Matraca Berg returns to the world of recorded music May 17th with the darkly mysterious roots package The Dreaming Fields. Fourteen years since the Songwriters Hall of Famer released her Sunday Morning To Saturday Night, an album cited as one of the Top 10 Albums in any genre by Time, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today and a variety of daily newspapers, the introspective songwriter creates a collection of songs examining the tides and seasons of women’s lives, aches and triumphs.
“I knew when I was writing these songs—the ones that I was drawn to—that they deserved to be heard. They where a bit deeper and darker and I knew I was probably the only person who would record them,” Berg explains of the decision to return to the public eye. “I’d done some shows with various girlfriends, and when you look at the women—and men—in the audience, I realized these stories I’m writing are their stories, too. So making sure they get to them became important to me.”
Berg, who scored her first #1 at the age of 18, and has provided pivotal hits for traditional and progressive women ranging from the Dixie Chicks to Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood to Gretchen Wilson as well as Linda Ronstadt and Dusty Springfield, has always been marked for her ability to not only evoke emotion in her melodies, but to provide windows into the truths, secrets and moments that people hide away. With The Dreaming Fields, she not only evokes the seminal records she was raised on, she fearlessly looks towards life and tragic resolution of a battered woman (“If I Had Wings”), the devastating beauty fading into desperation (“Silver and Glass”), the haven that was the family farm sold off (the title track) or the anguished mother whose son has been sent off to war (“South of Heaven”).
“I was raised on [Neil Young’s] Harvest, [Joni Mitchell’s] Blue and [Emmylou Harris’] Pieces of the Sky,” she says, “ That’s the sound of my childhood. When I started writing these songs, I pulled them out and it struck me how bare they were and driven by feel. The songs floated on the arrangements, and the vocals were all the emotions the songs had come from. It’s so far from what we hear now, but it was everything I wanted this record to be.”
She also wanted to explore the places within herself that she saw in other women and shine a light on those who many people never notice. In a classic postmodern Southern Gothic tone, The Dreaming Fields is as honest a portrait as the writings of Dorothy Allison or her friend Lee Smith.
“There are very few women I don’t see a part of myself in,” continues the woman raised on the fringe of Nashville’s Lost Storytellers movement, “no matter what they do, their station of life. We as women share things; you tend to know each other, have a recognition on a cellular level which defies words. You don’t even have to talk about it, you just know. And that’s the glue that holds us together.”