Tim Barry used to be the front man for Virginia’s best street punks, Avail. But lately, he’s been spending a quickly growing solo discography shifting into a country troubadour. 28th & Stonewall, his latest, is proof that the move is working. His growl is sanded down to a gruff croon, and he surrounds himself with a solid, dusty band, and for the most part he puts together some solid, boozy country tunes. Barry also shifts tempos and moods effectively, keeping it from sounding like a one-note record. The bluesy rock of “Things of the Past” is crunchy with guitars and Barry belts out the boozy anthem in an impressive timber. There’s also the country balladry of “Walk 500 Miles” and the road-worn trudge of “Bozeman”, both of which keep their heartfelt energy even as Barry turns down the tempo.
It doesn’t all work as well as it could. “Prosser’s Gabriel” is essentially Barry’s version of “The Ballad of Hattie Carroll”, but while its storytelling is earnest, it’s also a bit awkward. Similarly, “Short G’Bye” is full of emotion, but its punk vitriol would fit better with Avail than it does on this subtle set of songs. Still, you’ve got to hand it to Barry. He’s travelling down this rutted road, and he’s not looking back. And 28th & Stonewall shows he’s got the chops to keep going.