Eddie Berman – Broken English
Not exactly upbeat tunes, this collection leans heavily in a melodically intense melancholy swamp of the senses.
I like Berman’s choice of words in many of his songs. He stretches the boundary & he succeeds. Very few cliches. His songs are tasty side orders to John Prine, Townes van Zandt & John Mellencamp (in his darker excursions).
Eddie Berman has a low husky tonality to his voice, but it suits the folk-rock genre he mines. His voice is mindful of the late Fred Neil, but not quite the late Scott Walker. The material is well-sculptured. Showcased in rich arrangements.
The LP gets off to a slow start but by “Stay Dark,” “Time Waits For No Man,” & especially “Broken English,” the tunes start to penetrate the ears. With the title track, the heavy machinery instrumentation with its dark atmospherics & well-constructed lyrics flirts with deep dug emotions. Berman sings in a Leonard Cohen deep tone but Eddie rocks more than Cohen. His voice has an edge instead of romanticism.
Broken English (Drops Jan 21-Nettwerk) provides 11-cuts that aren’t going to grab everyone on first listen, but with “Dust & Clay,” Berman’s vocal veneer is close to songwriter Tony Powers’ vocal grit (“Don’t Nobody Move, This is a Heist”). Powers’ is known as the author of the doo-wop hit “Remember Then,” “98.6,” & “Lazy Day,” among others. But Tony’s solo material is not at that sugary level.
There’s lots of depth to Berman’s approach to these songs if listeners take time to listen. The use of sublime brass & the pound of piano notes (similar to Powers’) creates a luxuriant performance.
Portland-based Eddie Berman recorded & produced this with his bandmates remotely. Multi-instrumentalist Gabe Feenberg & drummer Max MacVeety. Together they created an effective atmospheric moody heavy bass charged slick synthesis of many genres. There’s a mouthful.
“The Wheel,” is catchy, more mainstream while the steel-guitar wisps of “Cherokee Rose,” almost conjures the voice of the late Waylon Jennings – or at least his intonation & phrasing.
Many songs are rendered with a lack of overall commercial appeal. So what? Berman is trying to create something & not just be a mainstream entertainer. The songs he perks are not downers, they’re just brewed stronger than fast food coffee. In some respects, he writes country songs for country singers who take a more expressive route, blends their folksiness with soul.
He is country music’s Leonard Cohen. Especially if Eddie writes some songs with a darker romantic twist.
That’s the best summation I can make. Eddie has imagination, more than most, & a twinkle of an identity other songwriters haven’t developed sufficiently. You have to admire someone who is willing to not follow the color codes in the paint by numbers scheme & shape their own images.
Berman shapes his own images…musically.
Photo courtesy of Nettwerk website. The 40-minute CD is available @ Soundcloud + https://eddiebermanmusic.com/