|Pete Berwick - 'The Legend of Tyler Doohan' (Little Class Records)|
|Written by Craggy|
|Tuesday, 08 September 2015 03:20|
Pete Berwick is a true troubadour of alternative country, in the same vein as pioneers such as Steve Earle, Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Cash. But add some Mike Ness, Joe Strummer and even a little Tom Waits and you might get a stronger sense of what this guy is all about. With a career spanning almost four decades, his poetic Kerouac-inspired tales of decadence and romance have been spread across five bourbon-soaked albums.
Berwick’s latest record, 'The Legend of Tyler Doohan', opens with album’s title track which bears homage to an 8 year old boy of the same name who died rescuing six members of his family from a fire in New York. Berwick turns the sadness of the reality on its head, making it a story of determination, victory and pride emerging from the ruins of a terrible tragedy. Berwick delivers it with such tenacity that it’s impossible not to feel some emotion when you learn the true story behind the song.
The record is brimming with depth and character, with memorable songs wrapped in Berwick’s flamingly rich vocals. The tag line “...and other tales of victory and defeat” is apt, as it is an album whose protagonist seems to be continuously wrestling with himself.
It is at times gloriously upbeat and amusing. The delightful barroom boogie of 'She’s Too Wild For Me' is fantastically riotous, hanging on the Mojo Nixon school of rock ‘n’ roll, whereas 'Ain't Going to Back Memphis' is a roaring sing-a-long tale of rebellion worthy of Johnny Cash at his best. 'Keep Your Socks on Don’t Look Down', is an outright funny country tale of an unfortunate choice of motel.
At other times, though, the record turns towards an inner darkness, especially prevalent on tracks such as the weary-sounding 'The Proof is in the Whiskey', the slow ballad of 'Wait' or the self-reflecting beauty of 'Checkout Time', which sounds like it was written in the early morning after a long, heavy night. This delicate side of Berwick can turn to the positive even in the most melancholic sounding songs. 'Cried My Last Tear', although powerfully pulling on the heartstrings, is actually a song about new beginnings.
With 'Let Your Heart Cry Out' and the old West rumble of 'See You in Hell' Berwick yet again shows other sides of the character he is channelling through on the record. 'Are You Sure I’m What You Want' may be self-deprecating, also lending itself to the negative sides of the protagonist, but it somehow seems to be joyously revelling in it, and perhaps best sums up the theme of the album: “I’m not who you think I am, or what you think I’m not”. 'Everything’s Waiting' leaves the album on a reflective note, with Berwick detailing just “another guy with empty dreams”.
'The Legend of Tyler Doohan' is an excellent and refreshing piece of country rock ‘n’ roll, with every second of it bleeding honest grit and passion. With moments of carefree highs and gut-wrenching lows, the record is one beautifully crafted illustration detailing the complexities of lives compiled of both victory and defeat.