Great name for a band, The Pawn Shop Saints. That wit and connection runs through ‘Ordinary Folks’. Main songwriter and singer Jeb Barry, has spent years travelling around small-town America, particularly the eastern side of the country. Studies that have resulted in these nine tales of observed lives looked at with affection and an eye for the minutiae of small-town life.
As Barry himself states:
I found myself interacting with the people that live there more and more and found out that I was too quick to judge them as less than the hard-working folks they were. Most were just ordinary folks trying to get through life’s hard times. I then found myself writing about the similarities we all have, and not so much focusing on the differences.
The album looks to challenge the stereotypes of ‘Hicksville USA’, and portrays a loving portrait of people short in resources, but rich in relationships, respect in adversity, and simple love for each other.
‘Southern Mansions’ is a case in point. The title is a caustic, derogatory term for large mobile homes, in trailer parks:
Southern mansions most see shacks not fit for anyone. Stained with cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs, not homes busting at the seams with love, and songs of gospel after dark. But if you say hello you’ll get a friendly story about the weather, kids or work. Good people trying their best not to feel sorry for themselves. They know things could be worse. They always could be worse.
Jed’s world-weary, rasping voice gives further depth to the desperation of some of the lives and scenarios, ‘Body in the River’ being a prime example.
The music supplied by fellow saints is on point yet restrained, the echoing vocals on ‘Pack a Day’ lead to simple guitar runs, eloquent in themselves, but never enough to distract from the lyrics, which are always, front and centre. A simple reverb effected hand clap provides the instrumental break on ‘Ain’t No Mama Here’, but when lyrics are so incisive and emotional, there is little need for flashy solos:
Everywhere there are little literary junkets and gems such as ‘Old Men In New Trucks’
Old men, in new trucks driving slow, around town, alone, talking to heaven, to the only girls they loved.
‘Ordinary Folks’ doesn’t jump out at one on the first play, but it does reward further listening and is a real grower. The Pawn Shop Saints are well worth investing in.