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Music Review - `Blood Red Moon` by Barbara Bergin (jh)

Barbara BerginBlood Red Moon (click on image to watch video)

29 February 2020 

 

This one’s from the “never too late to start something new” department. Singer-songwriter Barbara Bergin is coming to this calling rather late in life compared to many, but she is so talented in so many areas that it’s not surprising that her debut recording comes off well too. By turns, she has been a professional orthopedic surgeon, a public speaker, mother of children, and a rancher par excellence. Most of these occupations are male-dominated and her work with horses may stand out the most given that she became  being a “Year-End Champion Reiner” as certified by the South Texas Reining Horse Association and the Texas Reining Horse Association. The question may still remain as to how all of that leads to this.

Taking up the guitar and writing songs around 1968 were at first just a pleasant diversion, a kind of at-home hobby and a way for girls to hang with boys until she got involved with a music school in Austin called Girl Guitar. She developed a close relationship with its founder, Mandy Rowden and began to take lessons, both traditional and performance, taught by women only. In her own words, “The classes are arranged in six-week segments, and in the end there is a live performance in a club or music venue. This is what really helped me take the step to perform my songs, and once I started this, I began writing again. I took a bluegrass band class at Girl Guitar and loved the genre. I started writing some old-time bluegrass tunes and folk ballads.”

One of her instructors at Girl Guitar was Jane Gillman who produced this album and played guitar and harmonica throughout. So, the songs, the chord structures, and even some of the melodies may sound comfortably familiar even though you haven’t heard these songs before. Basically, as she alluded to in the previous paragraph, she was working from trusted song conventions and she sings well enough but certainly not like someone who has made a career in music. That makes her even more relatable, like an ‘everywoman’ type going forth in an unassuming way. On many of these tunes, she is accompanied by the great guitarist Rich Brotherton, long a bandmate of Robert Earl Keen, as well as other Austin veterans who animate these songs, done mostly in a friendly style.

Bergin confesses to be a storyteller who likes to write about the past. She will likely publish a novel someday. So, other than the title track which may be the oldest one she wrote as a kind of stream of consciousness tune comprised of unrelated sentences, others were ones where she was careful to check dates, clothing of the times, and even words. That’s true for “Whistlin’ Train,” “She Danced with the  Young Prince of Wales” and “Captain of the Robert E. Lee.”  To her credit, there is considerable variation in tempos, moving in and out of ballads to bluegrass such as “Like Father Like Son/Cluck Ol’ Hen,” “Possum’s in the Corn” and even a gospel nod in “Let’s Get on Up!” Some of it may strike as just a bit too simple and straightforward such as “My Life’s Good (Cuz I Don’t Live in the City)”), but keep in mind her ranching perspective and, her newfound joy in music.

 

In a simple folk song like “Daughter’s Lament” she has lyrics like these –“Well my mama tried to warn me,/About them, shiny penny boys/They whisper you their lyin’ lies,/And they rob you of your coin./And my daddy always told me./Till his talkin’ days were through./Just put your trust in a thick legged horse,./And keep ten dollars in your shoe.”  Anyone who can write like that clearly has a promising future ahead.

 

Jim Hynes

 

 

Jim Hynes is an independent contributor on music for several magazines, including Elmore and Country Standard Time. He has also written for Variety. He was a listener-supported public station(s) radio host for 25 years in CT, MI, NJ and PA. He is also a Live music host/Emcee at several national and regional venues.

To Read All of Jim's Reviews, Click Here

 

 


 

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