Matthew Barber’s new album Big Romance is one fine piece of work. At times it echoes the early piano work of Elton John and the acoustic folk ballads of Neil Young. But this album is all his own. Barber has a rich, soulful voice and an uncanny ability to write both emotive ballads and great pop tunes. Barber made an excellent choice in picking Jayhawks’ guitarist and songwriter Gary Louris to produce the album. The sound is uncluttered and gives Barber all the vocal room he needs to shine. His sister Jill steps in to provide background vocals and harmonies. Standout songs for me include the opening piano ballad “Hold Me” and “On the 505″—a folky but compassionate song about the shooting of a young man by police on a Toronto streetcar. This is one album that will definitely be with me on summer road trips.

– Gerald Graham