Barry Muir isn’t one to hold back when he gets into the recording studio to create something original, and in this sense, his new album Gentle is no different from any other he’s released to date. Gentle is comprised of a dozen songs that explore self-awareness, optimism, breaking away from strife, and even acknowledging inescapable truths, but its most profound theme is perhaps its sense of ambition, which is rather unusual to discover in a record from a veteran player like Muir. He sounds as immersed in his medium as ever here, if not a bit more invested because of how long he’s been in the game.

The trifecta of “Church at the Hollywood,” Gentle’s title track, and “Where the Warm Breezes Blow” could have supported at least half of an EP, but in the company of a searing single like “She’s a Little Wildflower” or “Weathered the Storm,” I think they feel more like album-oriented material than they would have otherwise. There’s a mildly progressive quality to the lyricism in this LP, and it starts and ends with the way these songs fit together, much like puzzle pieces or pages randomly torn from a diary that independently mean nothing out of context.

“Mistakes I’ve Made,” “Baby, You’re My Weakness,” and “It Wasn’t Easy” are another trio of Gentle’s best material outside of its singles that show off an experimental side to Muir’s compositional skill I hadn’t picked up on in his previous releases. On more than one front, he sounds more relaxed in his approach towards the studio, and I get the feeling that he’s more at home with this material as a songwriter than a lot of his contemporaries are with their new output this spring. The emotionality is everywhere, and, better yet, it’s not presented with a sappy subtext.

The identity of a singer/songwriter usually begins with their most trusted instrumental component, which in this case is Muir’s guitar playing. In the singles “She’s a Little Wildflower” and “Weathered the Storm,” the fretwork is especially cushy and made to compliment even the Gentlest of vocals from our leading man, the best of which come in the former track over the latter (in my opinion, at least). There’s no stinginess on his part as a singer, but instead a seeming eagerness to give us as much melodic grandeur as he can put together from within this space.

Gentle isn’t exceptionally long, clocking in just shy of forty minutes in total length, but its quality-first compositions require no buffering to really get into. For the discriminating pop fan, Barry Muir represents a lot of what is missing from the genre’s international stage in 2022, especially in terms of simplistic, rootsy singer/songwriters. His is a sound that is both timeless and very refreshing to stumble across no matter how deep a connecting to this genre you’ve got, and this year, I think his album Gentle and its singles are going to bring him the evasive exposure he’s been fighting to earn his whole career.

Sebastian Cole