Richard Berman - Dreamer


Richard Berman

Aries Records
555 Bay Road
Amherst, MA 01002

A review written for The Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Moshe Benarroch

I first heard Richard Berman's song A Love Song in the MP3 CD-ROM, The Best Independent American Music from, and a compilation that includes more than 150 songs. I thought Berman's was the best song in it. Considering the fact that this CD included long-time favorites as Richard Dobson, Hugh Moffatt and many others, I was surprised that someone whom I never heard of before had the best song in it.

A Love Song is the opening song on Berman's current release, Dreamer. It is a song about mature love:

Don't waken, it's still early
The room is barely light
I can just make out the boats upon the bay
I used to feel great yearnings
Watching ships sail out of sight
Now my heart's with those that sail this way

This song goes to show how good a lyricist Berman is. His rich and simple imagery makes him one of the best in the field. Everything is said in a modest way. He is not trying to prove he is the best.

There are two kinds of songs on Dreamer. The first is the love songs. They are not about adolescence love; they are middle life songs. The other is the short story song. The vivid imagery in these songs makes them unforgettable. Berman is every bit as good at writing story songs as Richard Shindell, and Shindell is one of the best.

The Fortune Told, is the story of three women who go to see a fortune teller. When the third sits in from of her, the old woman caresses her, and says nice things. At the end she gives her an envelope and asks her not to open it until she reaches her home. She dies in a car crash in the way home, and Berman ends his song with this stanza:

The note was all four words
Never meant to reach her
The note still echoes 'cross the years
It said, "You have no future".

Another unforgettable song is Jacob Weintraub. In it we are introduced to a holocaust survivor arriving in Boston and encountering more anti-Semitism. He hears voices saying:

Don't let him in this country
His people killed our Lord.

By the end of the song, Mr. Wientraub is tired of fights and changes his name to Mr. Winter. He has gone from death in the camp to the long winter of his life. He accepts he won't be happy, but at least he won't hear any more anti-Semitic remarks. This is a protest song at its best; not said in anger but as a prayer.

The music is very acoustic, and mostly intimate, including 2 to 5 players. Violins, violas and clarinets give this CD a timeless and very gentle sound. Berman's voice is like nobody else I have heard. But, if you want to situate yourself, he reminded me of two English singers: Iain Matthews, for his slightly high singing, and more of Billy Bragg, for his talked-sung verses, and also for the way he finishes many of his lines. Berman, of course, is an American and lacks Bragg's English. Sometimes he recalls Jim Henry (who sings harmony vocal in this CD) and Pete Nelson.

Dreamer is Berman's third CD. It follows the 1993 Bittersweet, which was just vocals and guitar, and 1996 Love, Work And Play which sounds very much like Dreamer. I think that Dreamer is his best effort to date, still you can't really go wrong with any of his other CD's. My conclusion is very clear: Berman is the greatest discovery of the year. Every song here is a gem. These are haunted and haunting songs. You will be singing them after two listening. There are no fillers in this 43 minutes CD. Even more, I have a feeling that the best is yet to come. So, if you have any interest in singer-songwriter, folk, expressive singing, or just for someone honest and clear in this world, by all mean buy Dreamer, give this man a chance!!!

Song List:

  • A Love Song
  • The Fortune Told
  • Give More Than You Take
  • Marco
  • Brooklyn, Summer 1966
  • Divorce
  • Dinah
  • Jacob Weintraub
  • My Father's Mansion
  • The Bridge
  • Here And Now

Edited by David N. Pyles

Copyright 1999, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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