Road-weary troubadour looks inward
David Berkeley has always been something of a nomad. Born in New Jersey, he’s lived in just about every one of the Lower 48. He wrote the songs on his fourth album, Some Kind of Cure, during a lengthy sojourn in a remote Corsican village, while his wife worked on her anthropology degree. Returning home, he recorded in Atlanta, then booked it over to San Francisco, where he’s currently based.
Aside from a Corsican choir and a field recording of church bells in Tralonca, there are no real Mediterranean influences on Some Kind of Cure, no musical nods to that island or region. Instead, being one of few English speakers in a French-speaking village seems to have made Berkeley more reflective and ruminative, which is saying a lot for the troubadour, whose previous albums have been at times painfully introspective. These new songs suggest travel and transience, as if he’s trying to captures fleeting moments of stillness and stability. “Homesick is hard when you don’t know just where it is that you call home,” he sings on the starkly acoustic “Homesick.”
The music itself suggests no such motion. Most of these songs are quiet and slow, pitched in the same tempo and tone, which is powerful and unifying at first but quickly becomes as tedious as an airport check-in line. When he stretches out of his comfort zone, however, the results can be awkward and stumbling. “Parachute” is perhaps the most upbeat song here, but even with its pulsing momentum, Berkeley never cuts loose to capture that sense of freefall. He’s too controlled, the song too measured. The central metaphor doesn’t help: “Your heart is like a parachute, it only opens when you fall.” Don’t go skydiving with this guy.
Ultimately, Some Kind of Cure sounds far too pristine and polished to convey the disorderly emotions of Berkeley’s lyrics. Like brand-new luggage, the music is stuffy and square—not yet broken in or lived in. It could use some scuffing up to show the wear and tear that comes with experience, but Berkeley is never as adventurous in his songs as he is in his travels. As a result, what should have been an emotionally affecting travelogue becomes little more than vacation photos.