By Lon McNeil
You’ve probably seen his name on the Harvest Moon marquee more than once, more than twice. There’s a simple explanation for Evan Barber’s signage longevity there; it means good music and a good time. That’s good for everybody, good for business, and it has certainly been good for Barber.
Like most that are drawn to music, Barber started early, at around 16, playing for fun and friends. It then turned into something a bit more serious, becoming a source of income. It was when the music income began to meet or exceed his work income that he realized this was for real. Talking with Barber, it’s clear he is very aware something special is going on around him.
At 26, Barber is getting the serious musical lift under his wings that all in the business struggle for. In 2001, he was in first band, Bellamy Peach, playing at Albany’s Cab Stand. “It was pretty ugly,” remembers Barber, laughing.
In 2003 he enrolled at Gainesville College. Returning to Albany in 2007, he went to work for his brother-in-law as a construction crew foreman, renovating apartment buildings in the area.
He continued his music at night, playing solo gigs where ever he could. His talent was out there and drawing a crowd, in particular those in the local music realm. Evan has sat in with Bo Henry and his band of merry men countless times.
Barber understands the value of real friendships built around a shared passion in music. “They are great to me,” said Barber, referring the Henry and Harvest Moon Manager Billy Mann. The venue has a track record of drawing in talented singers, songwriters, and musicians, and the people that enjoy them.
Slowly, Barber began to round up long-time friends and fellow musicians in the area. When the dust settled, Evan Barber & The Dead Gamblers stepped out. Blane Johnson hits it on lead guitar, and has been playing with Evan from the very beginning. On bass is Ryan Juneau, while drummer, Wynn Hyatt backs it all up with his sticks. Occasionally, organist/keyboardist Buck Bradshaw, joins the game, and Austin McLean subs on bass.
Barber’s solo gigs still slightly outpace full band shows, but not by much. “By next year, we will be booking the majority of our play dates as a band,” Barber exclaimed. That is the direction he wants to go, and so far his ability to see a little ways up the road has been spot on. “If you had asked me in 2007,” said Barber, “what I was expecting from my music, I would have been happy booking 200 shows a year.
He and his Gamblers have already crossed that line by a healthy margin. He’s not a construction crew foreman, anymore.
As a local band in Southwest Georgia, they can crank out Southern rock, country, and R&B classics, but Barber has pulled together his own thoughts and style to give his Dead Gamblers a unique, slightly darker spin on the genre. He’s a big Tom Petty fan, so he has a hard time hearing his music and the band as simply country or southern rock. One of Barber’s favorite tracks from last year’s debut album last is “Lessons”.
“It keep my interest, without any gimmicks,” said Barber. “A lot of folks, and I’m bad about it too, will use a melody to make up for any real substance in a song. “What I like about ‘Lessons’ is how straightforward it is. It’s almost dry, and I like that.”
Being home, Albany is, of course, the Gamblers’ core of support, but it is growing fast. Valdosta’s Bayou Bill’s and Charlie O’Corley’s have seen the boys show up and set up shop regularly. The group has expanded its reach to include Savannah, Athens, Destin, and Birmingham, with hauls to Kentucky and Tennessee once or twice a year.
With a small child, Barber is taking everything a lot more serious these days, and is focused on making the most of the opportunity in front of them. He has already begun penning his next collection of songs, and giving thought as to where and when it gets produced. His goal is to be finished with it by later this year.
Editor’s note: Fans can keep track of Evan Barber & The Dead Gamblers at www.evanbarber.com and by finding Evan Barber on Facebook.