Cindy Lee Berryhill – “The Adventurist” (2017) review

April 17, 2017

Cindy Lee Berryhill – “The Adventurist” (2017) review

Cindy Lee Berryhill The Adventurist (Omnivore Recordings, 2017)
Lee Berryhill hasn’t released an album since 2008’s Beloved
. Since then, her spouse,
Paul Williams, founder of Crawdaddy magazine,
has passed away after years of gentle decline in a nursing
home, their son is in 10th grade, and handy at rebuilding
computers, for one thing … times are changing so fast – whoever thought
we’d elect a reality game show host (as foresworn and pre-seen by Berryhill in
1987’s “Trump”)*,
but here it is, that time. Ways have changed since then for listeners, too.
We’re more likely to sample and store one song at a time on our I-pads due to
catchiness than savor and fully perceive entire song cycles as bodies of work,
the way it always used to be done, when Paul Williams was a teen with a
typewriter fired with the impulse of intelligent writing about pop music with
transcendence as its perennial subject matter.

brand-new release, The Adventurist,
which I’ve been listening to on headphones on my walks home from work over the
last few weeks, is a work of art encompassing multiple aspects of couple-hood
from the perspective of the bereft but formally un-devastated. There are bits
sure to get some I-pad rotation, like the opening track, American Cinematography a
powerful pop ode to love in the movies with the love mess of life to color the
frictional piston that pushes it out – which moves like a car. The following
track, Somebody’s Angel, has all the respectful gravity of a
church service—“all my time and love couldn’t fix the damage done … here for you forever, or long as I am able … I pray each day
he’ll bring a daddy to our son.” Contemplating the Infinite in a Kiss is
a comfortable cruise through enlightenment tapestries where it’s looking “like
someone lucky was finally gonna get some … infinite freedom … still the
mind of its noisome thoughts.”
track The Adventurist, with adventurous,
illustrative lyrics, colored by inscrutable personal reference and
playfully so, how a good deal ought to go downnarrates the
intrepids of an adventurous globe-trotter—perhaps ambiguously anti-heroic, like
Bungalow Bill, pursued by someone known as “the protagonist”—“Out of a bar
called the Seven Veils, our protagonist staggers through the market of Tangiers
… we always knew there’d be something new in the adventures of the
Adventurist.” Information From Nowhere, which follows, is
an instrumental passage evoking mystical cobwebs, ethereal clouds between this
song and the next one, Thanks Again, which has a spoken word intro
“what this crazy is coming to … this is it, the air is rare,” perhaps a
loving irony grudge against departed love Paul, who turned her on,
metaphorically speaking, initiated her own life, then passed away, leaving her
with the weight—“you’ve had your say/day, you got away with a grin, now it’s
time to begin at the end … I’ll take it on the kisser and on the chin.” Or
maybe not. What’s it about, I don’t know, that’s a part of its greatness; it’s
you in that song. Far from a factual recounting of details, considered,
rather,as a cycle of songs,The Adventurist is an evocation of
essence in the grand tradition, which is exactly the opposite of a diary. Some
life details show their faces in this tapestry – At one point I thought I
heard, “Paul, your life is just beginning, words like that in the
earbuds” – but the passion is what colors it, and this belongs to all of
us. As a pop stylist led by that natural mystic, art, Berryhill has an
inner-soul-affinity to Brian Wilson*, the brain
behind Smile and Pet Sounds and everything great
and none less by the Beach Boys, a genius whose widespread veneration
after decades of mistreatment came too late. Of her, none other than Smile lyricist
Van Dyke Parks has said, “Cindy Lee’s capacity as a lyricist is unique … peerless … I get the impression she knows her legacy will outlive
up is Horsepower, which moves like a horse clopping through a town,
looking around at all the houses and motorcycles and dark family secrets and
greasy bankrolls hidden in drawers—“Horsepower, Horsepower, where you goin’
with that girl? You got the weight of the world blowin’ in your hair . . .”
Dang. Fantastic. The unsurpassably titled Jumping to Conclusions is
a false start—“One, two”—followed by I Like Cats, You Like Dogs, another
readymade I-Pad or -Pod hit with its allegorical tit for tat making readymade
mind candy and sugar-powered hooks. Indeed, Berryhill’s distinctive twang and
knack for hooky melodics guarantees that much charm for each song—but the
poppier bits are ennobled and granted depth by their placement as chapters in
this libretto of death and love and pursuant
transcendence—lines like “I saw a cat, as a matter of fact, buying a dog a
Pepsi at a club last night” will always be cute, but perceived as hallmarks of
the whole giant, become momentously so.
 talks about how one partner in a
conversation or a love relationship maybe even a chess game falls into the
heavier in a “good cop bad cop,” setup, always changing never changing,
depending on the parties. This one’s driven by an infectious, knocking, rocking
rhythm modulated by Cindy Lee’s haunting, sexy ooOOoos. When Cindy Lee
Berryhill sings a song, she is utterly singing it, all the way. Deep
Sea Fishing
 depicts learning the underwater regions of each other as
lovers, “Tryna find me an answer . . . love is a dreaming, deep sea fishing . .
. the shadows of our former selves, two creatures weaving together off the
Continental Shelf.” Gravity Falls is another comfortable
cruise through esoteric philosophy—“some make a home at the edge of the world
    . . . others are just passing through”—contemplating the tall
silent wisdom of trees—“some are here to catch the view . . . like water
falling off a mountain.”
Affair of the Heart
, the album’s final sung
piece, is real things magnified, with beautiful lyrics throughout—“blossom
sprang up at a footfall . . .and up above it … you can’t fight the feeling
. . . like a mountain on fire … began with a single spark.” That’s
the miracle math of loving and missing the dead: when you think X would’ve
loved a thing you saw heard or read, that’s X loving it, there in your head.
Total intimacy.  “If we exist outside of time, I’ll meet you there.” “Deep
Sea Dishing,” the album’s final track, is a gentle instrumental reconsideration
of all that’s gone before it, a perfectly timed pause to consider and estimate
the truly momentous nature and scope of what has passed.
of our favorite albums are palpably tinged by the artist’s participation in a
quality love relationship. Some bands are composed of couples in love.Those
albums and outfits are touched by something. Anti-folk co-founder Cindy Lee
Berryhill’s latest work of art, The Adventurist, attains and breaks
that tired hallmark of specialness by being a work of art colored by loving a
life now dead that gave life and more love to her life, a living energy, with
all that weight. With this remarkable album, Berryhill has given substance
to the abstraction of how her life has been colored by love and loss and living
information – “As living information, the plasmate
travels up the optic nerve of a human to the pineal body” – and given that to
us the hungry public as an edible shot of experience, hardly a far cry from
Brian Wilson’s “Teenage Symphony to God”. Her love in all its forms is
and Mercy, a film on the beautiful, tragic, miraculous redemption of
Brian Wilson’s life, starring Paul Dano as a youthful, bright eyed Brian,
John Cusack as a wizened, pain-scarred older Brian, and Elizabeth
Banks as Melinda Ledbetter, who rescued him from the clutches of
self-serving psychologist manque Eugene Landy,
who successfully entrapped and controlled Brian for years before
her intervention, was released in 2016. Says Berryhill, “I
LOVED the film. But it’s always hard to see someone acting out the
parts you read and heard so many stories about. The young Brian
was absolutely uncanny and it was really something seeing the scenes
with Brian and the Wrecking Crew acted out. The John Cusack
part was a psychological drama and I thought he did a great job conveying
that. Still it was like 2 different films. But Brian is a Gemini
right? He’s two in one.”

– Zack Kopp
© Copyright http://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2017

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