Thursday, December 23, 2004

David Berman & The Silver Jews...

I suppose David Berman is a kind of renaissance man of sorts. He's the singer/songwriter in The Silver Jews, a wildly inventive band that got stuck into the alt-country movement at one time. They're a Drag City band which must mean they're doing something right. The Silver Jews are a critics wet dream. Berman writes intelligent literate lyrics that come off as much like Raymond Carver short stories. He has an odd talky singy (boy that's a lame description) style that makes me think of Mark E. Smith without so much singing. The Silver Jews play a variety of heartland music clearly derived from Blues, country and early rock and roll. The arrangements are simple though not always sparse. It's music that reminds me of back alleys and sidewalks as much as midwestern corn fields, it's that transcendental in scope. Berman has a writers way with words which is because he is a writer. He has a book of poems called Actual Air which is one of my favorites. He's a very accesible writer being more interested in slice of life vignettes with a wry sense of humor than overwhelming the reader with cleverness. In a first for a music blog I'm going to give you a Berman poem as well as some Silver Jews music. This guy is an American original.

From Actual Air:

Imagining Defeat

She woke me up at dawn,
her suitcase like a little brown dog at her heels.

I sat up and looked out the window
at the snow falling in the stand of blackjack trees.

A bus ticket in her hand.

Then she brought something black to her mouth,
a plum I thought, but it was an asthma inhaler.

I reached under the bed for my menthols
and she asked if I ever thought of cancer.

Yes, I said, but always as a tree way up ahead
in the distance where it doesn't matter.

And I suppose a dead soul must look back at that tree,
so far behind his wagon where it also doesn't matter

except as a memory of rest or water.

Though to believe any of that, I thought,
you have to accept the premise

that she woke me up at all.

From the Silver Jews 1996 album The Natural Bridge:

Black and Brown Blues

Albermarle Station

From the Silver Jews 1998 album American Water:

Blue Arrangements

Smith & Jones Forever


From the Silver Jews 2001 album Bright Flight:

Time Will Break the World

Horseleg Swastikas


Blogger Peter said...

You know I should've recorded the poem and then posted it as an mp3 file. I always have good ideas 2 minutes too late. oh well.


12:16 PM  

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