Thirty years ago this year, half a lifetime, I first flew to the UK from Nashville to do a few gigs in London and Belfast. Being a history buff, I soaked up everything I could about London, walking and taking the tube every chance I could. I thought I might never get back, and I wanted to see everything. If I only knew then what I know now. We’ll be flying to London this coming Monday for the 2nd of at least four trips over this year alone.

There was a vastly different atmosphere in Belfast in 1982. Armored troop carriers patrolled the streets with soldiers positioned on top pointing loaded weapons at the buildings they passed by. The Bobby Sands hunger strike had just happened, and I felt like a photo-journalist when I hopped in a cab and asked the driver to take me down to Falls Road. I was a wide-eyed twenty-something kid who wanted to know why, how, and where the violence had happened. Having an armed soldier threaten to confiscate my camera after he caught me taking pictures of the rubble was my reality check. Thank god things have changed, and for the better.

I got back to the UK twice more in the 80’s. Once in ’84 with Lynn Anderson, and once in ’89 with Waylon Jennings. I didn’t get back again until my first trip over with Gretchen Peters in the Spring of 2001. We toured the UK and Ireland as a duo, and many nights we played to only forty enthusiastic people. But the enthusiasm we felt from the audiences meant we were making a go of it. We were connecting.

Eleven years, hundreds of shows, and well over twenty UK tours later, Gretchen and I, along with our new band mate Christine Bougie, are starting the European leg of the Hello Cruel World Tour one week from today on March 1st, in Gateshead, at The Sage. The Hello Cruel World album seems to have struck some kind of a chord with people. This in itself doesn’t surprise me. I knew when we finished the album last summer that it was better than any recording project I’d ever been a part of. All of the pieces for once seemed to be right. Something that doesn’t happen very often in the world of music. But in this case, the songs, the musicians, the arrangements, the studio, and the overall sound of the record were all pointing in the same direction. I told Gretchen one day that there wasn’t a wasted word or even a superfluous note on the whole record. The songs were some of the best songs Gretchen had ever written, and they were completely honest. They were framed by cliché-free, simple arrangements played by musicians wise enough to know they had nothing to prove. The songs were free to speak without having to compete with musicians on a mission to show off their best licks. It was the perfect combination of elements that I had never seen before in my thirty-five years as a recording musician. I knew we had a winning combination. I told Gretchen one day that “we have to fight to give this baby the life it deserves”. We were in the care of something really special and we were only at the starting gate. Now we had to promote it. Now we had to really work to get this work of art out in the world.

On the road tonight in Memphis on the eve of the tour, we are so excited that we are going to be playing to such great audiences across England, Scotland, Wales and both the North and South of Ireland. We’ve heard that at least five of the shows have sold out, and we haven’t even left home yet. We are going to appear in some of our favorite venues anywhere in the world. We’ve come a long way together since that first tour Gretchen and I did in 2001. Believe me when I say that every mile, every dodgy hotel, every three-day old prawn sandwich, and every load-out in the rain was worth it. We could never have made it this far without you. Over the years we’ve made many friends throughout the British Isles, and we now get to visit with these friends every time we perform. It’s like seeing family, only without the squabbles!

To all of you from Scotland to Sussex, East Yorkshire to South Wales, Derry to Dublin, thanks for those many years of support. We will see you soon. To those of you in Germany and Holland, we’ll also see you. It will be our fourth tour in The Netherlands, and our second in Germany. We will be bringing copies of both Hello Cruel World and my latest CD, Paradiso, along with us.



David Richardson February 26, 2012 @01:04 pm

Kind words. As a relative newcomer to your music over the last three months it has become clear that you have a strong loyal and growing fan base in the UK and it is easy to see and hear why. Roll on March

Secret Squirrel February 24, 2012 @10:31 am

From the moment I heard Gretchen trying out "Hello Cruel World" on us during a Wine, Women and Song gig last year here in the UK, I knew you had something very special on your hands. I'm so pleased that the rest of the world has woken up to what we've always known - you and Gretchen make fabulous music that hits the spot every time. I can't wait to see you both in Bury and Nottingham. Live gigs via StageIt across the web are cool, but being able to heckle from the 2nd row is more fun! Enjoy the ride... it's going to be crazy! Much love to you both.

David February 24, 2012 @04:39 am

So typical of you to not mention "Paradiso" - giving the spotlight to Gretchen. I have been privileged to witness you and Gretchen in various guises - solo, WW&S, Transatlantic Sessions - you two have been the soundtrack to my life since the mid 90's - all I can ever say is: Thank You.

Chris Lansdowne February 24, 2012 @03:50 am

Liking your blog Barry. This will be my 4th time at a GP gig. 1st was in Swindon when temperatures went through the roof but you still completed the gig. Next was The Tunnels at Bristol then last year @ Bury St Edmunds. This year at my new home town of Norwich - can't wait!

Amelia February 23, 2012 @10:19 pm

Nice writing! Congratulations on your first “blog.” (I’m still not used to that word.)I like how you compare and contrast the “then and now.” I’m looking forward to more of your observations about your “second home” as the tour unfolds. This album touches me deeply both musically and personally. Of all the things you say, the most meaningful for me is when you articulate how/why this recording project is so exceptional. Its potency seems to come from its leanness, directness, intimacy, musical efficiency, etc. It is not uncommon for me to get excited about a work and recommend it to others. But with HCW, I feel more like an obligation to spread the word—a responsibility to the work of art and to the listeners who will benefit from hearing it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for giving me some words I can use when I tell people about this amazing album. Thank you for working so hard to bring this magical project to the ears of The People. Musicians like you and yours make the Cruel World kinder one bar at a time. Best wishes for a happy, healthy journey. Don’t forget to write!

Roy Burkett February 23, 2012 @09:28 pm

I'm a fairly new fan of you and Gretchen. Got linked to your music by being a long time fan of Suzy Bogguss. Glad to see you both have albums out and are living your dreams. Nice people with great music who compliment each other. A winning combo. Hope you can make it to Tampa bay area sometime.

mary beth February 23, 2012 @08:11 pm

Well written and well said regarding how special Hello Cruel World is. It still makes me catch my breath at times. Thank You for sharing..... Peace mary beth

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Upcoming shows

  • Jan 29
    King's Theatre,  Glasgow,
  • Feb 1
    Glasgow Royal Concert Hall,  Glasgow,
  • Feb 3
    Glasgow Royal Concert Hall,  Glasgow,
  • Feb 4
    The Sage (Sage One),  Gateshead (Newcastle),
  • Feb 5
    Barbican Centre,  London