Silver Jews, 'Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea' (Drag City)

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Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
Critical Mass
Label: Drag City

by Shannon Zimmerman

Like Liz Phair and Bob Dylan, David Berman is a cunning wordsmith who can't really sing. Also like those luminaries, Berman turns weakness to advantage, serving up toe-tapping short stories in a sing-speak deadpan perfectly suited to his oddly good-natured cynicism. "What about the stuff that we quote 'believe'?" he asks on "San Francisco B.C." after his girlfriend lands a man who "moves a lot of concrete on the QVC." Musically, his sixth Silver Jews album is a low-key treat, country-inflected folk rock goosed by melodies that conjure both the Velvet Underground ("Open Field") and Johnny Cash ("Candy Jail").

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