."
Barber communicates with his hands, whether painting, playing guitar, or as a draftsman, his day job. Talking in the kitchen of his South Austin home, he twirls a pen in his fingers, spins it on the table, concentrates on it like he's trying to find words or figures.
"I do approach music in a physical way," drawls the 53-year-old local, with a hint of Cajun accent. "I know I'm finished when there's nothing else I can do. It has to have a completeness."
That ideology helped birth Thief and Rescue, self-released last fall but written over the span of several years. It's his first solo album, so it strips off years of bad and good road, Barber's voice low and steady as the narrator, Lou Reed of the bayou. Blues horns, snaking guitars, and hushed percussion accent Thief: It's a subtle album, filled with pinewood floors, crows, and other Delta emblems. It's Barber putting himself out there at middle age, when he felt ready.
Producer and Glass Eye bassist Brian Beattie became his co-captain for the recording, helping Barber sketch out his vision. It felt right, Barber seeing parallels between the way Beattie approaches recording and the way he approaches painting.
"It's all about making the colors work in a relative way, to make it sing and come together in a focused way," waves the painter. "It's all about balance."
Barber enlisted Beattie to play bass, Craig Ross to play guitar, and longtime collaborator Jon Greene to play drums, bringing in top-shelf Austin as well: Will Sheff, Amy Annelle, Matt the Electrician, and James McMurtry's son Curtis to name a few. He also asked his 18-year-old son, Wells, who played drums in local teen band the Diving Captain, to contribute, and some of his friends played horns. Barber bartered with several musicians on the album, his paintings for their time.
Paintings – all his – adorn the walls of Barber's living room. Perhaps the strange, colorful figures made their way into his songs. Maybe they're just visiting. I wonder aloud about the bird theme in his art and lyrics.
"Birds represent visitation, maybe a window to a parallel reality," he muses. "Or a spiritual reality, even though I don't like to use that word."
Barber was born in 1956 in New Orleans, where his father was attending seminary. He became a Southern Baptist preacher, so Barber spent much of his childhood in Baton Rouge and, for a short time, Mississippi. He spent a lot of time in church and eventually took to singing in choir, an environment that no doubt fostered his talents. He paints a picture of life along the Mississippi that could be a Tom Waits song.
"In the Sixties in Baton Rouge, long before they started thinking environmentally, the air could be pretty terrible, with the Exxon refinery and the chemical plants. If the wind was blowing the wrong direction, it could be nasty."
His father preached on into his high school years, though Barber states it wasn't a "fire and brimstone" affair, and he wasn't restricted with music.
"There's that wonderful inclusive Cajun tradition," he adds, "where kids and old folks and everyone's dancing, you know, freely. My parents loved music, but that kind of thing was sort of a conflict for them. They stuck with the Andy Williams records."
Those Andy Williams records stuck with him, too, and he became fascinated with singers and singing. At 16, he came across a Leonard Cohen songbook, saw the light, and learned to play the songs. He still does "Suzanne" once in a while.
"Neil Young's After the Gold Rush was [an inspirational album]," he continues. "My sister brought it home when I was about 15. I think the raw emotional commitment in the singing and the presentation hit me right from the beginning. I'm still moved by songs like 'After the Gold Rush,' 'Don't Let It Bring You Down,' 'Birds,' and 'I Believe in You.' In the voice there is no doubt the guy cares deeply, that, with words and music, he's reaching for or trying to reveal something that is hidden and true."
In the late 1980s in Jackson, Miss., he started gigging with the Barbers – him on guitar; his wife, Elaine, on harp; and Bruce Golden on percussion. A few years later, the Barbers, minus Golden but plus their young daughter, Hedda, moved to Austin. They put out two folkie, experimental albums: 1997's self-titled and 1999's You Know How It Is, the latter recorded by Beattie. Then, Barber didn't play for a while.
"I know there's that place, the place you go to find a song," he states, staring at the pen. "And I didn't look in that corner for a long time. You know, that corner where you find stuff? But when I've got music in my hands and things are rolling around in my head ... well, it's only natural."
The collision of fate and nature caused Barber to look in that corner again. In August 2005, just as his 25-year marriage to Elaine was ending, Hurricane Katrina was descending on his beloved city. The pain is illustrated with all five senses on "1000 Miles":

It smells like Sherman's ghost down here
Someone's poisoned the squirrels
The fire has reached the birdhouse now
All smoke and silver curls
If you ain't got nothin' good to say
Don't say anything
That's what our public servants say
When they read the news
And I feel like I'm a thousand miles from you

