Published Jul 09, 2019Ten years since retiring Silver Jews and retreating from public life, David Berman has triumphantly returned as Purple Mountains, with a revealing album that delves into his current state of mind. A revered poet and musician, Berman has overcome tremendous loss in recent years, both in personal relationships and as a U.S. citizen rationalizing his country's political landscape from a tense, familial perspective.
Backed up by the Chicago band Woods, whom he didn't know beforehand but had a good feeling about, Berman has made his most clear-eyed, direct and infectious album, which blends country sounds and lyrical motifs with bold rock hooks. But the happy packaging is opaque; the contents within are dark-humoured takes on the end of his marriage, the loss of his mother, and death's overall cruelty.
Nominally, in borrowing a fragment from "America the Beautiful" for his new moniker, Berman reckons with being the estranged son of Richard Berman, a Republican lobbyist/PR guru who's arguably the one true Sith Lord of Fox News and its ilk. It's subtle, but the anger of a heartbroken patriot is here.
Sequenced thematically in pairs, these songs are poetic journal entries by a man letting his loyal fan base in on his innermost sentiments. With strings, thoughtful arrangements, backup vocals, and rich production plus David Berman's inimitable wordplay and phrasing, Purple Mountains is a true masterpiece. (Drag City)