“Dashing singer-songwriter David Berkeley delivers his warm, thoughtful songs, along with a reliably hilarious line in onstage banter.” —Time Out New York
“The best of the young American songwriters, a voice full of feeling and a big, big heart. And the balls to say what he thinks.” —Boston Phoenix
David Berkeley is a romantic realist, known for his ability to look at the human condition in all its complexity and give us luminous songs full of sunshine and anguish, melancholy and delight. He brings the people and situations he sings about to vibrant life with a warm, rich tenor that often slips into an aching falsetto to underline the overwhelming emotions that can move us to tears or laughter. On Some Kind of Cure, his fourth studio album, Berkeley delivers some of his most heartfelt tunes blending folk, rock, and classic pop to create timeless expressions of love and longing.
The majority of songs on Some Kind of Cure were written while Berkeley and his family were living in a remote 35-person village in the mountains of Corsica. The silence and wild island landscapes seeped into Berkeley’s soul, bringing forth a collection of lingering beauty. “There were no stores in our tiny town,” Berkeley explained. “No cafes. No post office. No Internet. It was silent. I had very few distractions, which was quite different from life in a big city. Because no one spoke English, I could sing rough drafts of lyrics without being embarrassed. When I played songs for the villagers, I had to make sure the emotion came through in the music, as well as the words. That had a big effect on the way I wrote my songs.”
Berkeley recorded the album after returning to the States, working in Atlanta with producer Will Robertson. The project was entirely funded by Berkeley’s fans. “We took our time making this record. We went through the lyrics, almost line by line, translating words into music and emotion.” The core band for the project was Robertson on piano and bass; drummer Kevin O’Donnell (Andrew Bird); Kim Taylor (Over the Rhine) on background vocals; Jordan Katz (De La Soul, Sara Bareilles) on banjo and horns; and Lex Price (Mindy Smith) on mandolin and guitars. Most tracks were cut in the studio with Berkeley singing and playing guitar live while Will played piano or bass. “The recording has a lot of breadth and a natural, relaxed feel,” Berkeley explains. “It sounds more like I do in concert than my previous recordings.’
The words and music on Some Kind of Cure capture a wide range of emotion, employing shifting tempos, a dynamic range and diverse arrangements that suggest traditional folk, British Invasion pop, and rock. “George Square” opens the album with its subtle cinematic arrangement. Berkeley’s hushed staccato vocal and Robertson’s distorted Rhodes create a delicious tension that’s resolved by the soaring strings that lift the last verse to the clouds with Jordan Katz playing an almost subliminal trumpet line to hold the song together. “It’s a relationship song,” Berkeley says. “Love is the solution, but the resolution is often deeper and more mysterious than we know.” The tinny sound of music coming through an old fashion car radio sets up “Parachute,” a bright, bouncy rocker with an irresistible chorus. The voices of Berkeley and Kim Taylor dance through the mix like hesitant lovers, finally coming together in celebratory harmony for the hook: “Your heart is like a parachute, it only opens when you fall.”
In concert, Berkeley wins crowds over with his low-key charisma and hilarious between song banter. He usually introduces songs with long, intricate anecdotes and branching commentaries, using a manner that’s more front porch than show biz, relaxing people without any apparent effort to be funny, a difficult balance to achieve. He weaves together fact, fiction and hyperbole into stories that often leave audiences in hysterics without resorting to obvious punch lines. His on stage narratives rarely repeat themselves and are full of the same astutely observed details that propel his songs.
Saturday, Nov. 10: Patrice Pike