Album Review: Joel Barker - Traces

21 June 2012 | 3:06 pm | Scott Aitken

Traces is a very personal, intimate collection of songs that will impress fans of Barker’s previous work and any newcomers.

Over the past four years WA local artist Joel Barker has traversed the globe from Mongolia to New York City, recording his thoughts and ideas as a basis for his first full-length solo effort, Traces. The album is a pure mix of contemporary folk-rock, held together by Barker's likeable, familiar voice. It's a great first effort that's sure to make a big impression on the local music scene and abroad. Dom Coyote and Shaun Sibbes (Young Revelry, ex-Eskimo Joe and Sneaky Sound System) add a rich, earthy vibe to the album, seamlessly tying together Barker's sparse acoustic numbers with the lush orchestration and full band arrangements of others.

Kicking off the album is Into The Storm. With a stirring string ensemble and harmonies, it sets the melancholic, orchestral feel of the first half of the album. It then descends into slower, blues-influenced songs like The Nuance Of Your Love. With twangy guitar, beautiful harmonies and lyrics evoking distance and isolation, it's one of the best and most honest songs on offer. The sparse, minimal Shields features Barker's lone finger-picked acoustic guitar and voice, conjuring up similarities with Ned Collete and Damien Rice. Terelj is the best of the two instrumentals and a beautifully calming tune with sweeping dobro and a gentle melody that lightens up the mood at the end of the album.

Overall Traces is a very personal, intimate collection of songs that will impress fans of Barker's previous work and any newcomers. With his first solo album, Barker has created a solid foundation for what will hopefully be a very promising career with great things to come.