Singer-songwriter/poet Barnaby Smith is a man with a story. Splitting his time between Northampton and rural Australia is not something many people can say. His debut album, composed and recorded over a four year period, is Itch Factor, which can only be categorised as outsider folk/loner folk. It’s essence of experimentalism, DIY spirit, and tonal atmospherics was realised “in a rickety garden shed in the hills behind Mullumbimby” in New South Wales [a stones throw from the hippy enclave of Byron Bay, reference fans]. This “crudely constructed shack full of snakes, spiders, and lizards” had fed the impassioned work of a no doubt reclusive soul.
Should we care? Yes. This is a magical, rural, 3am record that can bring to mind the stark intimacy of Nick Drake, Tim Buckley, Bon Iver, Amen Dunes, Cass McCombs, or Daniel Johnston. There’s not much need to discuss songs individually, for they cover similar ground: ethereal voice, harmonies, acoustic guitar. A wistful and mysterious blanket covers the listener throughout, from the chiming and claustrophobic tones of ‘Of The North’ right through to bleak lo-fi ruminations on ‘All That Is Solar’. His cover of former Beta Band man Lone Pigeon song ‘Waterfall’ is important, clearly; indeed it is almost a template for the Brigadoon aesthetic. At 15 songs and almost an hour long Itch Factor is perhaps a little too all-encompassing for some. It would have been hard to self-edit the tracks; they all reflect a time and place in Smith’s artistic life.
This untamed and uncompromising work is the authentic voice of the soul in lockdown. We have much to learn, much to gain from basking in his rustic philosophising. There’s inspiration and hope within its’ wanderings. This might be one of the few times you have the wherewithal to delve into such a work as Brigadoon Itch Factor.
Itch Factor is out now on CD/DL via Bandcamp, as well as the usual streaming platforms