Matraca Berg is a gifted songsmith whose own recordings generally trump the superstar versions that help her make her car payments (see also Patty Griffin, Lori McKenna). Her first LP in 14 years is haunted country music in an Emmylou Harris vein, shades darker than Berg’s past work: Family farms collapse, relationships cloud over, lovers ache and self-destruct. On “Silver and Glass,” a post-mortem letter to a small town beauty gone Hollywood, plastic surgeons cut the desperate girl “like a paper doll.” The melodies and hooks remain as irresistible as ever. Still, it’s hard to imagine former client Martina McBride, for instance, singing lines like “I heard they finally did you in/Amphetamines and Vicodin” (although Kenny Chesney has already covered Berg’s spooky “You and Tequila”). No matter: This is the sound of a writer who seems more concerned with making tradition her own than with who might follow her.
Listen to “Racing The Angels”:
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