Summer Sessions Week 5 – The Living American Songbook

    James Barrett performing at 6pm, followed by Brad Simmons

    James Barrett’s “before” looks a lot like yours. After releasing his debut LP, The Price of Comfort, the
    Scranton singer-songwriter moved onto his next planning phase, stuck between eras labeled by
    plaintive acoustic tracks and the ringing clarity of a full-band effort. In October 2019, Barrett began
    writing what would become A Series of…Mostly Nothing, a modest name for his most realized work
    yet. It’s a love letter to the hushed splendor of The National and the spaced-out bombast of Angels &
    Airwaves, embellished with a theatrical identity boosted by live strings, horns, and good friend
    Amanda Rogan lending vocals to many moments. 
    As 2020 grew more unpredictable by the day, A Series of… could’ve imploded. Barrett, largely a solo
    artist with Jake Checkoway (Sleeping Patterns, Origami Angel) as his long-time producer, brought in
    an ensemble cast to flesh out the experience. Studio time became unfeasible, so the album was pieced
    together from drum tracks recorded in Los Angeles and sessions taken from a tiny house transformed
    into a creative epicenter. Disjointed as it was, the final product never feels incomplete, instead seamless
    and layered. Barrett’s stadium-rock M.O. bleeds through most of the runtime, from the ironclad hook
    surging through “Love Song in 2020” and the urgent catharsis propelling “The Art of Letting Go.”
    James even gives equal time to softer reflections, citing piano-centric “Yellow Paint” and “U-Haul” as
    balancing out the album’s rockist posture. 
    “In my head it feels like I am stuck in a play, revisiting the same thoughts continuously for months or
    years the same way Broadway players relive the same production every night for years,” Barrett
    explains of the album’s hypnotic drama. Like its stage influences, A Series of… finds time to include a
    reprise while circling around themes of heartbreak, isolation, and memory. But be warned, as Barrett
    says, “emotionally, it’s all over the place.”

    Recognized from the film Camp, Brad Simmons has shared the stage with Broadway luminaries Tonya
    Pinkins, Alice Ripley, Beth Leavel, and Donna McKechnie and recording artists Sandi Patty and The
    B-52s’ Kate Pierson. Simmons has music directed several Douglas Carter Beane musicals: Lysistrata
    Jones, Hood, Star-Spangled, To Wong Foo, Mr & Mrs Fitch with John Lithgow, and Me and The
    Girls with Alan Cumming, and can be heard on Lewis Flinn’s New Music for the End of the
    World recording. He was the music director for the film Hello Again with Audra
    McDonald and Martha Plimpton and he was The Pianist in The Last Five Years film. He weekly music
    directs The Lineup with Susie Mosher at Birdland. Simmons composed the musicals A Kiss from
    Alexander, A Woman Onstage and A Dickens of a Carol with librettist Stephan DeGhelder. Find
    Brad’s recordings, including Dreamworld, Mundane Existence, The Simon & Garfunkel Collection,
    and his upcoming Troubadour album, on all music platforms.

    Event Ticket
    Summer Sessions Week 5

    James Barrett
    Brad Simmons

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