Dreams of Modern Living
Keenly Observed Contemporary Folk Stories From the Shadows in Our Lives
Oddly enough I’d just been reading an article about why ‘breakthrough artists’ are presumed to be Under 30, or even younger … when all ages now release ‘debut albums;’ Jefferson Berry is a case in point; after being a member of a variety of bands for most of his adult life; Berry finally retired from being a teacher in Pennsylvania and is taking the opportunity to become a fully fledged Singer-Songwriter.
I’d never have guessed that he was in that upper age bracket from the way he sings; and indeed writes his acutely observed songs; although with hindsight … you have to have lived a life to have the confidence and ability to write and construct a song like album opener, Locks & Guns. I’ve heard quite a few; too many songs of this ilk coming out of America in the last few years; but there’s something really sharp and honest in the way Berry has constructed his story that makes this really special indeed.
The songs carry on in a similar vein; keenly observed stories from the minutiae of our lives; but stories that many of us miss due to the hurly burly of our own day to day lives.
Berry takes a bit of a Left turn on the pseudo politico Ballad of Sammy Rodriguez; one of those songs about a character is all too familiar in the US and even UK in 2023.
Don’t be underwhelmed by the simplicity of the production here; as we know …. one man and a guitar with songs like these can be louder than a band with with a whole bank of speakers; when that band have nothing worthwhile to say.
Jefferson Berry most certainly has something to say; and ‘say it’ he most certainly does with Sand In My Shoes and Sleeping In Public; where he stands up for the downtrodden that we all too regularly ignore …. but shouldn’t; and if you don’t have a heavy and guilty heart after hearing both; you must have a heart of stone.
Where Mrs Magpie to hear these songs she would sigh and say “There aren’t many laughs, are there.” Which is her way of saying these deceptively simple Folk Songs are serious and even earnest; but we live in a world were someone has to ‘tell it like it is’ don’t we?
When you’re not paying attention, Jefferson slips in a couple of great cover songs too; I totally missed recognising his stark version of the Elton John song Come Down in Time from my favourite album of his, Tumbleweed Connection … and the way he now delivers Bernie Taupin’s sage words will send a shiver down your spine ….
“In the quiet silent seconds I turned off the light switch
And I came down to meet you in the half light the moon left
While a cluster of night jars sang some songs out of tune
A mantle of bright light shone down from a room…“
The other, Ben Arnold’s Puerto Rico I don’t know at all; but imagine Otis Gibbs or Rod Picott singing a Harry Chapin song and you well get the imagery and annunciation Berry employs.
For my Favourite song I’m torn between two songs that sit side by side; Doubting Thomas and Rendezvous With Destiny. Two very different stories and subjects; but two songs that felt like a punch to the jaw.
The latter song comes across like it could be from the back catalogue of one of my heroes; Alan Hull (from the legendary Lindisfarne) who I’m on a course of re-discovery again; but I’m 100% sure Jefferson Berry has never heard of before; but the two are hewn from the same block.
The other; Doubtin’ Thomas is a real punchy heartstring tugger, with punky acoustic guitar and sounds like Berry spoke to my Mother about me the day before putting pen to paper; and I’m sure there will be plenty of others out there think it could be about them too.
Perhaps it’s a case of ‘right place/right time’ when listening to these dark and introspective observational Folk Songs; and a on a sunny day in July I would certainly have passed them by …. but during a cold and dank January and February they make the perfect soundtrack.
Released January 27th 2023
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BUY DON’T SPOTIFY