"That song took me to a real emotional temperature that I'd never reached before," Barber says. "In some way, it's kind of the heart of the record."
There's levity among Thief and Rescue's more emotional temperatures, and Barber's talent as a storyteller cools off songs like "Broken Cup" and "Gloryland Bus Driver." "The Monkey and the Ass" brings a bit of Cohen-esque reverence to the album, the poetry of longing: "There's so much to forget, misplace, between the monkey and the ass. The nights we slept on sheets of glass, until you called it over. But I'll remember the perfume, the ceremony in your room, when we were young as lovers."
If "1000 Miles" is the heart, closer "Let's Get Lost" is the release, done in one take and climaxing in a surge of guitar. Barber was going for "the pure sensory, in-the-moment experience with no details or footnotes attached." He succeeded.
Since the album's come out, Barber's gigged locally with his band the Broken Cup – Greene on drums, Beattie on bass, and Scrappy Jud Newcomb on guitar. Every Saturday in January (concluding this Saturday), he's played low-profile gigs with Scrappy Jud at the Whip In down South, on a small stage where you can't escape the smell of incense and curry. Despite his admittedly introverted demeanor, onstage he's allowed to be someone else for a little while. Some artists have a distinct process they go through to create. Barber knows an idea's arrived when his hands start moving.
"Trying to arrange a group of words is a very mysterious thing that can become magical," he reflects. "Just a group of words. That's what attracts me to the whole process. Words can be very sensual; they're like a color."
A few days later, he leaves this postscript in my e-mail inbox, which brought back that Peter Falk line:
"I'm telling lies with painting. I'll make the hand a deep blue, or the sky acid orange, to dislodge it from the static, to animate it. The same thing is happening with words. I'm telling lies in an attempt to document something that is not static, namely life."
- The Austin Chronicle

"Weathering Life's Storms - New Orleans-born Austin musician Lee Barber reflects on hurricane, divorce on debut album"

Weathering life's storms - New Orleans-born Austin musician Lee Barber reflects on hurricane, divorce on debut album
By Michael Corcoran
Saturday, September 05, 2009

When the storm hit in August 2005, songwriter Lee Barber couldn't predict the depths of his gloom. In a one-two punch to the gut, there was not just the devastation visited upon his birthplace by Hurricane Katrina. Just hours before the levees broke, Lee and Elaine Barber, his wife of 24 years, broke up.

It was at this intersection of storms literal and emotional that "Thief and Rescue," the 53-year-old Barber's debut solo record, was born. It's a brooding album that questions the validity of music during troubled times, then comes to the conclusion that even when a good song is all you have, it can be enough.

"Let's get lost in a song about nothing, sung by no one," Barber intones in a dark and warm voice on the album's final track. The last five minutes of the song are taken over by an improvised instrumental workout, with Craig Ross' curt guitar slithering between drummer Jon Greene's floor tom accents, wonderfully summarizing the communication between musicians on this seemingly charmed project. Matt Sever struggled to hit the crescendo on trumpet, but producer Brian Beattie left it in because it sounded like laughter.

"We didn't know how it was going to end," Barber said of "Let's Get Lost," which was nailed on one take. "We went into the control room and listened and Brian said, 'Does everybody feel like they've expressed themselves?' And we all grinned."

"Thief and Rescue," whose name is from a Barber painting used on the cover, comes out on Monday, not Tuesday as is the norm, because Labor Day seems right for an album bartered for with odd jobs and artwork. The musicians, including guest vocalist Will Sheff of Okkervil River, were paid in oil paintings by Barber.

This labor of love sprung from chance reciprocation. Barber had the songs but not the means to record them. Beattie had a brand-new home studio, dubbed the Wonder Chamber, but he wanted to give it a test run without anyone checking their watches and hearing cash register sounds. A deal was made where little money changed hands. In former Glass Eye bassist Beattie, Barber got not only a producer, arranger and studio time, but a multi instrumentalist who played toy piano through Leslie organ speakers.

"I wanted the first project to be one where I concentrated on the sound and didn't have to get into the nuts and bolts of the songs," said Beattie, who had produced a 1999 album Lee and Elaine Barber made as the Barbers. "Lee had these fully formed little gems."

"I think every one of us was at the top of our game," said Barber, who works as a draftsman by day. The album was recorded in six days, mostly live, with horn parts layered on later.

The soft-spoken Barber found a polar soul mate in Beattie, who's also produced Okkervil River, Bill Callahan and Shearwater. "I'm cautious by nature and Brian's just got this boundless energy to try different things," said Barber, whose songs crawl out of a dark, Southern gothic place. "I think it worked: opposites attract."

