Local music: Jesse Michael Barr and Friends

  • Photo by Tessa Berg
By
From the February 16, 2012 edition

The world is literally in Jesse Michael Barr’s eye on the cover of his band’s new album, “Max Power’s Revenge.” He hopes it’ll be in your ear when you listen.

The album, which stops in Algeria, Amsterdam, New Orleans and New York on a journey through reggae guitar, funk horns and soulful backing vocals, records Barr’s literal and musical journeys.

The band once dubbed the Max Power Trio is now a swelling and contracting ensemble of nine players. Hence the name change to something more honest: Jesse Michael Barr and Friends.

The “full monty,” as Barr says, will play a series of shows in Columbus and elsewhere in Ohio in the next couple of weeks. Two of the friends will travel with Barr to California, Oregon and Washington next month for a 10-day tour.

The band’s live shows are designed to be party- and dance-friendly, Barr said, but he hopes people will hear the lyrics, too. Those explore topics ranging from social justice (“New Orleans” includes news clips from coverage of Hurricane Katrina), war (“Bouteflika”) and mind-bending self-discovery (“Daydream in Amsterdam”).

“Every song was written in a different city that I’ve been to. … This album is a collection of these songs from around the world. I guess at some point a few years ago I viewed myself as a citizen of the world, not a specific country or race,” Barr said.

“Max Power’s Revenge” reflects that attitude in its sound as well as its lyrics. It’s certainly not world music, but elements of reggae, funk, jazz and jam band meet for a groovy trip around the globe.

“These are the best musicians that I know exist in this town,” he said of his bandmates. “They’re really good, which usually translates to they don’t have to take too many takes to get something great.”

Yet, between takes — and much tea and conversation — the album took about two years to make. It’s all worthwhile to Barr, who admits he can’t wait to do it all over again.