Stories to Tell is an appropriate title for Dave Barnes’ sixth full-length recording and fourth on Razor & Tie. Throughout his career, the singer/songwriter has always used story as a means to communicate his messages of love and heartbreak. On the heels of a GRAMMY® nomination for “God Gave Me You,” the stakes were high for his next work. Fortunately, Barnes lives up to the hype with this offering – a collection of the most pop-centric songs of his career.
With producer John Fields (Lifehouse, Switchfoot, P!nk) behind the controls, Barnes ventured outside of Nashville for the first time and recorded the album in L.A. Although the new locale afforded him the freedom to create outside the lines of his self-imposed comfort zone, longtime fans will still find his silky smooth vocals coupled with sweet love songs intact.
The album begins with “White Flag,” a call to surrender and forgiveness filled with Barnes’ signature fun-loving charisma. “Mine to Love,” the first radio single, is one of the album’s finest moments. It’s a song, along with closer “One of Us,” written about the upcoming birth of Barnes’ first child, wrought with emotion and wonder.
“Love Will Be Enough” paints a picture of simple living, thanks to the writing gifts of Barnes, Brandon Heath and Heath’s longtime keyboard player Joe Moralez. It’s followed by the serious “Seventeen,” the story of a girl who takes her life far too soon, leaving people behind blaming themselves for her choices. Musically, the song takes an emotive, pulsating twist that’s benefiting of the song’s subject matter. “Missing You” is also a track formed around the theme of loss, yet the melody line is more light-hearted, leading the subject of the song to be interpreted by the listener.
The title track breezes through thoughtful lyrics and an intricate melodic current of sound. You can almost taste the ocean air and see the landscapes fly by the car window as this tune takes you on a carefree cross-country ride. The chorus contains some of the album’s best lyrical nuggets: “There’s life to be lived/Stories to tell/Lessons to learn that we don’t know yet/Nothing to lack looking back knowing that we have lived it well/With stories to tell...”
Songs like “Heaven Help Me” (an expression of a desire to overcome apathy) and “Find Your Way Home” (a message of encouragement to “saints and sinners” and “troubled souls”) can easily translate through faith-based eyes, but Barnes continues to write songs mainly about love and relationships.
Although Barnes saw some success at Christian radio for the first time last year, the songs on this album prove he isn’t changing his formula. With the exception of more pop-centered melodies than ever before, Stories to Tell finds Barnes targeting lovers of quality singer/songwriters – whether Christian or non-Christian.
Barnes will always remain on the fringe of Christian music, but that’s part of his appeal. What’s not to love about songs that tell honest stories we can all relate to?
This review was originally posted on watchgmctv.com.