Did You Have a Bad Dream?
3 Out Of 5 Stars
After the split-up of David + David and the classic, cutting "Boomtown" album, David Baerwald took his time between albums. Like Donald Fagen or Tom Scholtz time. "Here Comes The New Folk Undergorund" was only his third solo album in 12 years. He'd also done some soundtrack work and played a part in the genesis of Sheryl Crow's debut, but for undiluted David, fans have to hold out for long stretches.
NFU was born out of a fans-only release (I think only 1,000 were made) double release titled "A Fine Mess" and indie label Lost Highway was one of the locations lucky enough to catch a copy. Baerwald had left Los Angeles for Austin, Texas, and the music reflects this. The trimmed down "Fine Mess" now echoes the kind of smart and sharp songwriting that he was always known for, but comes with the kind of heartland rock that fellow literate Texan James McMurtry is known for. Each song tells a little story in brittle terms, and characters are mostly unsavory, like the men and women that hung out in "Boomtown." Except this time they have a southern twang and the occasional accordion. Add to that a bit; an accordion with a switchblade in the keys.
There's also hints of Tom Waits or Randy Newman black humor hidden among the phrases. The brutal "Love 29" rolls along on a leisurely groove as Baerwald savages an ex-lover while turning the knife on himself, which is no small trick. There's also the hidden track "Little Fat Cowboy," which certainly sounds like an indictment of George Bush. Along with "If," these are my favorites in the CD. On the other hand, I sort of miss the pure vitriol of "Triage" or the finesse of "Bedtime Stories," but "Here Comes The New Folk Underground" still finds Baerwald in search of a Boomtown that welcomes him as its native tongue.