Unlike the records Barber made with the Barbers, which had one member in his 20s, one in her 30s, one in his 40s and one in his 50s, "Thief and Rescue" is a spiritually cohesive effort, sequenced in what Barber calls "an arc of longing." The record opens with "The Mosquito," adapted from the poem "Lullaby" by Peter Everwine, which Barber cut out of New Yorker magazine about eight years ago and kept on he and Elaine's dresser. "I wanted to start at the middle of the arc," Barber said.

The album hits its emotional low points on "The Monkey and the Ass," which Barber said is the song that best describes the breakup, and "1000 Miles," a reaction to the devastation of Katrina. "Everyone has to deal with loss and change of this sort, and the older you get, the more familiar you become with it," he said. "For me, and a lot of us, music makes it easier to negotiate."

Elaine Barber gets in on this musical therapy, playing harp on the album's "Way Back (Shoo Be-Doo)," a song that traces more innocent times. The couple has two grown children, Hedda, 24, and Wells, 18.

Lee Barber does not write songs quickly or easily. He said his goal as a writer is to compose songs that have staying power, like the hymns he grew up singing in the Baptist church, where his father was a preacher and his mother the organist. He was born in New Orleans in 1956, while his father was going to seminary school, but Barber grew up in Baton Rouge, La.

As a kid, his older sister turned him on to Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and others, opening up a whole new world. When Lee got his first guitar at age 16, he picked up fingerpicking patterns from a Leonard Cohen songbook. He fronted a soul band called the Hounds when in college in Mississippi, where he met Elaine, a classically trained musician. They formed an improvisational band, inspired by Captain Beefheart, Sun Ra and other sonic adventurers. But, Barber said, "I've always returned to 'the song,' to my original inspirations from those records that my sister brought home."

When Elaine got a gig playing harp with the Austin Symphony in 1992, the Barber family moved to town. They also relocated because they heard Austin was a place to grow a band, and the Barbers had gone as far as they could in Mississippi. But after releasing two critically praised and publicly ignored albums in the '90s, the Barbers hung it up and Lee turned his free time energies to painting.

But then when his world turned upside down, he reached back for his guitar. When he ran into Beattie at Zen on South Congress Avenue about two years ago, the two talked about the new songs Barber had been writing. A solo acoustic demo was delivered to Beattie's Travis Heights home a few days later. The timing couldn't have been better for Barber, who thought he'd given up music, but now has his name on one of the best Austin albums of 2009. - The Austin American-Statesman

"Lee Barber - Thief and Rescue"

by John Michael Cassetta

Thief and Rescue, the first solo album by Lee Barber, is loosely based on the destructive wrath brought on New Orleans. The material combines both direct and metaphorical references to the storm itself, with a darker sense of personal loss and bewilderment categorical of the human mind in general. We see the characters interact with the storm both literally, as in The Broken Cup ("In the morning there’ll be signal flags / chrome yellow, red and blue / but tonight we’re down at the broken cup / and we’re waiting here for you."), and within the scope of the storm as a more emotional turbulence, as in, well, the entire album.

The imagery throughout is stunning, both in its ability to trace the effects of the physical world on human emotion (see "It smells like Sherman’s ghost down here / someone’s poisoned the squirrels," in 1000 Miles, which contains a wealth of other excellent lines) and a general sense of the variety of emotional turbulence. Take the nostalgic lines "My sister's laugh, my brother's grin / my mother's hands are good to me / my father weeps, I cup my hands for water," which both convey your classic longing for the past, but hint at a deeper turmoil.

That deeper turmoil is difficult to define, though the sum of about 150 excellent images throughout the album do a fairly effective job of approximating it. Where the lyrics leave off though, the music fills in the gaps with a warm breath of guitars, horns and woodwinds, all used just sparingly enough to accent each push through the shallow darkness that lingers in the foreground. The arrangements are subtle, but oddly, the more you follow the lyrics the more you realize the music is the perfect accompaniment to the depths of their despair and flittering of hope.

