Mike Berman New Album 'Where I'm From'
Mike Berman’s Where I’m From is a replication as much as it is an homage to Southern California life. He loves this place, even though many detractors have lost a of their affection for the region. Much of this
instrumentation recalls the folk, folk-rock and singer/songwriter sounds of the late ‘60s and ‘70s. You get the sense Berman couldn’t have been happier had he come up in Laurel Canyon during its pivotal period in music history.
Berman gets rather specific with some of these songs, with song titles only true Los Angelinos can fully appreciate. One of these is simply called “Van Nuys,” which is a San Fernando city known to all local residents. (The song is actually an ode to Superman, though, of all things). Then there’s “Livin’ on Both Sides of the 5,” which is a SoCal freeway reference.
The album opens with a lovely folk-rock tune called “Drive.” With it, Berman explains how one can see so many different sides of California within short driving distances. He’s dating himself, though, by
mentioning in its lyrics how he never leaves home without his Thomas Guide map book. Our smartphones have long since permanently replaced physical maps. He dates himself once again when he sings about shopping at Tower Records on Sunset. This was a music biz hub back in the day. It
was known for colorful billboards adorning its walls advertising important record releases. Hollywood stars could be seen shopping there during that record store’s heyday. In fact, Elton John was given
exclusive access some mornings before the store opened to the general public. Of course, chain record stores have gone the way of the buffalo (and Thomas Guide maps).
One of the album’s prettiest tunes is “Hills of California.” It features some mighty sweet acoustic instrumentation, especially the mandolin on it. People don’t usually think of high tech Los Angeles as an acoustic music scene, but there are plenty lovers of that style, as well as players. Lyrically, Berman sings this one about the beauty of California hills; hills he’s taken for granted, perhaps.
With all that said, though “Goodbye California” is a love letter to this golden state from one that’s leaving it. Though sad, it incorporates plenty of wonderful steel guitar, which gives it a distinctly country
music feel. Speaking of country-associated instrumentation, “Angels in the Stone” leads off with some truly lovely fiddle work. Berman sings this one with gentle awe in his voice. “Angels Flight” is another
‘angels’ referencing song title, which namedrops famous Los Angeles residents, from Raymond Chandler to Jim Morrison. One of the album’s saddest songs is titled “It Should Be Raining Today,” where Berman sings of one who has passed on. Days like these should be rainy ones, he
sings. Of course, it rarely (but not never) rains in California. The most rocking inclusion is “There’s Nothin’ on the Radio,” which bemoans the passing of great rock & roll radio. Once upon a time, radio was an aural refuge, filled with plenty of fantastic sounds.
If you’re not careful, listening to this album may depress you – especially if you’ve never experienced the SoCal lifestyle. For those of you that know it, this is one (mostly) jaunty stroll down memory lane.