New American Language
Review by Steven Stone
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CD Stock Number: Messenger Records
Dan Bern must be prescient. The songs on his new CD elaborate on the new social American landscape post September
11th with eerie accuracy. Take "God Said No" for instance. He tells the story of meeting God, where Bern volunteers to go back in time and try to undo the misdeeds of Curt Cobain, Hitler, and Christ's crucifixion. In every case Bern presents God's lucid arguments for not going back to change history. God leaves him with this: "Time belongs to me. Time's a secret weapon, my final advantage." Not the sort of deep thoughts you expect to find in pop music.
Dan Bern reminds me of a young Bob Dylan. He writes songs that contain graphic literal meanings and powerful poetic overtones. His lyrics mate perfectly with his basic folk-inspired melody lines. The result on songs like "Black Tornado" is a rock anthem worthy of Bruce Springsteen. Listen to this line: "And I could do tonight with something soft and furry. But that ain't likely to occur in south central Missouri."
New American Language is funny, sad, quirky, and profound all at once.
After a pair of releases on Sony's Work label, Bern went the independent route for one double CD that is available only through his
website, then joined Messenger Records. The core band on New American Language consists of Wil Masisak on keyboards, Eben Grace on guitar, Colin Mahoney on drums, Brian Schey on bass, and Paul Kuhn on bowed string instruments. Randy Kaplan and Lisa Donnelly join Bern as background vocalists on a "Black Tornado" and "New American Language". Unlike many small label productions,
New American Language sounds first-rate. I suspect this is due in large part to Dave Glasser's mastering effort. Glasser is rapidly becoming many small labels' secret weapon in keeping up sonically with the big bad majors.
New American Language satisfies musically while challenging the intellect. It's encouraging to know that pop music is not all about easy subjects handled in simplistic ways. This album made me into a Dan Bern fan.
Sound Quality: 85