Pete Berwick – Just Another Day In Hell

January 01, 1970



The first thing you hear is a classic slide riff –
significantly, like a cross between Jimmy Page’s intros for Zep’s “In My Time
of Dying” and “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” but filthier – followed by an evil
chuckle from the vocalist. “Ahhh, here we go,” he leers, then, after a blurted “ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR-ONE!”
the band catapults headlong into a hi-nrg blowout. One part George Thorogood
boogie, one part Ramones riffarama, several parts Jason & the Scorchers
cowpunk raveup, “Vacancy In My Heart” wears its mojo on its sleeve,
gravel-voiced belter Pete Berwick spitting out bon mots to the gal who left him
high and dry (“Looks as if it’s finished now before I could even start,” he
grunts, charting lingering feelings of psychic impotence), but the tune never
once loses its mojo.


Nor does the Berwick band, not even across 18 songs and 61
minutes. Berwick’s a battle-scarred veteran of Music City USA,
an atavistic twang-rocker in the tradition of Steve Earle and the
aforementioned Mr. Ringenberg, with clear roots in the extended outlaw
tradition of Waylon and Willie. “Equal parts juke-joint soul and honky-tonk
energy,” writes liner notesman Rev. Keith A. Gordon (full disclosure: Gordon’s a
BLURT contributor) of Berwick. “[He] still rocks too hard for Nashville, but isn’t that why God and Gram
Parsons created alt-country music?”


Boy howdy to that. There’s enough here to sink your teeth
into to leave you stuffed and satisfied like a five-course meal. From steel
guit/piano weepers (“Junk”) and desperado desert rock (“While I Die”) to
lonesome harmonica blooze-twang (“I Ain’t Goin’ Back There Anymore”) and Social
Distortion-styled roots-punk (“Cold Wind (Baby Come Home)”), Berwick & Co.
have all the bases covered, and then some. And let us not underestimate that
Berwick voice, weathered ‘n’ torn from tequila and cocaine, imbued with a deep
southern twang that drips authenticity. Hell, he can even make a novelty song
about onanism (“Hello Hand” – here, another gal has left him, although this
time, rather than succumb to sorrow and rage, he reaches for his “prize
collection of Playboy/ and half a bar
of soap”) sound like a professorial dissertation. And when he serves up a
Commander Codyesque yarn about a memorable run-in with the law (“Busted In
Kentucky”), you don’t even worry whether Berwick is, er, embellishing his account – you’re too busy hanging onto his words
to see how the whole deal plays out.


Yeah, this is exactly why God ‘n’ Gram put their heads together all those years ago. And folks like
Berwick are exactly the ones who are still ramming the “alt” into “country.”
Methinks Hank would’ve done it this way.


Standout Tracks: “Sometimes,” “While I Die,” “Vacancy In My Heart” FRED MILLS


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