Thoughtful troubadour David Berkeley performs at BMAC
BRATTLEBORO -- It's certainly surprising, and maybe even a little disappointing, to find out that singer-songwriter David Berkeley's latest CD, "The Fire In My Head," was recorded in just two days ... like finding out your favorite novel was written in one mad night of typing.
Albums this richly textured, emotionally complex, sonically interesting and artfully produced should take longer to make, right?
But no, in just two days in Jono Manson's studio in Sante Fe, N.M., Berkeley and regular bandmates Bill Titus and Jordan Katz crafted a CD that manages to be soulful, cerebral, expressive and spare, all at the same time.
A Blurt album review called "The Fire In My Head" "So spellbinding. Quiet, contemplative, heartfelt and forlorn, this latest album is building around some of the barest designs imaginable, a sound that requires the listener to lean in and focus."
San Jose Metro wrote "As emotionally disarming as Nick Drake and intellectually fascinating as Andrew Bird, David Berkeley is a standout in the new wave of indie-folk singer-songwriters."
"'The Fire In My Head' is far less produced than any other record. ... It was basically the trio that I tour with. We basically did what we could with the three of us," said Berkeley in a telephone interview Thursday, explaining that the album came together with very few overdubs or extra takes. "I think it sounds pretty true to what we do."
Folks will have a chance to hear for themselves when David Berkeley comes to town on Thursday, Nov. 7, to perform at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center at 7 p.m.
Performing in venues that are not regular stops for singer-songwriters is nothing new for Berkeley, who has frequently performed in bookstores, playing and speaking in support of his book "140 Goats and a Guitar," which he wrote to accompany the songs on the CD "Some Kind of Cure." Both the book and CD were inspired by a year he spent in a tiny Corsican village (his wife is an anthropologist).
And there are even more personal reasons why Berkeley is coming to BMAC. Museum Director Danny Lichtenfeld's sister Rebecca sang on a couple of Berkeley's earlier records. And, Berkeley was a close college friend of Tyler Gibbons of the Marlboro-based husband-and-wife duo Red Heart the Ticker. "I kind of fell in love with everything he was doing," said Berkeley, who even managed Gibbons' band The Humming for a time.
Adding to Berkeley's Brattleboro area cred is the fact that he and his wife got married at Scott Farm in Dummerston.
"Brattleboro is close to my heart," said Berkeley, who is hoping that Gibbons will sit in a few songs at the Nov. 7 concert. Berkeley's regular bandmate Bill Titus is also expected to come along.
"We're going to sing from all our records but certainly songs from ‘Fire In My Head'" said Berkeley.
Though he's drawn comparisons to Nick Drake, and words like "melancholy" or "forlorn" are used about him, Berkeley doesn't think he's all that depressing.
"I'm not melancholy in my day-to-day life. I do find the space I write songs in is a more reflective and somber one," he said.
Berkeley balances what might more accurately be described as thoughtful and emotionally rich songs with stories and engaging banter on stage. "I try to counter the introspective nature of my songs with stuff that's lighter and funnier."
It's a combination that should prove successful with hip, literate audiences like the one he'll find in Brattleboro.
More and more, Berkeley is spreading his wings in and deepening his connection to the literary world. His first book of short stories is being edited and pitched for publication, and he's working on songs to accompany the stories. He likes the balance.
"It opens up so many possibilities, when you're not constrained to a three-minute format," he said. "The flipside is how powerful it can be to express something in a song."
Little wonder that reviewers have founded inspiration in the literary world to describe his songs. One even called him "the Gabriel Garcia Marquez of beautiful-voiced troubadours."
Berkeley's literary links go deeper. Fans pointed out to him that New York Times best-selling author Harlan Coben had referenced Berkeley's songs and lyrics in a couple of novels. The two connected, and ultimately Coben requested Berkeley write a song based on his new novel. The result is "Shelter," which appears on "The Fire In My Head."
Tickets to the concert on Thursday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m., at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center are $15, $20 at the door, with a discount for BMAC members. For information, call 802-257-0124, ext. 101, or visit www.brattleboromuseum.org.
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