“For an untrained musician who writes everything by ear, Berlin has a gift for the kind of emotive, subtle chord voicings that seem to draw from the heart of the American songbook.” (Jon Garelick/Boston Phoenix)
Hi-N-Dry Records is proud to announce the release of Boston-based songwriter/singer/piano player RICK BERLIN's “OLD STAG” on SEPTEMBER 16, 2008.
Rick Berlin’s 2nd release on the label, "OLD STAG" was recorded in Rick’s livingroom in Jamaica Plain, MA, by Joe Stewart (engineer). With a microphone out a window to get sounds of the street, and enough strange looking gear to start an insurgency, songs were recorded – verite – like a Truffaut film: with grit, romance and a black 'n' white mise en scene.
What is most breathtaking about this record, however, is the work of the string quartet arrangements by Brendan Cooney - a pianist, banjoist and composer living in W. Philadelphia. He has arranged for several Philly-based bands including Dr. Dog and Buried Beds. Featuring Joseph Simcox - viola, Katie Franich - cello, Christiana Hornby and Meredith Cooper - violin, Cooney's arrangements lift the material into an emotional realm that is beautiful, musically inventive and always right.
Members of the Boston band Sand Machine add backup vocals on 4 tunes.
The record was mixed by David Minehan (The Neighborhoods) at Woolly Mammoth Sound. A two time winner of the Best Producer at the Boston Music Awards, Sir David pulled disparate elements (strings, outdoor sounds, backups, piano, vox) together to spectacular effect.
The songs: As simple as the longing of a fan for a performer (“John Lennon's Nose”), as confusing as the white water turbulence of a relationship gone bad (“Always”), as envious as a straight-guy in a dyke bar (“Happy Lesbians In The Snow”), as lonely as war vet with no one to share his nightmare (“Unknown Soldier”) or as magical as a beautiful girl who while loving everyone, remains a mystery (“Elle”), Berlin, like an old stag in the woods, still stands, unbowed - an astute, empathetic observer of the painful distance between souls and of the exhilarating, oddball way we all manage to survive.
'Old Stag' is as much an evolution as departure from his previous record "Me & Van Gogh": 'It may have taken 30-plus years for veteran Boston singer-songwriter Rick Berlin to make his masterpiece, but it was worth the wait. 'Me & Van Gogh' is an intimate, idiosyncratic collection of verite snapshots and cocktail-napkin sketches that together make up a tender, grandly tormented portrait of people wounded by dreams and bruised by experience. Berlin's spare, bold brush strokes of piano and conversational cabaret croon vividly illuminate this singular work.' (Jonathan Perry - Boston Globe Top 10 CD's of '06)
Rick has been around a lot of blocks. He's known a lot of incredible artists, well and not-so-well known. He played CBGB's (with Orchestra Luna) when the Talking Heads, Patti Smith and the Ramones took their first steps. He played Frank Zappa's 10 anniversary party. He was jailed in Grenada, West Indies for nudity on a film shoot. He shook Nixon's hand twice when he was a kid - cold, weak grip. He was fired from a co-ed school in Steamboat Springs, and busted for shoplifting in Santa Barbara. He dropped out of the Yale Drama school once he realized that he was a song writer and not an actor. He opened for J Geils' last Christmas tour, and played Jacques Cabaret (the oldest transvestite bar in the country) for ll years of Monday nights. He's also a lifer at Doyle's Cafe in Jamaica Plain, waiting tables there for 18+ years. Who knows what it is that makes an artist relevant. Perhaps it is that, like Dave Isay explains in his book about StoryCorps: 'listening is an act of love'. Rick's songs have a particular ear to the ground that x-rays, in his best work, the portraits of the lost and forgotten.
"From his documentary-in-progress about the people of JP, to his unfinished musical about a boy with a magic harmonica, to his pal-packed collaborative cabaret throwdowns, to his most recent masterpiece of heavily populated pop, 'Me and Van Gogh', the work of stalwart star Rick Berlin has always been a celebration of characters. But for seasoned and newbie local musicians alike, from the Dresden Dolls to Sand Machine, the character worth celebrating is Berlin himself.' (Michael Brokeur - The Weekly Dig)
You can learn more about Rick Berlin, read his short fiction, the script for his musical "The Kingdom", view clips of interviews for his documentary-in- progress (Jamaica Plain-Spoken – Ungated Community In The 21st Century?) at www.rickberlin.com