Barbara Lin Duo (Softly) Rocks Out Mickey’s Port of Call

By SARAH HODGSON | Jun 19, 2019
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Tuckerton — Positioned at a bend in the road along Route 9 in Tuckerton resides Mickey’s Port of Call Pub, a bustling, snug locale and hot spot. Friday evening, as patrons were slipping in through the front entrance, the musical stylings of the Barbara Lin Duo slipped out, wafting melodiously into the night air and nearly packed parking lot.

The Tuckerton hangout is a rustic watering hole with multicolored wood panel accents, a U-shaped bar, soft teal walls and glimmering icicle lights that dangle from the ceiling. Last weekend, the bar top was covered with rum buckets, sangrias and punchy cocktails – evidence of summer’s arrival. Beneath a layer of bar garble, the strumming, picking and singing of Barbara Lin and Paul Nelson humbly persisted. Their music became the foreground noise, while conversation, clinking glasses and silverware against dishware became the background – a difficult feat for such a mellow, unobtrusive band.

The duo met at an open mic night when, after hearing him play, an impressed Barbara Lin approached Paul Nelson and struck up plans for a duo-ship. Now, the musical match-made-in-heaven share vocals and guitar parts throughout their sets, collaborating on musical arrangements and song choices.

“It doesn’t matter who we are covering, we love them all. Every artist gets treated with the same passion and maybe our own twist,” said Lin.

The pair injects a nostalgic, soft rock spin into their covers. While their complex guitar stylings are anything but dated, their vocals are timeless. Paul Simon would envy Nelson’s soft, folksy voice, while Lin’s is a complementary blend of Sheryl Crow and Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders. Lin strikes the perfect combination of coarse and smooth as she channels that almost dehydrated and sanded-down style characteristic to history’s most noteworthy female rock singers. It’s no nonsense, it’s warm, it’s delightfully unique.

Between the two of them, the Jersey natives count over 30 years of experience performing. They cite The Rolling Stones, Stevie Ray Vaughn, David Bowie and The Beatles among their early musical influences. Though they’re drawn to classic rock and blues, Lin and Nelson appreciate a multitude of genres, sprinkling their set lists with anything from Johnny Cash to Ed Sheeran to Green Day. “We both love and embrace all styles of music,” said Lin.

Perched up on their stools in a roomy corner by the door, guitars resting on their laps, the musicians lend undeniable professionalism to their performances. They play, they sing, they give a gracious “thank you” to their hosts and audience members every now and again.

“We play Mickey’s every month or so. We love it there. The staff, the great food, the crowd. Mike [one of the owners] has done wonders with the changes and establishes a personal relationship with every guest. It’s great,” said Lin.

The feeling of gratitude is mutual. A regular named John followed their tunes with passionate applause and the occasional praise: “They’re great. Nice and mellow.” Later after completing a Tom Petty cover, Lin sang an acoustic rendition of Camila Cabello’s chart-topping “Havana.” Her soothing, edgy voice elicited a “Nailed it!” from somewhere in the bar crowd.

When they’re not pairing it up at venues, Nelson and Lin play with Boccigalupe and The Badboys, a band with serious street cred in Asbury Park. The seven-man rock group has added popular venues like The Saint and Wonder Bar to their list of gigs-past.

“We enjoy playing with Tony Amato [a.k.a. Boccigalupe]. He’s a friend and a mentor. We truly enjoy and welcome the diversity, with music as well as venues,” said Lin.

Free time permitting, the Barbara Lin duo will begin recording originals this summer with hopes for a completed CD in 2020. If their originals are anything like their arrangements, we’re in for a treat.

For more information about the band and to find out when their next shows are, visit their Facebook page @barbaralinband.

— Sarah Hodgson

Setlist Snippet:

  • “Heart of Gold,” Neil Young
  • “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do,” Led Zeppelin
  • “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” Green Day
  • “Valerie,” Amy Winehouse
  • “Pride and Joy,” Stevie Ray Vaughn
  • “Jolene,” Dolly Parton
  • “Ring of Fire,” Johnny Cash
  • “Listen to Her Heart,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  • “Havana,” Camila Cabello
  • “Perfect,” Ed Sheeran
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