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Record Review

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In country music, the maudlin swell of reverb is synonymous with the creak of a broken heart. And its mournful wail offers a sad score to the lives of Bright Flight's characters, who shuffle about seeking "the fiercest way to live" ("Let's Not and Say We Did") -- that is, when they're not immobilized by "mortal" fear. Singer David Berman could "tell you things about this wallpaper that you'd never ever want to know" -- or so he sings on the C&W guitar-and-piano elegy, "Horseleg Swatstikas." From the opening track, "Slow Education," which ponders God's fascination with "that one idea again, the one about dying," to the album- closing "Death of an Heir of Sorrows," Bright Flight is littered with evidence of Berman's wry existential morbidity. It finds best expression on album centerpiece "I Remember Me," a haunting, jangle-pop love-story-interrupted -- by a runaway-truck-induced coma.

On the chilling blues of "Time Will Break the World" (its desolate, swelling chords howling like an Arctic blast), the loose rag of "Let's Not and Say We Did" and the honky-tonk chamber pop of "Tennessee," Berman finds transcendence in the universality of fear and pain. "I'll make a career out of writing sad songs and getting paid by the tear," he sings on the latter track. Judging from this fourth full-length, that'll be a long career.

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