Eddie Berman To Release ‘Broken English’ Album (Out January 21 via Nettwerk Records)
September 17, 2021 BY Nettwerk
Portland-based folk artist Eddie Berman has just announced Broken English, a new album of campfire-worthy, cosmic folk-rock, out January 21st via Nettwerk Records. Presciently written before the pandemic, the 11-song suite explores the precarious state of a world sinking deeper into isolation, and its tumultuous effects on our relationship to work, family, technology, and community. Berman announced the album with the release of its title track, which Glide Magazine called “delicate but commanding,” bringing to mind “the folksier studio recordings of the Grateful Dead.”
“When I wrote the song ‘Broken English,’ I was thinking about how especially isolated, rootless, and untethered people had become, and that was back in 2019, a good six months before anyone had heard the term Covid,” Berman recalls. “The past year and a half have put those feelings in hyperdrive. I think the song is also about distraction and self-obsession and the seeming commodification of absolutely everything. I never write songs like this as a condemnation of anyone; I can see these traits so clearly in myself. This song, and the whole album, is about me trying to square the circle of living a life somewhat connected to the world, to other people, and myself in such strange, atomized times.”
Berman made his debut with the EP ‘Blood & Rust,’ featuring his duet of “Dancing in the Dark” with British folk icon Laura Marling. His subsequent release generated tens of millions of streams, placements on major Spotify playlists like Your Favorite Coffeehouse, Acoustic Covers, and The Pulse of Americana, and nationwide tours with Laura Marling, Tyler Childers, Passenger, and Lee Ann Womack.
Berman had planned to record the album like his previous LPs at the LA studio of his longtime collaborator Pierre De Reeder (Mavis Staples, M. Ward), but that went out the window with the global lockdown. So he learned how to make the album remotely with his bandmates, the multi-instrumentalist Gabe Feenberg and drummer Max MacVeety. Berman has two young daughters, and he describes the extra time with them as an utter blessing in an otherwise difficult year, as he and his wife found ways of using the situation to reclaim some semblances of lost autonomy.
It was in this pure family setting that Berman recorded, seeking out pockets of time when he could jump into the makeshift studio he’d set up in the nursery to track his instrumental parts and vocals. The result is powerful, moving, and at times haunting time capsule of these trying times, written primarily on banjo but performed on guitar. Despite the initial difficulty of adapting to a new approach, Berman grew to value the remote style, which afforded everyone involved a bit more time to focus on their individual contributions. “We only had a few takes of quiet for each track,” Berman recalls. “That pressure and restriction strangely give these songs a live feel that’s similar to our previous recordings.”
Broken English is at times quite dark, like the track “Cherokee Rose,” a gentle steel-guitar epic that was partly inspired by the intense Cormac McCarthy novel Blood Meridian. But despite the heavy subject matter, the album is an optimistic one just as well. After all, when you’re a parent, you don’t really have any other choice: “Just having a kid nowadays, you need to have some sense of hope,” he says. “These songs are about living with these issues and looking for a way through them.”
Berman cites the writer and philosopher Annie Dillard as a source of inspiration on the album, her patient and deliberate thoughts on nature helping him to focus on the day-to-day—on not getting bogged down with the mess of the world that we can’t control. “It’s a little bit like, are you some flightless bird that’s evolved out of the ability to use your wings, and now you’re just kind of looking up at the sky, thinking, well, I can’t do that anymore?” he puts it. “Or is it something like a circle that’s been broken, and it’s your responsibility to mend it?”
Berman will tour in support of Broken English this winter, including a performance at the Portland Folk Festival in January. For details and more information, visit https://eddiebermanmusic.com/.
‘Broken English’ Track List:
2. Skin of the Earth
3. Stay Dark
4. Time Waits For No Man
5. Broken English
6. Dust & Clay
7. The Wheel
8. Cherokee Rose
9. Water in the Barrel
11. Song of Joy