Review Summary: Come on home.
Musically this year has been a wild one. Even for those initiated, there’s been mountains of albums soaring across the internet, waves from the underground smashing into the mainstream with a cinematic flourish of two Hollywood armies coming head to head. Personally, this year’s been more than busy, regardless of which album becomes my ‘flavor of the day’ digested, repeated and added to the memory bank of a year filled with anticipation, promise, hope and thoughts of the future. With this in mind, Jimmy Barnes’ Flesh and Blood
stands as a dichotomy of sorts to my current state of being. I’m being vague, for only the people that matter know in part or fully what I am currently referencing (one could argue it has no bearing or need to be mentioned here) and yet, Mr. Barnes is a poignant reminder of staying in the now, passing something on and remembering how you got to where you are.
Born James Dixon Swan, Jimmy’s exploits have seen the Australian vocalist move from Glasgow and a “slum of violence and alcohol” in his early days being born in Scotland (relocating to Australia at the age of five). It would seem that even from those early days singing for Cold Chisel would eventually lead to Jimmy Barnes’ most poignant and reminiscent release, Flesh and Blood
. Since moving to a solo career, no single artist has celebrated the successful run on Australian charts, while hits like “Working Class Man” (1985 - For The Working Class Man
) still reverberate through pub sound systems, backyard BBQ parties, sporting events and around Australia’s national treasure, goon of fortune
. No, none of Flesh and Blood
’s poignant verses hit the heart of listeners quite like Jimmy’s mid-eighties or early nineties, it’s not supposed to. Instead, Flesh and Blood
is a reminder, relevant to all those who have had a little something and just want better
for those we care about.
Let's face it, Jimmy Barnes has had a fair shake at music over the course of the last five decades. The title track stands strongly on a list of similar minded tracks, soaking in both the masculinity of a man, father, care-giver and teacher...but Jimmy is teaching life lessons his lyrics awash with deeper metaphors stemming from life lessons: “You see, I tried to teach them how to swim/through waters deep, so they won’t drown/ To keep their heads up high, ’cause that same water used to drag me down.”
At the core of Barnes’ new record is sentimentality, raw and true, gift wrapped in a parcel filled to the brim with the typical Jimmy Barnes’ war-cry.
“I’m Coming Home” continues with Jimmy’s outpouring of sentimentality, but it’s the lighter interplay of sultry bagpipe works that blends history into the now. Wrapping themes in a ballad form may be second nature within Barnes’ solo work, but it’s the acoustic driven passages that transport most of this album into relevancy, wrapping heartstrings around the listeners who grew up with Barnes’ thoughts in mind. Even as Flesh and Blood
’s musical belly comes to bear there’s no indication that the album’s larger, central motif of family led ballads would dip, crash or convolute into a wish-wash assortment of tracks destined for Australian radio play. Deeper cuts like “This Is The Truth” (still likely to achieve a decent proportion of radio time), act as a confessional, sweeping on the laurels of Jimmy’s (at times) well documented past but for all Flesh and Blood
’s individuality, the Barnes clan is deep in its design offering up wholesome duets with either wife or daughters or covering vintage cuts a la “Love Hurts” or passing the proverbial baton to his children in the form of “Tennessee Waltz” and “I Move Slow”.
If anything, Flesh and Blood could
be criticized for being too “on the nose”, too reminiscent, too focused on sentimentality. It’s a given that few would actually blame the former Cold Chisel vocalist for. It doesn’t matter that Flesh and Blood
is an acoustic affair, offset by tinkering piano lines, lush bagpipes or the ageless and overly consistent vocal passages. Jimmy Barnes is an artist who wears his whims on his sleeves, showcasing a matured, introspect into his song-writing. Flesh and Blood
might be a largely acoustic affair, but I’m willing to bet this translates to electric guitars and stadium sized crowds as easily as Jimmy styles his hair of a morning. Largely, it’s hard to blame Barnsey for coming to terms with his demons and his need to protect or nurture the ones he loves. The question here is: you would like to do the same right? Yet, we’re often torn about the minor details, their importance, or how they’re perceived by others. In writing Flesh and Blood
Jimmy Barnes has carved out a dialogue for his family and somehow made it relatable to a wider audience. The same audience he’s been singing to for the best part of four decades. Say what you will about commercialized rock, Flesh and Blood
may just be doing it right.
“We all struggle with the same things. We all want to be better people, we all want to grow, we all want to see our families do well, and we all will have doubts. But we also all have hopes and dreams.”