Plenty of former punk and hardcore icons have traded in their volume, crunch, and at least some of their onstage aggression in recent years for new directions as folk-leaning singer-songwriters. Look at 7 Seconds' Kevin Seconds, Hot Water Music's Chuck Ragan, Gorilla Biscuits' Walter Schreifels, etc. But if you poke around some of the leading punk-rock message boards, many of those cats have been ripped for going soft, becoming "dad rockers," and/or hopping onto the cliché trend of swapping Johnny Rotten for Johnny Cash. And yet Tim Barry — the 39-year-old Richmond, Virginia, singer-guitarist best known for fronting now-defunct hardcore heroes Avail for two decades — has managed to slip into acoustic troubadour mode more seamlessly and memorably than most of his peers, and with near-universal respect. Part of that's because the candid, no-bullshit Barry has oozed sincerity and authenticity throughout his entire career; he's never been one to embrace a sound or style because it was fashionable. A bigger part of it is that he's had things to say on his handful of solo albums, like the just-released 28th and Stonewall — about his days and nights riding the rails, the harrowing deaths of close friends, the highs and lows of Richmond history (including a failed slave uprising in 1800), and more — and a commanding voice and presence with which to say them. In concert, Barry continues to prove that he doesn't need cranked amps anymore to craft something emotionally powerful and cathartic.
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