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Tim Berry | More Songs About Devils and Dreams

album review by John Powell

Tim Berry | More Songs About Devils and Dreams

On Tim Berry’s second release, More Songs About Devils and Dreams, he has written a set of tracks that all seem like covers of old school alt folkies from the 70s, sounding at once like Willie Nelson and Tom Waits. While not every song is punchy, his overall musicianship is worth noting, taking on vocals, guitar, and fiddle. His first talent is fiddle- he’s scorches, and then guitar playing- he definitely has a style, and lastly vocals. He’s a much better songwriter than singer, but so is Dylan, and that guy did all right for himself.

The album starts with “Too Far From the Sun”, which sounds, as mentioned, like a Willie Nelson song, the chords simple and cowboy-esque, Tim’s vocals falling somewhere between on time and suspended in their own world, like a kereoke singer owning the song he picked. “Out here on the edge/where the air is cold and thin/give thanks to your dreams/they keep you warm,” he sings, “Too far from the sun.”

“Grip the Wheel” has a likeminded backwoods feel, only this time more macabre, Tim sing-talking, “Ashes to ashes and back again/you ride the wheel until you reach its end/and that’s all.” Considering death with a sense of literacy, Tim has a way of working words to suit a vibe. The fiddle is wonderful here, swerving over the bluesiness.

Tim is really a swell guitar player. The beginning of “Slow Night” sounds like the title, but then the drums come off super Tom Waits and Tim croons in an almost theatrical sense. It’s the weakest song on the album. “I love it when you lay next to me,” he tries, and it just doesn’t hold much heft.

The best songs take the energy and instruments of bluegrass and whittle them into String Cheese cross of true and fun. “Together we’ll find a brand new day,” he sings on the excellent “Needs”, with mandolin zippy and bass bom-bom-ing its way through. “Oh, I need to get a new tune on my mind/and I need you singing along/I need you to hold me.”

A key track is “Grace”, quietly beautiful. The mandolin makes the song, sticking in your head. A jazzy guitar riff flows above tight percussion and Tim singing, “Stuffed in the brambles” and “Darling/slip away in the morning.”

You have to love how homegrown More Songs About Devils and Dreams is, written and recorded in Vermont, Tim’s homeland, and sounding very Vermont, both old school and true to American music roots while exploring new lyrical territory. Yet, as mentioned, the band, including Tim, are wonderful, but Tim’s voice isn’t the sweetest, although it is human, and in 2012 that’s a lovely thing, to know some musicians are out there to keep it real.

Bottom line: Decent songwriting, great instrumentation, and hit and miss vocals make More Songs About Devils and Dreams true to its name.


 

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