Jerry Barlow brings Celtic guitar to library Friday |

Jerry Barlow brings Celtic guitar to library Friday

Kimberly Nicoletti
Summit Daily News
Special to the Daily Jerry Barlow

Jerry Barlow lived in Nashville for 18 years, playing and writing country songs for artists such as Conway Twitty and Edward Arnold. Though he still loves the heart of Nashville, he stepped away from commercial writing and performing, knowing he had to follow his passion.

“I had gotten to the point in my life that I couldn’t play commercial music and enjoy it anymore,” Barlow said. “It wasn’t what I wanted to express. It’s very formalized and wasn’t quite working in terms of it being intrinsically rewarding.”

So he set his guitar down for a bit and moved back to his native Colorado to spend more time with his dad in 1994.

Though hanging out in Eastern Tennessee exposed him to a melting pot of near Celtic music from generations carrying on the tradition Scottish and Irish settlers brought in the 1700s, Colorado was the place he decided to specialize in Celtic music.

“I found (the music) to have therapeutic qualities,” Barlow said. “(It had) an ancient quality about it that touched me deeply. The music expresses trials and tribulations of an entire culture rather than the heartaches of just one individual.”

Since then, he has accrued plenty of accolades, including regular airtime on PBS and NPR and an international award from the Indie Acoustic Project, which celebrates the best indie music out there. Barlow earned the Indie award for best song of 2006 from his title track of “Bring Down the Storm.”

Now he tours a seven-state region, preferring to play in quiet venues like libraries and small theaters, as opposed to loud bars, so the audience can hear the subtleties of the music, said to soothe the soul and lift the spirit.

“It’s self-contained and intricate,” he said, “with the base line, melody line and chords … all of it gets heard and appreciated.”

When he performs, he also explains the history, humor and legends of the lively jigs, spirited reels and haunting airs that have survived several centuries.

“A lot of the songs have words, but I render them instrumentally, because I play a lot better than I sing,” he said with a laugh.

To express emotion through song, he goes beyond finger picking, adding drumming on the guitar face and tapping on the neck of the guitar with both hands for percussion. He also gives a nod to the fiddle and harp by bringing in those effects.

“It’s simple, but it’s just so heartfelt,” he said about the music overall.

Barlow’s performance is part of the Summit County Libraries’ adult programming. For several years, it has offered free travel slide shows with a variety of presenters, and in the last two years, it has sponsored a bingo and a dart game with grand prizes donated by Friends of the Library. Librarian Patrick McWilliams, a former English professor, portrayed Julius Ceasar and the apostle Mark as well as presented Shakespeare’s sonnets.

“After the success of the libraries’ summer reading programs for children, we wanted to offer interesting activities at the libraries for adults,” said Becky Astuto, library tech. “The fall … seems to be a perfect time for adults to settle into reading.”

Librarians invited Barlow after hearing him perform at the Vail library last year. The library staff hopes to offer adult programs every autumn.

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