When listening to the haunting, graceful voice of Houstonian Haley Barnes, it’s hard not to close your eyes and think of passing trains, deep Ozarkian forests or a sad story or two. The lead singer of local group Dollie Barnes (from a nickname bestowed by her uncle) blends fuzzy folk music sets with whirling melodies and Depression-era-type lyrics, making each song and performance, like her show at Fitzgerald’s on Aug. 18, a visceral and personal experience.
“There’s something about being able to put my emotions into songs. I really want to just write songs with catchy melodies that I can wake up singing to,” says the pint-sized but powerfully voiced Barnes. The Houston native picked up a guitar when she was a teenager and began writing her own songs a few years later, before heading to Waco to study speech pathology at Baylor. It was in Waco where she thrust herself into the city’s small yet impactful folksy music scene.
“I started writing a different style in Waco. I began drawing out my phrases more, making things more melodic.”
The results are ethereal, acoustic-tinged tracks that recall lost loves and drying eyes like the lonesome “To Reach the Sun” or the stark and stunning “How Can I Help You.” With languid, intuitive harmonies and a weeping Americana quality in her vocals, Barnes is a musical shepherd guiding listeners through the land of the emotional lost. Her lyrics flow into each other, making the melody effortless and elegant.
Behind all the mellow of Barnes' voice and writing there's a deep intensity that is gorgeously devastating. So be prepared to swoon and sway and possibly jerk out a tear or two when you listen to her music; you won't get any guff from Barnes.
“It’s okay to be sad and write about it,” she says.
Aug. 18 at 7. $7. Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak Dr. 713-862-3838. fitzlivemusic.com