Needless to say, I think this album is excellent and would highly recommend it. (Hell, Darla, the duet with Will Scheff, even has a little jazz to it: "The trombone comes in late / he leans hard on the eight while he’s draining the spit from his horn.") Although it came out last year and seemed to top a few Best of 2009 lists, I never really listened to it until 2010. I even missed that Will Scheff was on it until I ran into his voice on Darla. Regardless, here’s to Lee Barber for starting my year off on the right foot. If you haven’t already heard the album, I suggest it as a good starting point for 2010. - Side One: TRACK ONE

"Record Review - Lee Barber - Thief and Rescue"

by Audra Schroeder

Co-produced with Brian Beattie of Glass Eye, "Thief and Rescue" takes an alternate route through singer-songwriterville. There are no sappy strums or stompy songs about booze and bar fights. Barber's just a great storyteller, his voice one of vibrato and loss, and on his solo country-folk debut, that longing dominates. Opener "The Mosquito" repurposes a poem by Peter Everwine as Barber states, over buzzing horns and strings, "This is not another metaphor." The former New Orleans resident has that mind on his city on "Broken Cup," a bar-stool tale of storm and wreck. On "The Monkey and the Ass," he sounds like Leonard Cohen – solemn but wise. Okkervil River's Will Sheff, Amy Annelle, plus Beattie pulling double duty on bass add a little Texas nuance, and closer "Let's Get Lost" is the capper. When Barber drawls, "Let's get lost in song about nothing, sung by no one," he finds solace in catharsis. - The Austin Chronicle

"Spike Speaks: You Gotta Buy This Record"

by Spike Gillespie

A few months ago, Matt the Electrician asked me to emcee a The Island of Lost Souls, a music extravaganza he was putting on. That was the day I got my first taste of the tunes Lee Barber had written for his debut CD Thief and Rescue. One song in particular, All Night Long, grabbed me and shook me. Partly, this is because it’s a damn fine song. On a more personal note, it happens that, as Lee and his friends were singing it, out in the audience I was having a very intense emotional exchange with a friend of mine, someone with whom I’d had a long time falling out— we’re talking fifteen years—and at that very moment we were, way past when we should have been, patching it over. As someone who associates everything with everything else, this meant that I knew then that, for the rest of my life, anytime I heard the song, it would take me back to that incredible moment.

The next time I heard the song was a few weeks ago. Lee called to let me know the CD was about to come out and asked if I’d like an advance copy. Of course I did. We met up in a parking lot in South Austin, and he handed it over like we were kids swapping small bills for skunkweed. I think it’s always a little nerve wracking for both giver and receiver, when two people know each other and one asks the other to check out his newborn art. The giver wants the gift to be loved. The receiver wants to love it. But what if there’s a disconnect?

I wasn’t especially worried. Not only because I’d heard that set so I already knew I liked Lee’s stuff, but also because I know Lee is… how do you say it? A life artist? Is that too corny? But, you know, someone who lives his beliefs which I think is almost always bound to translate into true beauty. Plus our circle of overlapping friends is big, and within those nonconfining confines are some of my very favorite Austin musicians—Matt the Electrician and Southpaw Jones among them. So I figured I was going to like the CD but I wondered just how much I would like it.


Well, well, well…

I listened to it on a drive out to the Hill Country where I was headed to perform a wedding. Though I am prone to hyperbole roughly 176% of the time, I have to say there is not a drop of exaggeration in the proclamation of love I am about to make. The record was, in a very weird way, wildly familiar and totally fresh and unknown all at once. I can’t figure out how Lee did that, but he did it. And as I listened, I was pulled in the way I was pulled in by early Bowie when I was a young girl, and later, in my Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man. And, too, for some reason, Mott the Hoople came to mind, though I can’t even say I’m terribly familiar with much MTH beyond All the Young Dudes.

Now when I say these other artists came to mind, I don’t mean to suggest Lee is derivative. He is, in fact, wholly unique—from his writing to his voice. Granted, we’re all influenced by those who precede us. And when I found out later that Lee’s earliest ventures into music when he was a teen included a Leonard Cohen songbook, I wasn’t surprised. But I’m not talking so much about lyrics and musical arrangements when I reference vintage Bowie and Cohen. I’m trying to say that Thief and Rescue made me feel how those early works made me feel. An immediate connection that produced a visceral, palpable emotional… thing for which there is no precise word, but more like a guttural grunt-growl of recognition and gratitude.

There is not a weak cut on this record. And I am so psyched that twice recently, when tuned into different stations—KUT and KGSR—I heard the jocks singing the praises of the record, and playing cuts from it. In a town crawling with stunning songwriting talent, it is nothing short of amazing to quietly put out a piece that is so uncompromising and instantly have others get it and want to play it on the air repeatedly.

