HITS: Daily Double News

Dan Bern with Common Rotation, Doubleheader (iTunes): This veteran singer/ songwriter has made a name for himself as Judd Apatow’s go-to guy for music, composing the witty parody songs in the faux biopic Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and Take Me to the Greek. A major label outcast, Bern just released a pair of new albums on his own, the first in six years, including Drifter, featuring “Swing Set,” a duet with Emmylou Harris, and this collection of 18 songs (for a twin bill’s worth of innings) inspired by baseball and his lifelong love of the Giants, which came from reading a biography of Willie Mays. Bern is a story-teller in the Dylan/Woody Guthrie mode, and Doubleheader is in that vein, fleshed out by N.Y.-to-L.A. group (and frequent collaborators) Common Rotation. Having written songs based on sports stars as diverse as Tiger Woods and tennis player Jack Kramer, Bern proves an avid fan, with songs that range from a tale of sneaking into Wrigley Field one night (“Ballpark,” with its references to Ferguson Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg and Harry Caray), a lament to the Giants’ 2002 World Series come-from-ahead loss to the Angels (“5-0 Lead”), a tribute to “The Golden Voice of Vin Scully” (with Jordan Katz’s mellifluous trumpet solo emulating his dulcet tones) and a song that merely states “Year-by-Year Home Run Totals of Barry Bonds.” Bern is also a keen student of the game’s gaffes, with songs recounting Giant Fred Merkle’s famed “bonehead play” in the 1908 World Series against the Cubs when he somehow forgot to touch second base on a potential game-winning hit, as well as “Joyce and Gallarraga,” which tells the story of umpire Jim Joyce’s faulty call on what should have been the last out in the ninth, costing Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Gallarraga not only a perfect game, but a no-hitter. Aside from the album’s lyrical conceit, though, it’s the music that ties it all together, whether it’s the Dylan-esque drawl of “Gamblin’ with My Love,” a recount of then-baseball Commissioner Bart (father of Paul) Giamatti’s suspension of Pete Rose over his alleged gambling on baseball games or “42,” the country/bluegrass paean to Jackie Robinson and his uniform number. By the time he gets to “The Sun Shines on McCovey Cove,” a celebration of his beloved Giants’ 2010 World Series victory, their first ever since moving to San Francisco, you begin to understand the sheer joy of a fan whose team has finally won it all after years of might-have-beens. For this beleaguered Mets fan—who has experienced that exultation in 1969 and 1986—Doubleheader turned out to be a welcome distraction from suffering through yet another dispiriting summer.