The Uncharted Soul Filled Blues of Joe Barr- By Catherine Hernandez-Faber

Posted on 9/10/2010 by Catherine

The Blues have always been filled with voices that are distinct and uncharacteristically anchored to certain Musicians who have made there impact with such power that ones soul is energized each and every time you hear them sing. Joe Barr is one of those voices. Born into a Family of Power Vocals, Joe spent his Saturday mornings singing while his neighbors would sit in chairs in the yard or on the porch feeling the power of the sound coming thru the window. And Sunday's were in the Church where Joe was and to this day still the Piano player.

The power of his vocals came before the piano but it is the piano that roars with the power of his staggering soulful sound. Piano is the only instrument that he has played since age twelve where his natural ability led him to the keys. Mentioning that the Church when he was growing up could never keep a Piano Player so for him it was a given to play and sing.

Growing up in Chicago on the South Side, influences of Music from his Mom came pounding thru in Gospel where in his living room was home and stage to such sounds as Jerry Butler, Sam Cooke, his Cousin's group the Soul Stirrers and the Mighty Closet Joy. On the other side was what his Dad brought him. The Blues. Joe remembers hearing Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf on the record player.
Later on when he was seventeen. Joe would meet the Wolf for a one night show. Seems that Wolf's Piano player had a bit to much to drink before stage time and someone told Wolf, that he had a piano player for him. It was Joe. Only knowing his music from records and with the natural ear and talent Joe Barr at seventeen played with Howlin Wolf and for $20 made is official mark as a paid Professional Blues Musician.
In his early years Joe played in and around a few clubs but mostly watched at a South Side club at that time called Walton Place. Underage, Joe's older Sister was able to get him in and he just hid in the back. Watching and listening to the music but really not knowing who was on stage just learning and loving the music.

Life has taken Joe on the road literally. Always making time for Church and Music. Joe spent years as a truck driver. Not attaining College but Life experiences that allowed him to work with Nate Turner for almost eight years, and his first band the Oasis Band an R & B Gospel Group, going as far as Japan.

In 1985 Joe moved to California where this Powerful Voice went quiet in 1991. The industry of Music had taken its toll on him. He walked away tired of the game and the ego's that are sometimes the curse of those seeking the fame and the fortune.

Coming back to Chicago and to the Music is something that anyone that has the true blessings of hearing the gift that this man carries inside the richness of the keys he plays and the canyon of vocals can and will win you over.

If you ask Joe to describe his show to you he will tell you its different. I go with how the room is that night. I mix the Blues with R & B or what may come to me. I enjoy doing what I do. I want to play the piano and be in front of an audience trying to do my thing and make someone smile and happy. I don't want to be labeled as any particular style of Musician. I just want to play.

And play he does. Joe is one of those who are humbled yet deep with purpose and content with the simple aspects of his piano and the gift he has been given to share. When you find him playing his energy in the room carries this. And it comes in all ages. His voice and music are timeless.

You can find Joe Barr playing consistently at two places in the city of Chicago. Sunday's at Artis's on the South Side on 87th and Tuesday's at the Kingston Mines on Halsted. My suggestion is if your coming to Chicago for pleasure or business fit this man in. You won't be disappointed as he carries you away to a time and a place that has meaning in the music being played.

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All Photos copyright of Catherine Hernandez-Faber
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