Purple Mountains debut, David Berman’s first musical outlet since retiring his Silver Jews moniker almost a decade ago, is as unpredictable and emotionally-gripping as a Wimbledon final fought between underdog and world champion. Throughout Purple Mountains’ ten tracks, Berman serves jovial melodies (backed by Woods, despite Berman’s meagre knowledge of their music beforehand) counter-acted with lyrics borne from immense melancholy.
Berman’s linguistic dexterity, his wry lyricism, has always been his strongest attribute. Following a period of tremendous change which saw the now fifty-two year old meeting many ends – the death of his mother, a marriage dissolution, the closing of the Silver Jews chapter – he’s exceptionally transparent in articulating how life has affected him. A harrowing example is All My Happiness Is Gone where Berman, veiled by a bright and triumphant instrumentation, confesses to be “barely hanging on.”
Years of living in Nashville, Tennessee, has seeped into his songwriting sensibilities with numerous motifs from the George Jones school of classic country appearing throughout, namely on song-titles She’s Making Friends, I’m Turning Stranger (featuring an excellent fiddle solo) and Maybe I’m The Only One For Me.
A truly beautiful album in which the listener will simultaneously relish in Berman’s return whilst feeling an overwhelming wave sorrow for the songwriter’s display of unbridled sincerity.
An instant classic in Berman’s canon.
Words: Zara Hedderman
Like This? Try These:
Bill Callahan – Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest
Lambchop – This (Is What I Wanted To Tell You)
Mega Bog – Dolphine