The Dreaming Fields: Matraca Berg
Berg handles all those facts and the emotions that come with them with the heart and hand of a songwriter who knows that songs have their own lives, and that in the joining of ideas, music, and voice there is need for space. Space for the listener, and room for ideas and questions which rarely have neat and tidy and once and for all answers.
Questions and change are themes which run through the album of which The Dreaming Fields is the title track. That will not surprise anyone who has followed the Nashville based writer’s work. Those who have include Patty Loveless, Marina McBride, Kenny Chesney, Trisha Yearwood, and the Dixie Chicks, who have all recorded Berg’s work. Fellow award winning writers and singers Gretchen Peters and Suzy Bogguss, who join up with Berg for concerts they call Wine Woman and Song are two more.
In the fourteen years since her last album, Berg has chosen to stay behind the scenes, writing the songs that have earned Grammy nominations, Country Music Association Awards, and induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. She has mostly played her songs at the Bluebird and other listening rooms, and with her friends Bogguss and Peters. “I did a tour of the UK with Gretchen Peters and Suzy Bogguss, which I did for the fun of it mostly,” Berg says. “I’d not had a record out in forever, but it seemed like I could go see some cool places with friends, and I was stunned to see lines of people everywhere we went who were wanting to buy my record.” So she decided it was time, and she also decided to make the recording on her own terms, producing the project herself.
The listeners waiting in those lines, and the artists who have recorded Berg’s music over the years, have heard the voices of people who you know have lives beyond the moments of the song, from the bleak reality of the woman in If I Had Wings to the simmering desire of the one in You and Tequila to the wry and telling humor of the conversation in Your Husband’s Cheating on Us. They have heard the deep and vividly rendered honesty of grieving in Racing the Angels and South of Heaven, of holding on to place and home in O Cumberland, and of finding your way through love in A Cold Rainy Morning in London in June. .
Berg is a master lyricist, that’s true, and she’s also a master musician, pairing her words with melody and arrangement that serve the words and enhance them without ever getting in the way. She’s unafraid to be spare about that, too: the title track, for example, is just Berg on piano and John Catchings on cello, to back up Berg’s voice -- and that’s just exactly enough, as she evokes her grandmother’s kitchen, her grandfather working the fields, and rain on the rusted plow.
“Making an album was important,” she says. “ ... not a checklist of singles and themes, but something that was a piece of work where you’re going through a part of people’s lives. I wanted the listeners to pass through those lives, those moments, and understand what was going on, because, like lot of people, I’m in a place in my life where life is a big deal -- a lot of grief, aging people, trying to keep a marriage together, all kinds of family things going on, things you can’t escape because that is life. That’s what life is really made of, and hopefully, this album too.”
The Dreaming Fields is a master class in songwriting -- any sort of writing, really. It’s also just plain good listening. filled with songs that will have you thinking about their stories long after the music is done
follow this link to see Matraca Berg singing South of Heaven from that UK tour with Gretchen Peters and Suzy Bogguss
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Music Road: Gretchen Peters: Northern Lights
Music Road: lead and harmony
Music Road: Carrie Newcomer: Before & After
Music Road: Cathie Ryan: Songwriter