I read a profile of Lee that Corcoran wrote for the Statesman, which goes a long way toward explaining how my friend managed to pull off this magnificent musical feat. Turns out there’s nothing new to the “formula” he used, but that this “formula” is rarer and rarer to come by. And that is the no-formula-formula, in which one writes directly from one’s heart, and in this case that heart happened to have the blessing/curse of double-whammy disasters (divorce and utter destruction-via-hurricane of his hometown, New Orleans) inspiring what poured out of him. Anybody remember Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights, which they did together while going through a divorce? Well Lee’s ex, harpist Elaine Barber, with whom he used to be in the group The Barbers, is featured on the disk (along with many other incredible musicians, including Curtis McMurtry on baritone sax) which is another clue to the pure emotion that went into the creation.

The whole thing is just over the top. Over. The. Top. It was released yesterday and you can buy it at Waterloo or order it from Lee’s website. And I do hope you’ll all join me Thursday night at 11 pm when he takes the stage at The Continental Club, joined by his band, The Broken Cup. They’ll be playing the whole record, start to finish. I really can’t wait.

Check out an interview and some cuts at KUT Texas Music Matters. - Spike Speaks

"Lee Barber - Thief and Rescue"

by JFelton

Painter, singer, songwriter and former member of the three-piece The Barbers, Lee Barber releases his first solo effort, Thief and Rescue. Barber explores themes of loss and hope through the context of New Orleans and his life. In speaking of the endeavor, Barber states that musically his “intention was to grow an organic pulsing sigh of a record that exists somewhere outside of time, somewhere between Stephen Foster and George Harrison, between Townes Van Zandt and Van Dyck Parks.” Thief and Rescue was produced by Brian Beattie (Okkervil River, Bill Callahan, Daniel Johnston, Shearwater) and features guest appearances by Will Sheff (Okkervil River) and Matt Sever (Matt the Electrician). Ultimately, the album is a grand reverb soaked celebration of music and life. – Written by JFelton

SIMILAR | Vic Chestnut, Leonard Cohen, Ry Cooder, Matt the Electrician, Okkervil River, Lou Reed, Neil Young
- Record Dept.

"Lee Barber - 1000 Miles"

by Bill Brownlee

Lee Barber sings broken songs about broken lives with a broken voice.
Unflinching and world weary, his Thief and Rescue album is a courageous document about refusing to surrender in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity.
It's not pretty, but it's real.
Co-produced by Barber and Brian Beattie, Thief and Rescue sounds like a lost Lou Reed album recorded in Austin between Rock and Roll Heart and Street Hassle. Barber's hard-bitten demeanor is worthy of the lofty comparison. Besides, both men understand that the baritone saxophone is the most underutilized instrument in popular music.
A reproduction of an original Barber painting makes for one of 2009's most harrowing album covers. And Barber's acknowledgement about the funding of Thief and Rescue is a poignant statement about the price of art (click the "paintings, etc." tab).
Fans of Vic Chesnutt, Jon Dee Graham, Okkervil River and Tom Waits are encouraged to purchase Thief and Rescue. - There Stands the Glass


The Missing Pages - 2015

Thief and Rescue - solo debut - 2009

The Barbers, Lee's former band, released two albums:
The Barbers - 1997
You Know How It Is - 2000



Born in New Orleans and raised within smelling distance of the Mississippi River, Lee has been writing songs since he was 16. When asked to describe his music, He might call it 'zen blues', though the sounds wouldn't be considered blues in any traditional sense. Still, the Louisiana native’s music is rooted in subtle and fundamental ways. At the same time, it’s modern, intimate and personal, with lyrics that rub up against the daily experience of strangeness and wonder that is modern life.

The new album, The Missing Pages (released 6/23/15), moves like a slow fire over water, unhurried, sensual, and charmed by persuasive sirens. It marks Lee’s third collaboration with noted producer and arranger, Brian Beattie (Bill Callahan, Okkervil River, Daniel Johnston), and follows 2009’s well loved, Thief and Rescue.

"...Barber applies exquisite touches of divine damage to original tunes based in acoustic folk and blues. ...the end result is an 11-song suite of highly original and affecting songcraft."
Austin American-Statesman

"A musician, sure, but Lee Barber makes clear with The Missing Pages that he's first and foremost an artist." The Austin Chronicle

In performance, Lee is backed by The Broken Cup, a genuine Austin article that includes Brian Beattie (Glass Eye), Scrappy Jud Newcomb (Ian McLagan) and Dony Wynn (Robert Palmer, Robert Plant, Dr John).

"...Lee Barber resonates like a Civil War ballad." - The Austin Chronicle

Band Members