“When I tell you that I love you don’t test my love, accept my love, don’t test my love, ‘cause maybe I don’t love you all that much.” – from “Jerusalem” (Dog Boy Van EP, Dan Bern)
That’s a bold way to introduce oneself to the world and with both his first EP and full-length debut, Dan Bern did it twice. If you look at the words long enough or hear them sung enough times you can see it all right there, the lifeline that runs through one of the most consistently strong songwriting careers this side of <BLANK> (You can fill this in with any songwriter you like that was going before 1996). It’s a short simple string of words that is at once audacious, painfully self-aware, slightly nihilistic, dripping with feeling and most importantly (?) very Funny.
I discovered the music of Dan Bern sometime around my last couple of years in high school, when I was just starting to fumble around in the dark, attempting to carve an identity for myself. By this time, Bern had released three full-length records (Dan Bern, Fifty Eggs & Smartie Mine), so there was a lot to devour. A music nerd from my youngest days I was pretty well versed in guys with guitars, but I’d never heard anything like this. Listening to these first few Bern records broke something important in my head, set it free and permanently changed my core temperature. It’s difficult to overstate the importance this man’s music has held in my life and as such, don’t read on looking for scathing criticism (Spoiler: I'm a fan of his work across the board), but rather to remember or learn some stuff about one of the great songwriters of our time and the important connections made between people and art.Read More