His raspy growl conjures mental images of a rough-around-the-edges Joe Cocker. The Scottish-born, Australian-bred, Jimmy Barnes sings every song as a force to be reckoned with. His voice may not ever be described as “pretty” his delivery may never really be “pleasant”—but he is always, pound for pound and dollar for dollar putting everything he has into each and every note he sings. He is to Blues vocals what Steve Ray Vaughn was to Blues guitar. An icon, an example of how it’s done right!
The best way to experience Barnes is either live or on a live album. As good as some of them are, his studio albums just don’t capture him at his absolute gritty, piss-and-vinegar balls-on best. With his repertoire of live material, both as a solo musician and with his band, Cold Chisel, there is—luckily plenty of material to choose from. But the cream of the crop, the album that rises above all his other live material is his Unplugged Live at the Chapel CD.
From the opener, a very bluesy take on the classic Hound Dog, to the closing cover of the Bee Gees staple To Love Somebody which he puts his own bluesy stamp on the album captures Barnes at his raspy finest. The CD evokes, from start to finish the feel of Saturday night at your favorite dark-and-dusty, sticky floored, dive bar.
Barnes also covers a handful of songs from his tenure in Cold Chisel, from the Vietnam anthem Khe Sanh, to Flame Trees, and Cheap Wine… I realize none of these songs are at all familiar to an American audience—they are some of Australia’s best kept secrets just waiting to be discovered by an open-minded American audience sick of the dime-a-dozen, cookie-cutter, flavor-of-the-month starlet or boy band.