David Berman’s Ode to Louisville

[13 May 2008]

By John Bohannon

“Louisville is death you’ve got to get up and move, because the death do not improve” – Silver Jews “Tennessee” from the album Bright Flight

In a recent interview I conducted with David Berman, renaissance man of the Silver Jews, he was thinking of changing the aforementioned lyric for the upcoming tour. He also claimed he’s never been able to play it in Louisville, obviously. But this is a lyric that needs to be heard by the people of Louisville – and they need to be confronted with it directly. Mr. Berman beating around the bush is going to do no good as far as a songwriter goes – because during his near two decade career and many one-liners – this is one of the most prominent lines, one which struck home with a lot of people (including myself) in the town.

If you’ve never spent a decent amount of time within the city, than this line may just be another bundle of words that sound meaningful coming out of Berman’s growl. But let me let you in on a little secret – Louisville, as Berman claims, has had a “dark star” hanging over its head for quite some time now. Not quite as bad as it did back in the ‘90s, but it’s still dangling in sight. The town is full of a never-popping bubble of musicians that attract a wider audience for a local show than a national show – some may say this is a good thing, but by alienating themselves from the rest of the musical world, it only hurts a musical community. This mentality has kept a lot of musicians within the city from getting widespread acclaim. The one’s that have made it generally dispersed to outside cities such as Nashville and Chicago to get in with a different crowd of musicians, such as Tortoise and David Berman himself.

With this said, Louisville has somewhat detached of this clique mentality over the past several years, mostly because so many different genres are coming out of Louisville and bands find themselves not working on common ground. The town needs to take to heart Berman’s words and not fall inside the hole they once created.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/david-bermans-ode-to-louisville/