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Cindy Lee Berryhill

Cindy Lee Berryhill is a folk-rock singer/songwriter who, although one hates to say it, plays better on paper than on record. Those who bemoan the decline of fresh singer/songwriter talent in the pop and rock mainstream have to admire her obvious respect for classic singer/songwriter values, and her determination to present them in a present-day context that doesn't merely ape the sound of the '60s and '70s. She has the desirable liberal and feminist politics, and is conscious of delivering these with a sense of humor. But her vocals and songwriting, not to mention that sense of humor, are not top-flight enough to make her more than a minor performer, if a periodically engaging one.

Berryhill has always identified herself with the alternative rock scene, playing in a punk rock band before going solo, and supporting such acts as Billy Bragg, the Smithereens, the Proclaimers, and X. Her music usually owes as much to folk as rock, though. The San Diegan's 1987 debut, Who's Gonna Save the World?, may be her best simply because it is her most straightforward. Then as now, she was most effective, ironically, at her most basic and serious. Her talking-blues and satirical numbers are not funny or biting enough, and when she adopts a jiving vocal tone, the results are much more awkward than when she just sings.

Berryhill does not lack ambition, moving to New York City in the late '80s to become part of the non-starting "anti-folk" scene. It wouldn't be accurate to say that this hurt her career, as the movement wasn't wide enough to be perceived as a failure. But it didn't do much for her either, although former Patti Smith guitarist (and Suzanne Vega producer) Lenny Kaye produced her second album.

Moving back to Southern California in the 1990s, she went for a much more unusual sound on 1994's Garage Orchestra, enlisting help from musicians who had worked with the San Diego Symphony and the Harry Partch Ensemble. Again, the combination looks more interesting than it sounds, though the ambition is certainly laudable. 1996's Straight Outta Marysville settles between the extremes, going back to a folkier sound while retaining a wider range of instrumentation than the standard folk-rock unit. In 2007, Berryhill returned with Beloved Stranger, her first studio album since the '90s. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
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Comments

@kat, while i may not necessarily disagree with your sentiment at times, it's a completely unfair and unreasonable blanket statement to make about music. music is not some toy used for entertainmen t across the board; music is a tool, a medium, a vehicle. so, while music can be a tool for entertainmen t , that's not its empirical purpose.
for example, look at slaves back in the 1800s...was their field labor singing supposed to be for entertainmen t purposes? nah, not really. in the context i've used, it was a way emotionally bleed, to process the emotion and the atrocities of their lives; it was a way to communicate to others their travails and angst. but no, their music, their singing wasn't there to entertain.
likewise, many from the sixties and seventies used music as a tool for democracy and patriotism.
it was a way to express their opinions, views, and their life's angst. dylan, for example, was not trying to entertain when he wrote 'hurricane'; that was a direct admonition to the government of the day, a scathing criticism of the often pervasive racism and bigotry that painted our country's landscape.
so, "shut up and sing. i want to be entertained" ends up coming off as presumptuous , expectant, and self-righteo u s .
it's not a fair attitude to the artist or to music; it is, in my opinion, narrow-minde d and shallow. don't get me wrong, i definitely listen to music a lot of the time to be entertained, but it's not something which i should expect; it's not owed to me. if you want to be entertained and not 'lectured', it seems to me that maybe you should be listening to more justin bieber and pop music.
katzmyth
This is the political type crap I despised from the 60's & 70's music era. I despise it no less now. Shut up and sing. I want to be entertained, not lectured.
tahdzilla
"But her vocals and songwriting, not to mention that sense of humor, are not top-flight enough to make her more than a minor performer, if a periodically engaging one." WHAT THE HELL????

That's a bunch of hokum. Cindy Lee has an amazing voice, and a wicked off beat sense of humor. I love all her albums, and I've seen her live enough times to know that she's no run-of-the-m i l l perfromer. She puts on top flight shows, and she is just an amazing singer.

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