Much of what Berman wrote and performed throughout his life was country music: songs about the sadness and difficulty of trying to get by in the world, along with descriptions of that world. “When God was young, he made the wind and the sun,” Berman sang on the opening song of Bright Flight. “And since then, it’s been a slow education.” When country songs are successful, it is because their outward simplicity, their plain-spokenness, their colloquialisms emerge out of enormous and delicate efforts of emotional compression. You can tell when a country song is just simple—when the necessary effort hasn’t been made—and you can tell when a songwriter hasn’t pulled off the compression, because then the song sounds mannered. But when both elements are working, a country song can shimmer, throb, or glare at you with an uncomfortable intensity. And when all that intensity builds up, country songs use humor as a release valve to ease the pressure. Sometimes the intensity and the humor occur simultaneously. “The light of my life is going out tonight,” Berman sang in “Darkness and Cold,” as in: she’s going out to have some fun for once, with someone else.
In “Black and Brown Shoes,” from The Natural Bridge, Berman sang:
When I go downtown
I always wear a corduroy suit
’cause it’s made of a hundred gutters
that the rain can run right through
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor