It takes you by surprise; within the first minute of her debut album Young Men, Jennah Barry’s mellifluous voice swoops in unassumingly and sweeps you into awave of warm, swirling tones—a stark contrast to the circumstances in which they were borne.
Originally from coastal Clearland, Nova Scotia, Jennah Barry did what many gifted small-town musicians do and made the move to Toronto in 2006. Though engaged in music—a pianist first, she studied jazz there, while also lending her voice to orchestral poppers The O’Darling — Barry grew sad and reclusive from acombination of homesickness and heartache. So she wrote. She wrote songs of vulnerability, dovetailed with wistfulness. But to sing these songs, she’d need to tap into boldness lost, so she quit the big city the day after her graduation and returned to the South Shore. It took a while but, in her natural element, the moxie came back.
The recording of Young Men began in the dead of winter at the Old Confidence Lodge, a former Odd Fellows meeting hall in Riverport, Nova Scotia and the current home and recording studio of producer/recording engineer Diego Medina (Chad VanGaalen, Steve Albini, Women). For five days in April 2012, Barry enlisted the help of former bandmates from The O’Darling including her brother, as well as the banjo skills of Juno Award-winning Old Man Luedecke. Scattered throughout the aged building, without rehearsing, they laid out the skeleton of the album. Colin Nealis produced the record, with Medina and Barry helping and fiddling with the odd synth or keyboard.
Young Men wavers between dreamily bucolic and quietly haunting. With vocals that glide triumphantly over a period of bleak times, Jennah Barry’s debut is at times lush, at times minimal, but always captivating.