Angels Makin Angels

Written By Shank Wilson  Photography By Taylor Czerwinski

Written By Shank Wilson

Photography By Taylor Czerwinski

If you’ve been searching for the year’s most interesting concept album, you can stop now. Lee Barbour’s new album, “Ultrasound,” is it. The album’s concept takes the listener through his wife’s pregnancy, often from his unborn son’s perspective. That’s unique enough, but Barbour goes for authenticity by meticulously incorporating actual sounds of the experience in a musical way. For example, the first sound his son ever made, clearing fluid from his newborn lungs, is within the music.

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Where did this idea come from? Shortly after he found out he was going to be a father, Barbour had a dream that he describes as “intense and vivid.” He saw his unborn baby staring at him and looking in his eyes. The lucidity of the dream, and the
emotions surrounding consciously creating life, gave him the idea to communicate with his son through music.

Lee Barbour is a former College of Charleston guitar professor that has performed with Elise Testone, Cary Ann Hearst, Fred Wesley, Joe Beck, and Earl Klugh. His wife, Vicki Matsis, is a singer who runs the “NotSo Hostel” on Spring Street and is involved
with Ohm radio as well. The two live in a house behind the hostel which is where Barbour composed, performed, and recorded the album. Fittingly, Barbour began work on the album in what is now the baby’s room.

Musically, the album sounds as if Tangerine Dream, Bon Iver, and Prince went in the studio together to cut the “2001: A Space Odyssey” soundtrack. Similar to the movie, the album is about the evolution of consciousness, but instead of following the path of species through time, he follows the path from conception to birth. Barbour says, “The ideas for the sounds came from asking myself the question, what does music sound like before you are born, in the woom?” Then, within those sounds, Barbour placed mantras he wanted to get across to his son, “I want him to know, you’re safe now. You’re welcome. We’re ready for you.”

Yes, Barbour played these songs for his son in the womb. Then after he was born, he captured sounds of his newborn for the album as well. The album ends happily with Lee, Vicki, and baby Rhodes all together as a family. Barbour lists two of the twelve songs that he thinks are most representative of the album. They are “Angels Making Angels,” the conception song, and “Moment That Wasn’t,” which is about living in the present.

The song “Multiplying Selves” is also interesting as Barbour used bells to represent dividing cells. “I took the idea of single notes and added the corresponding notes in the overtone series. The bells grow until there is a huge explosive moment where the chord changes underneath and those cells become a being. The song is exactly 8 minutes long which represents infinity.”

The “Ultrasound” album release party is also befitting of the conceptual theme of the album. The May 2nd release is at Satsang Yoga in Mt. Pleasant from 6:30-8pm. It’s $15 to $25 on a sliding scale that includes a copy of the album. Instructor Andrea Boyd will be teaching guided movement through the entire album. You can come just to listen or take the class. The day after that, May 3rd, the album will be available online.

Today, Rhodes Barbour is 18 months old and, as you might expect, the primary cause of his daddy’s extended sleep deprivation. To accommodate him, Barbour’s studio had to move upstairs to the A-frame top story of the house. He says the hundreds of hours he put in making this album made him a much more competent producer and better musician. He sums that up in one sentence, “An album about birth also became about rebirth for me.” 

Currently, Barbour is using his new production skills with singer Heather Mills and singer/guitarist Jeff Wilson.

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As a career musician, we have to ask Barbour what advice he could give up-and-coming musicians. “I think there are two approaches,” Barbour says, “You can go all-in and never stop doing, it or you can find something complimentary that you’re good at, that can
make you some money, and buy you freedom. Graphic Design and social media promotion will help you in your career. 

Follow your passion, but don’t exclude other
things that can enrich your life. Most record labels will tell you they are looking for PR people that also write songs. You have to have everything together in order to attract attention. You have to have a vision. If you’re not sure what you want, it is very easy to float. Floating can last a decade or more. Get real clear on your goals and what you want.”

You can find more information on the album and story at Barbour is on Facebook and Instagram as well. You can search the hashtag #oneminuteimprov on Instagram to see clips from his weekly gig at The Harbor View Inn rooftop.

So, will there be a Baby #2 and follow up album? “Oh gosh,” Barbour says taking a deep breath. “We’re just coming out of the weeds now. Moving back into that again is scary.” He’s not going to rule it out though, “I can’t have my 2nd child growing up wondering why he didn’t get an album.”


Taylor Czerwinski