Singer-songwriter-author David Berkeley will release his new album Cardboard Boat in the UK on Feb 19, 2016. The hauntingly powerful album accompanies his new novella of ten interwoven stories titled, The Free Brontosaurus (Rare Bird), released on the same day.
Cardboard Boat begins with an ominous bowed bass and ends with the ethereal tinkling of metals. In between, we get Berkeley’s carefully fingerpicked guitar, ban-jos, trumpets, organ, soaring string sections, nylon and electric guitars alongside a whole array of drums and percussion sounds. Always front and center, though, is Berkeley’s signature vocals and lyrics, supported on five of the ten tracks by the silver throated Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek. Each song is a story in itself, a layered landscape of sounds and textures.
“I’ve always been drawn to blending the organic with the electronic, finding that tense balance where one morphs into the other.” David Berkeley.
Complex issues unfold, brought to life by Berkeley’s insight drawn from literature, poetry and his own experiences. There are references to Moby Dick in ‘Setting Sail’, Norse mythology in ‘The Wishing Well’, and perhaps the most beautiful song on the album, ‘To the Sea’, is an elegy for an estranged father sung by a prodigal daughter. It’s a prayer for second chances, and with all the troubles in the world, it’s a needed call for redemption.
The accompanying book The Free Brontosaurus has a hint of Olive Kitteridge, if re-imagined with the dark, whimsical humor of Miranda July. The songs on the album are sung from the perspective of each story’s main character, giving a reader/listener a unique insight into the characters’ worlds. The album stands out on its own, but when combined with the stories in the book, a profoundly emotional world emerges. It’s quite an ambitious combination, but with a degree in literature from Harvard, over a decade of touring under his belt and a stage show that melds profound songs and hilarious anecdotes, Berkeley pulls it off.
This actually isn’t the first time Berkeley has paired songs with stories. In 2010, upon returning from a year on the island of Corsica, Berkeley released his initial book/album combination: 140 Goats And A Guitar. That book comprises thirteen stories, each of which sets up a song on his fourth album, Some Kind of Cure. “With Goats,” Berkeley explains, “I told the stories that led to the writing of that album’s songs. The book is a lot about becoming a new father and the craft of songwriting. My new project, though, feels like the proper way to weave stories and songs.”
Berkeley has amassed a dedicated and widespread following that fully funded the creation of this new album and book. He’s been a guest on This American Life, Mountain Stage, World Café, CNN, XM Radio’s Loft Sessions, WFUV, NPR’s Acoustic Café and many more. He recently won the 2015 Kerrville New Folk competition and ASCAP’s Johnny Mercer Songwriting Award. Called “a musical poet” by the San Francisco Chronicle, “sensational” by the Philadelphia Inquirer, “spellbinding” by Blurt, and The Daily Telegraph tipped Berkeley’s previous album Fire In My Head as “one of the best country albums of 2014”.
The central musicians on Cardboard Boat include guitarist Bill Titus (Dan Bern, Brother Ali), trumpet and banjo player Jordan Katz (De La Soul, The Indigo Girls), bassist/keyboard player Will Robertson (Shawn Mullins) and drummer Mathias Kunzli (Regina Spektor).
A hardback version of The Free Brontosaurus will be released with a download code for the album.
Artist’s website: http://davidberkeley.com/
‘Wishing Well’ – official video: