At numerous establishments in Madison and across the country, people pay upward of $5 for sandwiches. At these absurd eateries, seemingly rational individuals pay a steep premium to watch a young worker spend 15 seconds mindlessly assembling a combination of bread, meat, vegetables and condiments.

Yesterday’s release of singer-songwriter Dave Barnes’s new album “Me and You and the World” is a similar phenomenon. People will certainly pay for the Nashville-based musician’s 12 tracks of pop, but chances are they could assemble something like it using music they already have on their computer or CD shelf.

This is not to say the album is entirely unworthy of listeners’ attention or even their money. Like the sandwiches at places like Potbelly or Subway, Barnes’ album has a variety of ingredients one cannot generally find at home. However, like the banana peppers on so many overpriced turkey subs, the tracks do not represent the best of their species.

From the mawkish pop ballad “Until You,” the album’s first single, to the catchy new country-influenced “Since You Said I Do,” to the gospel tune “Carry Me Through,” Barnes shows an uncanny ability to handle a number of genres.

Although the album’s sound is as diverse as a cold cut trio with all the fixings, Barnes’ lyrics are about as inspired as ham and cheese on Wonder Bread. For the most part, he sings about girls.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this choice of topic; there have been plenty of great songs written about romantic love, but the sensibility with which he handles it shows little complexity of thought. Barnes’ love songs express precisely the same emotions that came wrapped in the cellophane of every boy band album of the 1990s.

Even when he is not singing about one specific girl or relationship, Barnes does not stray far from the topic of love. He repeatedly advances the not-quite-trailblazing notion that love is a panacea for all of society’s problems. Barnes puts this message most succinctly in “Good World Gone Bad,” belting out, “It’s a good world gone real bad/ And only love can bring it back.”

Today, Barnes is going on the road to spread his simple message of peace, love and understanding (apologies to Elvis Costello), and Madison is going to be the last stop on his tour.

Barnes’ tour and album will probably do relatively well, as individuals whose heartstrings respond well to the tugging of conventional pop lyrics will turn out in droves to listen to Barnes’ hackneyed call to love one another.

Ironically, people who do not pay for the album will save just enough money to practice what Barnes preaches. Ten bucks is just about enough money to treat a loved one to a sandwich.


Dave Barnes will perform at the Majestic Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 5. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $20 for box seats.


2 stars out of 5