Matraca Berg started as a songwriter and has had some significant success – “Faking Love”, “The Last One to Know” (Reba McEntire), Wrong Side of Memphis” (Trisha Yearwood), as well as being inducted into the Nashville Songwriters’ Hall of Fame. Eventually she toyed with the idea of recording her own material and 1990 saw her debut Lying to the Moon released without a lot of fanfare. Other critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful albums followed and by 1999 she had re-released her debut with some bonus tracks. After a hiatus, 2011’s The Dreaming Fields made a strong statement as to her ability and aspirations as an artist. Having owned this one for a while and playing it repeatedly, I consider it a beautiful, well crafted album full of emotional transparency and one of the standouts to find its way into my collection last year. The title track and accompanying video very moving – there’s a YouTube video of her performing that song live at the Loveless Cafe that almost surpasses the studio version. Interestingly, allmusic.com rate other older CDs that I haven’t heard higher than that 2011 album.
So how is the new release? Another strong addition to her body of work. The production and arrangements are beautifully crafted. The songs are heartfelt tales of loss, restlessness and regret. My favorites are Fistful of Roses (the departure of a loved one), Black Ribbons (struggle in Louisiana) and We’re Already Gone (saying goodbye). All eleven songs are co-written. Musicians include David Henry, Jason Goforth and Steve Bowman. Backing vocals from Emmylou Harris (Emmylou Everywhere?), Kim Carnes, Jeff Hanna and Gretchen Peters. For me the collection is probably a little too singular in mood and tempo and doesn’t have the standout tracks to compare with the highlights of the previous release. But she is someone to look for – I recommend checking out some of her back catalogue.
Rating: 3 of 5
Released by Proper Records 2012