Album review: "Stories to Tell"
By Nancy Dunham
Friday, Mar. 16, 2012
No sooner did "God Gave Me You" soar up the charts, netting country superstar Blake Shelton his fifth No. 1 single, than the song's writer, Dave Barnes, decided to switch musical gears.
The songs on Barnes's new album, "Stories to Tell," may be similar to his previous songs-as-diary-entries, but in the instrumentation and arrangement, he has moved away from Americana into more adult alternative pop-rock territory. You can hear that shift right off the bat in the lead track, the pop-heavy "White Flag." The throbbing percussion, radio-friendly chorus and synths call to mind a Jimmy Buffett sound with more than a hint of later-day Hanson.
Barnes's musical success has come primarily from the Christian market, but "Stories to Tell" proves he's a musical gypsy who can take his songs into any format. The album, however, doesn't stray too far from his classic sound. The Billy Joel-styled piano rocker feel is perfect for "Heaven Help Me," and the instrumentation on the young love memoir "Seventeen" takes a more restrained pop tone.
For Barnes's fans, "Stories to Tell" might be like taking a dip into chilly waters - at first a bit disconcerting but soon very refreshing.