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  1. #1
    Ultimate Carrie Fan Farawayhills's Avatar
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    Matraca Berg: "The Dreaming Fields" era

    It's been fourteen years since Matraca last recorded (I know it's hard to follow an album that Time named in the best ten of any genre - but, really, fourteen years, lol). During that time, of course, she's been much better known as one of Nashville's most prolific songwriters - her live performances, especially with her close friends Gretchen Peters and Suzy Bogguss are probably better known in the UK than back home in the US)

    I'm over the moon, though, that she's decided to put out another album of her own songs at last.

    The album is stylistically varied, combining some strongly traditional touches with introspectively personal singer-songwriter material.
    Some of you may know her song "You and Tequila" which Kenny Chesney recorded a fine version of with Grace Potter.
    I see Matraca's own more bitter and quietly stated version as actually a masterpiece of the comparison between the effects of drink and a passionate but guilty love on a lonely and frustrated individual.

    Two songs reference her respect for the British Isles. The title track, "The Dreaming Fields" is strongly influenced by British/Irish folk music, and the least Country-sounding song on the album, the closing track "A Cold Rainy Morning in London in June" contains a reference to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales - but is probably mainly a lament from artists on tour, missing their spouses in Tennessee ("closer than it seems".)

    There are two songs in the perennial tradition of the wife's revenge (a theme that also entered Appalachian music from British folk music). "If I Had Wings" is the most traditional, telling of a wife fleeing from her husband's bruises, with the message that's she's killed him strongly haunting the song, without ever being made fully explicit (Rather like her friend Gretchen's "Independence Day"). The other revenge song "Your Husband's Cheating On Us" has the Mistress (leading the plot) and the Wife discussing killing him, but deciding that ruining him publicly and financially would be more satisfying. Called by one reviewer "thoroughly nasty" this is actually an example of the Southern Gothic genre, containing the archetypal line "Snakes in the Kitchen, Crows on the Line".

    There are three absolute standouts for me: "Racing Angels" (about a bereaved lover longing to be reunited in death - a gloomy topic, yes, but sung with the honest sensitivity at which the Country genre at its best excels) This was co-written by the three close friends, Matraca, Gretchen Suzy
    ~~the extraordinarily powerful "South of Heaven" - one of the best of the current batch of war laments, though the lyrics may be too strong and painful for some of the Mainstream radio audience. Already sung live in England, it's haunted me ever since. Matraca collaborated here with another great Nashville writer, Troy Verges.
    ~~ and finally, "Oh Cumberland" (which the reviewer rightly calls "gorgeous".) This song has already appeared on a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band album, but I can never understand why it has not had more exposure. It stands as one of my all-time favourite songs, and one that captures much of the spiritual essence of Country Music.

    Here's a link to
    a video of Matraca singing this lovely song with the band (She and husband Jeff Hanna really do seem to cheat time - it's hard to believe that Jeff founded this band 46 years ago! The other surviving founder member, Jimmie Fadden, accompanies on mouth harp


    Last edited by Farawayhills; 05-24-2011 at 08:20 AM. Reason: repetition

  • #2
    Ty
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    Ultimate Carrie Fan Ty's Avatar
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    This album is truly divine. Matraca is one of the most talented people in the industry, period.

  • #3
    Carrie Guru Claire2004's Avatar
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    Matraca Berg with my favorite Gretchen Peters :


  • #4
    Ultimate Carrie Fan Farawayhills's Avatar
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    Thanks, Claire!
    That second concert was at Basingstoke, in Hampshire (I love the way Country performers come over regularly, and aren't afraid to play the smaller, less fashionable towns. The music doesn't have mass media support here, but it has a very loyal and appreciative audience)

    The Dreaming Fields will probably be my personal Album of the Year (and You and Tequila one of my top songs)


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