Here Comes the New Folk Underground
First Appeared at The Music Box, September 2002, Volume 9, #9
Written by John Metzger
It might appear as if David Baerwald had sprung out of nowhere with his recent release Here Comes the New Folk Underground. But the fact of the matter is that Baerwald has been circling the music business for more than fifteen years. His initial success came in 1986 where, as one-half of the duo David & David, he charted with the single Welcome to the Boomtown. The band faded as quickly as it had emerged, leaving Baerwald on his own. Although in the early ’90s he released a pair of critically lauded solo albums (Bedtime Stories and Triage), both proved to be commercial flops. In 1993, however, Baerwald’s luck began to change. His contributions to Sheryl Crow’s Tuesday Night Music Club played a significant role in her rise to superstardom, and last year’s Golden Globe nomination for Come What May from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack relaunched his solo career.
Quite frankly, it couldn’t have come at a better time. No doubt, many will consider Baerwald merely to be following in the surprisingly successful footsteps of David Gray’s White Ladder — after all, the songs on Here Comes the New Folk Underground pave a similar, albeit richer, path of soulful folk-pop — but this is the type of music Baerwald has been writing for many, many years, only here he does it better than ever before. Throughout the disc, he draws on a wealth of artists from Randy Newman [If (A Boy Whore in a Man’s Jail)] to Jackson Browne (Why), from Van Morrison (Compassion) to Bob Dylan (Hellbound Train), tossing in just a hint of Wilco for good measure.
Indeed, the music Baerwald constructs around his songs is often sunny and ebullient — the hopeful bluegrass strains of Why, the soaring transcendence of The Crash, the slinky R&B of Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down — even as his lyrics delve into darker themes that reflect the seedy underbelly of life itself. The death of producer/friend Bill Bottrell’s seven-year-old son fuels the question brooding in Why, a promiscuous drug addict and her similarly afflicted son wander the streets of If (A Boy Whore in a Man’s Jail), and a drunk-driving accident is outlined in The Crash. Yet, as the lyrics reveal their mini-movie panoramas, evoking one set of emotions, the instrumentation washes gently over the top, bringing with it another — as well as the hope for a better tomorrow. The result is the type of emotional and musical satisfaction for which many songwriters strive, but few ever reach. ½
Here Comes the New Folk Underground is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box