Every artist is influenced to varying degrees by musicians from a previous era and their resulting compositions are often a cut and paste amalgamation and reinterpretation of what has gone before. Dan Bern goes further than that and proves to be the Rory Bremner of musicians, by actually impersonating Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello with frightening accuracy. It does not sound as though he is just performing cover versions, he actually IS these people.
'Fly Away' is possibly the most precise imitation of Dylan on the album. Bern mimics the drawled spoken vocal and opening acoustic guitar picking that switches to a familiar bluesy stomp. Incredibly, less obvious detail has also been included; vocal inflections, pronunciation, theme, and phrasing; e.g: 'I feel like a tightrope walker / and they took away my string".
|The same level of imitation is displayed on 'Eva', but this time Costello replaces Dylan as the template. Even without Bern's astonishing mimicry the album is a magical piece of work. It is a perfect slice of Americana, which has the considerable bonus of sublime lyricism. On far too many albums it is often impossible to find one meaningful lyric. On 'Fleeting Days' it is an equally difficult job to find lyrics that are anything less than brilliant. Bern covers the broad topics of love, faith, and regret with equal doses of the comic, literate, and absurd. |
He is always thought provoking and never more so than on album closer 'Soul', which attempts to grapple with the nature of existence, it includes the insistent questioning refrain: "Are you gonna follow your soul/ Or just the style of the day". It is no longer necessary to wish that Dylan would make records like it was 1967 all over again. The albums are being released, under a pseudonym, and with similar prolificacy (Bern has released an album a year since his 1997 debut). 'Fleeting Days' is certainly nothing new and despite that, or maybe because of it, the album is truly brilliant. The finest record of 2003 so far.