There are times in your life that run across something that changes the way you look at the world, the way you live your life. I think that for me, the first thing I ran across that did for me was, as cliche as it is, On The Road. You see I came up in a house where the music was “Christian” or Country and went to private schools run by my parents chosen denomination, or lack thereof, so the real world was a scary place for me. Musically, I think, the album that broke things open for was Social Distortion’s self titled record. In those days finding something that challenged my world view and made me consider the way I looked at things wasn’t hard to do. However as I slowly morphed from angry young man to curmudgeon that changed. I became more set in my ways with less desire to change. I became, and still am, to some degree, comfortable with my worldview. I got married (twice), got a house with a two car garage, an SUV, and a bunch of kids. While I still sought out good music my life was the life of the standard American consumer. I wasn’t unhappy with it at all, at least not that I realized.

I know that you may not believe me when I say this but that changed when I started listening to Tim Barry. I think it was Idle Idylist that started me thinking but throughout the body of Tim’s work there’s a common thread of living simply, living cheap, and enjoying life for what it is. I’ve only managed to see the man live a single time but the intensity he has in just a simple conversation much less on stage has burned that night in to my memory quite starkly. I think I described seeing him on stage as “like watching a man about to get in to a fight with himself”.

Now I’ve said all that to say this: I love Tim’s studio work. It’s never overproduced and there’s not a Tim Barry record I don’t like but after seeing him live I prefer the simplicity of just the man and his guitar. Raising Hell & Living Cheap gives us just that. It’s the full experience complete with banter, song introductions, and as intense as you can get without being at a show. In my opinion, outside of seeing him live, this is the best way to listen to Tim Barry. I think the best part about this album is that they didn’t cut out any of the banter. Tim, like many artists we talk about here, is a storyteller. Stories told in song tend to take on their own context for the listener and a lot of times we don’t think about what the writer was going through when the song was written. Now some of that is obvious from the songs themselves but Tim takes it a step further and gives us the back stories. Whether it’s talking about writing a song while riding on a loaded coal car or singing “Ronnie Song” to his best friend just days before his untimely demise, there’s so much more shared than just the lyrics. In a way it makes the songs more personal than assigning our own contexts to them.

An interesting thing about this album is that Tim didn’t know it was being recorded. I don’t know what would have changed if he had known but this is unfiltered and unadulterated Tim Barry. Whether it’s playing a song down in the crowd or telling his stories it’s all there. Live albums can be hit or miss but this one is a solid hit. Without any reservation I can say that is Essential Listening. It makes me want to road trip, catch a plane, or do whatever I have to see this man play live again. Trust me it’s an experience that you won’t forget and this album captures it as well it can be captured. Instead of the usual tracks I post I’m just going to toss in some videos that Tim used on his page beside the track listing. You really need to consume this album as whole entity and take the time to listen from start to finish, maybe with a PBR in your hand. There’s a double record vinyl release coming but it’s very limited so keep your eyes open if you want this one in that format.

This November – Kaliya @ soundcheck

Fine Foods Market – Swansea 2012

Idle Idylist – Live in Philly 2009

Buy Raising Hell & Living Cheap on iTunes and from Tim’s store.


  1. Tim Barry is a family thing for me. My older sister got an Avail tattoo when I was little and my curiosity about it eventually got me into punk and non-shitty music. But before I actually started listening to Avail in a meaningful way, while I was still only listening to Bob Dylan and The Band and Springsteen and CSNY, my sister gave me the Laurel Street Demos (at a point where they were still only being circulated as bootlegs) and told me “You’ll like him, he rides trains like Woody Guthrie.” Obviously, it worked. He’s one of the most meaningful songwriters in my life and in my family.

    My sister and I saw him together for the first time at the first Revival Tour and that’s what got me into Ben Nichols, Chuck Ragan, and Austin Lucas. Most of time I saw him with my cousin, who’s the same age as me and was into punk before I was. She was in Orlando and I was in Gainesville and we would each make the 2-hour trip to the other’s place to see both stops of any Tim Barry Florida run. One time we saw him in Orlando with Greenland is Melting and he completely lost his voice after one song. He got off stage and brought his guitar into the crowd, as he often does, except this time he never got back on stage (it wasn’t like he was using the mic, he had no voice). The crowd sang the whole rest of the show for him. It was amazing. The next night at the Gainesville show, his voice was perfect. My cousin, my cousin’s best friends, my fiancee, and me are all in the back-cover photo for the 40 Miler album.

    Recently I saw him for the first time outside of Florida–in Cambridge MA with The Draft, Cheap Girls, Joyce Manor, and Des Ark. It was a great show, but during the Tim Barry set I could not keep it together. It was the first time I had seen him without any of my family there. It really made me sad. Unbelievably sad. Void stuff. But I was wearing some shirt that mentioned Gainesville on it and after the show, a young couple found me outside and asked me if I was from there and it turns out we all were from Gainesville and they had travelled all the way from Rhode Island for this show. So that felt like home a little bit.

    He’s the best, is what the point is. I could listen to him play and talk forever. And I’ve gotten closer to a lot of other great people, family and friends and musicians, because of his presence.

    1. Thanks for sharing Mike! I wish I had the stories of seeing him live like you do. He is an amazing person. We’ve had long conversations over e-mail in the past but that’s still no replacement for seeing him in person. While I love all of my friends that tour and play Tim might be my favorite single one.

      1. One of the things I learned by attending last year’s Holiday Hangout is how many people have come to this type of music through the revival tour. I had no idea it was such a thing. And here Mike is talking about how the Revival Tour was a gateway for him. It’s strange to me because the RT was barely a blip on my musical radar.

    2. Similar story here, the revival tour was a game changer for me, had been vaguely familiar with Barry / Ragan / Etc, but after seeing Austin Lucas with them (and I think Cory Branan too), down the rabbit hole I went….

    3. Well said Mike. There hasn’t been a more meaningful musician for me in my life. I can trace the most important things in my life back to the first Avail show I went to in 92.

  2. Usually my location is a hindrance to seeing live music due to the fact that not a lot of bands celebrated on sites like this ever seem to make it through. Tim Barry is the rare exception. Being from Richmond, he is only about 90 minutes away and comes through on every tour. I’ve been lucky enough to see him more times than I can remember and I will still never pass up a chance to see him again the next time he comes through. I saw a while ago that this album was going to be coming out and part of me was a little nervous because, as you accurately pointed out, sometimes a live album doesn’t really capture the feeling of actually being there. Which, with a Tim Barry show, is one of the biggest reasons to go. I’ve never seen anybody else connect with an audience the way he does EVERY SINGLE GOD DAMN TIME, it’s amazing.

    The only thing I might be slightly disappointed by is if this was done without Josh Small there. I haven’t listened to this yet so I’m not sure that he isn’t on there but, in the write ups I’ve read, I haven’t seen his name mentioned. Seeing them play together, it’s almost not fair how much fun it is.

      1. Awesome, hadn’t seen that link before, thanks for sharing. And I had heard that about him taking a break from touring but, since Tim’s live album was recorded in Richmond, I was still hoping there was a chance Josh might show up with him.

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