Del Barber’s new album is replete with references to the terrain of Canada’s middle expanse, where he was born and with which he clearly feels an indelible connection. “Prarieography” is a series of stories that typically concern the restless, the ramblers, the discontented, the down-and-out. They’re struggling to hold on to the good things they’ve got (“White Lines and Tail Lights”), or having a hard time “walking in a straight line” (as his song of the same name puts it). Or they’re trying to escape the circumstances in which they find themselves — a company town (“Arianna”), a cattle farm where “debt’s the only thing I can seem to grow” (“Living With a Long Way to Go”), a family’s straits (limned by a remarkable couplet of songs, “Yellowhead Road” and “The Wind in the Wire”). The stories are conveyed by various species of country: folky (“Big Smoke”), acoustic (“Tell Me Where to Start”), and, mainly, rocking, shuffling, and loping twang often bathed in the pedal steel guitar of Barber compadre William Western. “Prairieography” turns geography into poetry. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Walking in a Straight Line”Stuart Munro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.