Going Easy and Deep Into the Mystery

Jamie Barnes
The Recalibrated Heart (Pink Bullet Recordings)

By Tim Roberts

Be forewarned: listening to this release through headphones or ear buds while reclining on any kind of soft furniture will cause you to fall deep into a trance, the kind where you feel someone has just uncorked a hole in your psyche you didn't know you had. And a lot of the stressors, anxieties, petty annoyances, defenses, stuff that holds you to impossible schedules or binds you to people you force yourself to get along with, all just leak out a little at a time. You're left open and vulnerable. The music just slips inside. And you let yourself go.

Yeah, sometimes that can happen, when the boundaries just vanish for a moment and something kind just sweeps in and reminds you of how human you are and all that implies. You can get your chance to get that feeling for yourself with two incredibly relaxing and easygoing releases from Louisville musicians: The Recalibrated Heart from Jamie Barnes and After the Rain from the band Arnett Hollow.

Heart is Barnes's third full release (not counting his online-only EP Paper Crane from last year). It is, frankly and without hyperbole, gorgeous, lush, adventurous, hypnotic, sensuous, full of love and sense and sincerity. The sound throughout Heart, with one exception, is generally slow-tempo and gentle, but the songs themselves do not drag. There's always just enough to savor before the next track plays.

Barnes gives us his first gentle love tap with the steady percussion of tambourine and castanet and ambient, echoey flute in "Vampire Movie." He then moves into topical songs with "Conflict Diamond" and "Song For the Mofa Seven," about the seven North Koreans who tried to defect to China by rushing the gate of its embassy in August 2002. In "Hell's Adopted Mile," Barnes roughens up the sound a little bit with fuzzed-out, reverbed guitar and a growling Hammond B3 in the background and he talks of a place where there are fly-infested fruit stands and a man with eyes rolled back in his head like a slot machine. You feel like you need to dust yourself off when the song is over.

There's a deep spiritual strain in all the songs on Heart and Barnes doesn't hide it. It's not specifically a recording of Christian music. Several of the songs mention God with reverence and a touch of praise and that keeps Heart's spiritual themes at a comfortable level.

Feed your heart more info about Barnes at www.jamiebarnes.net;