Through Ink, Verse, and Song, Artist Barry Uhl Shows Off His Imaginative Mind

Barry Uhl

Wednesday, April 23

An Account of the Happenings at Wretched Knob looks like a 12-inch vinyl record, but it is so much more than an album. It is, rather, a fiercely imaginative, three-dimensional storytelling experience—part Edward Gorey, part late-era Beatles, and entirely the creation of a single Seattle artist, Barry Uhl, for whom the work is both a literary and musical debut.

Asked which came first, the music or the drawing, the shaggy 32-year-old is definitive: the drawing. “I would write these little stories and illustrate them, and then I would give them to my librarian at school and she would laminate them for me.”

This was in Aberdeen, Uhl says, where his role as an outcast resulted in an imaginative inner life. But when he was in the eighth grade, his father, a self-educated banker, moved the family to Seattle, and Uhl saw the opportunity to start over. “I begged my parents to let me have baggy pants, and I grew my hair out and acted like a chump for a while,” he says. “I stopped reading, I stopped drawing.”

Uhl’s creative urge was unrelenting, though, and he found a new outlet in music. He learned to play guitar and, after many twists and turns, became a reliable sideman in town, playing with local singer/songwriters including Damien Jurado, Bryan Appleby, and Shelby Earl while also composing for commercials, video games, and indie films. For his entire adult life, though, Uhl was spinning the story for Wretched Knob in his mind. He had even written the verse that tells the story of a small town, “paltry, unchanged,” and he had the songs, which gave voice to characters like Lowell the Lamplighter and Admiral Orofino. Then last September, with encouragement from a close friend, he decided to move forward. He called on friends to help record the songs, and then, alone, he put pen to paper.

“That was the first time I had drawn in forever, at least 10 years,” he says. “I just sat down and said, ‘I’ve got to do this for real now.’ ”

He has done just that. With Courtney Marie Andrews, Luke Williams. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599, 8:30 p.m. $8 adv. 21 and over.

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