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Matraca Berg: 'Dreaming' Out Loud

Matraca Berg's latest album is titled <em>The Dreaming Fields</em>.
Glen Rose
Matraca Berg's latest album is titled The Dreaming Fields.

Singer-songwriter Matraca Berg co-wrote her first hit song with Bobby Braddock at age 18. She's a two-time Grammy nominee and a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame in Nashville, where she was born, raised and still lives. In nearly three decades of writing songs for country music artists such as Reba McEntire and Martina McBride, Berg has released five of her own albums, including The Dreaming Fields, her first album in 14 years.

Berg's latest is about the broken dreams of adulthood, acceptance and moving on even when you know there may not be anything better up ahead. If that sounds sad, well, it is. But Berg folds these sad stories into a beautiful backdrop of melody and mood. In the title track, she waves goodbye to a family farm destined to become suburban subdivisions in a stunning, evocative ballad.

The Dreaming Fields is populated by lost souls. Perhaps Berg is so good at telling their stories because she's spent some of her career in the margins, while mainstream Nashville stars took her wonderful songs to the top of the charts. "Silver and Glass" is a cautionary tale about a woman who went in the opposite direction as Berg, trading on her looks in the pursuit of stardom, only to come to a bad end.

But not all of Berg's characters are so magnificently doomed. In "Your Husband's Cheating on Us," which sounds like a big nod to pioneering female singer-songwriter Bobbie Gentry, a mistress and betrayed wife team up, administering justice to the man they share when he trades them both in for a younger woman.

Whether she's etching landscapes out of emotional uncertainty or revealing how people ultimately found their strength, Berg's gift as a songwriter lies in her ability to convey stories from the inside out. And, though she's had great success providing songs to others, it's even more compelling to hear them sung in her own expressive voice.

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Meredith Ochs