For more than 20 years, Brad Barr has been counting the number 216. It’s a mysterious number that seems to show up everywhere - from clocks and license plates to Ouija boards and receipts - and now it’s also sewn the fabric of his new album, like the 216 stitches on a baseball. The Barr Brothers frontman has set aside his band, his microphone and even his lyric-sheet - picking up his instrument for a solo guitar album that ripples with immediacy, vulnerability, and the spell of six-cubed.
Barr spent decades developing his visceral approach to the guitar, first with The Slip and then across three LPs with the Barr Brothers. The Winter Mission - the follow-up to The Fall Apartment, Barr’s 2009 solo debut - had its origins in an instrumental commission for New York City’s All For One Theater. It “felt like a gift,” Barr recalls—to have a sound he could explore all by himself, away from the road, during Covid’s strange intermission.
Inspired by artists like Caetano Veloso, Mississippi Fred McDowell, D’Gary and John Frusciante, Barr set out to make music that was naked and unprocessed, but also occasionally loud—alive with a sense of wakeful intimacy. The number 216 was a constant theme. The guitarist first encountered the so-called “magic square” during a teenage acid trip; in the years since then it’s become a talisman—one of the few areas where Barr feels mystical, sensing a genuine order in the universe. These songs pay tribute to that order—from 216’s lofty mathematical and astrological properties to its function as an area-code (for Cleveland).
Still, you don’t need to believe in 216 to fall for this record. You don’t even need to be able to count that high. It’s enough to feel the grace that shimmers underneath these tracks, a wild music’s secret scaffolding.
The Winter Mission is out with Secret City Records.