Dan Bern Wears the Hoody by Dan MacIntosh
Dan Bern calls his latest album Hoody, which might cause you to expect music a little more on the urban side. But when he name-drops classic country singers and songs with “Merle Hank and Johnny,” and even covers a beloved Cash recording with “One Piece at a Time,” you’re quickly clued in that Bern is staunchly entrenched in the Americana realm.
But it’s not all fun and games with Bern, though. The desperate temptations that can overtake an traveling song man are real. Take the album’s title track, for instance.
Sometimes your heroin’s heroin
Sometimes coffee, sometimes a girl
Sometimes you gotta get away from something
Far as you can in this world.
Clearly, it doesn’t get any easier for this veteran singer/songwriter. Nevertheless, Bern feels like he’s in this thing for the long haul, which is best expressed through “Lifeline.” Although he admits to drinking and smoking too much. “I don’t mind/’Cause I feel fine/I’ve got a long lifeline,” he brags over a two-stepping country groove.
Bern shows his sense of humor with “The Waffle House.” On this one, he suggests there isn’t much of a real difference between republicans and democrats when he sings, “Red states got The Waffle house/Blue states don’t.” Bern sings it in the Bob Dylan talking blues style.
The cover of “One Piece at a Time,” tells the tall tale about a man who spends seven years stealing a car from the GM assembly line. The final product, though, is a weird mixture of all kinds of different cars. He makes the song his own by adding in a little CB trucker lines and modernizes the lyrics by calling his vehicle psychobilly.
Dan Bern meditates on the meaning of life with closer, “Sky.” He’ll be okay, “As long as I can see the sky,” he sings. The song is kind of a book end to “Lifeline.” Whereas the former speaks of his hope for a long life, the latter admits that even those with long life lines come to the end of their lives one day.
This album is a throwback to the sincere singer/songwriter genre. Bern’s not trying to fit in with the EDM crowd, or appeal to modern pop music fans. He’s just creating songs with – as he puts it — his one guitar “that still stays in tune.” There’s a tangible warmth to Bern’s songs. You walk away feeling like you’ve had a great conversation with the man, where he did most all the talking and you never once got bored.