Anyone looking for a nostalgic hit of late 80s alt-country? Do you reminisce about the days you and your buddies planned road-trips to Nashville-town to catch Jason & the Scorchers and Steve Earle? Do Hank III and Shooter Jennings strike you as somewhat privileged? Are you wondering if alt-country is dead? "Yes," you say? Then allow me to introduce you to Pete Berwick.
Berwick is the real deal—a Jason & the Scorchers-influenced alt-country rocker continuing to churn out irreverent country-rock that speaks to the painful truths about life—and when the Nashville music industry doesn't want to listen, well hell, that doesn't make life any easier. Berwick writes about that too. Ain't No Train Outta Nashville was recorded in Nashville back in 1993, then shelved due to the record label closing its doors. In 2007, some fourteen years later, Berwick finally released the record on his own label, Shotgun Records. Slightly dated, but gloriously so, Ain't No Train Outta Nashville is a cross between Cowboy Mouth and The Georgia Satellites. With fiery guitars and Berwick's vocals walking the fine line between alt-country and cow-punk, one spin transports the listener to another time and place. But fourteen years has not softened Berwick; rather, Berwick's edge has grown sharper as he's witnessed the music industry sink to all-time lows. Now, with his own record label, Berwick's garnered enough optimism to release Ain't No Train Outta Nashville and head out on the road in support of it—like the days of old.
If any of my readers answered "yes" to the opening line of questions or if you like real shit-kickin' country music, then don't hesitate to get Pete Berwick's records. And don't miss him on his solo Fall 2008 tour of the Southeast. — Vincent Wynne, Listennashville.com, March 15, 2008
Nashville and Chicago based renegade Pete Berwick's music suggests hard livin', honkytonks, endless highways and lost love. Berwick's Jack Daniels soaked vocals are raw and rough-edged, as he sings songs from a discerning and familiar point of view. Berwick weaves his early cowpunk influences with contemporary and traditional styles to create a musical mosaic, which is diverse, yet comprehensive and extremely individual, and deeply rooted in American music.--Tony Engelhart, Crud Magazine
"Fans of Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, Jason And the Scorchers and The Georgia Satellites are going to love the Hell out of Pete Berwick."--Tom Lounges, Midwest Beat Magazine
"For Those who like their whiskey raw and their bars smokey--Canada Music Journal
A veteran of both the Nashville and Chicago music scenes, Pete Berwick's music showcases all of his various influences and incarnations, the songs mixing rock, country, Americana and blues in the creation of a heady musical elixir. Think Steve Earle and Johnny Cash trading shots with Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.
"Like Steve Earle on crack."--garageband.com
"Here’s a guy who’s been writing, performing, and recording for 28 years, and you can hear the battle scars."--
Jennifer Laton, Indie-Music.com.
"There's a noble aspect to the career of artists like Pete Berwick, who's been kicking around the midwest since the late 70s.
If you're looking for the scars of living in the American indie rock underground, Berwick's your man" . . . .
(Luke Torn) Pop culture Press.
"Berwick is a true rock ‘n’ roll survivor and he should continue to survive for many years to come".---
KRIS GRIFFITHS © 2002 PHASE9 ENTERTAINMENT.
"Berwick is a true rock & roll survivor, an artist of integrity and vision."--Rev. Keith A Gordon, mondogordo.com and the
author of "The Other Side Of Nashville."
"Hard edged, whiskey infused roots rock and more than a little cowpunk in there. Berwick sings like he's running from the law."--Taproot Radio
"If you're looking for a perfect piece of Americana, this is it."-- Shite 'N' Onions
Pete Berwick is as unique as they come."--Roots Music Report
"A brilliant and staggering collection of hard-knock tales about lovable losers and hopeless dreamers. One of the Best album of 2007. Ain't No Train Outta Nashville" is proof that you can't keep a good man down.-- Rev. Keith a Gordon, Nashville Scene, Creem.
"Gutsy in-your-face-roots rock. There's nothing pretty or ordinary about this.-- Maverick Magazine
"Ain't No Train Outta Nashville no doubt is Berwick's best album.-- Illinois Entertainer Magazine.
"Americana Artist of the tear."--Viking Radio
"Listening to the CD “Ain’t No Train Outta Nashville” reminds you of a mix between Steve Earle and Bruce Springsteen. A gritty, outlaw, country and rock sound that features songs about small towns, Cadillacs, and heartbreak. It’s a cool sound that is worth checking out.".--Newcountryzone.com
"Ain't No Train Outta Nashville is the best damned album since "the Hard Way" and I'll stand on Steve Earle's coffee table in my biker boots and say that!"--Torchy Blaine, "Guitar Town" WDVR-FM
"If Iggy Pop and Steve Earle made an album together it would sound like this. This 40 something dude is the real deal and then some." -- B.T. Cat (Amazon.com)
* * * *
REVIEW OF "AIN'T NO TRAIN OUTTA NASHVILLE" BY MAVERICK MAGAZINE, UK.
Pete Berwick has been around the block a time or two and is very much a throwback to the 1970s outlaw movement rather than today's country mainstream. Though recorded in Nashville, on this album, he's the embodiment of everything that all those chin-out, tough-guy country young 'uns on CMT would try to become if they borrowed a clue from Hank Jr. or any of the other real dudes. His songs are dark, sad, funny, spooky, hell-raising, fascinating and always interesting. The titles give it away: Rebels And Cadillacs, Only Bleeding, Devil Knows His Name and Rusted Ball And Chain. He opens up with "Rebels And Cadillacs" a real kicker and a great upbeat tune. An out-and-out rural rocker with a chuck Berry inspired lead guitar and in-your-face vocal onslaught. "When I'm Gone", "The Years We Left Behind", and "This Used To Be A Town" might seem either abrasive or unconvincing if voiced by someone with a less muscular and rich delivery. "Can't Hide The Tears" recalls the hey-day of Jason & The Scorchers--- cowpunk with attitude and soul. Cutting edge electric lead guitars, sawing fiddles, haunting harmonicas, a solid bass-and-drum rhythm section and rough' n' ready vocals that spit out real life experiences. There's nothing pretty or ordinary about this. Pity there ain't no train outta Nashville, it could have taken all those country wimps to Vegas or Branson and left Music Row to the likes of Pete Berwick and instilled some much needed guts, soul and reality into today's country.----
AC (MAVERICK MAGAZINE. The new voice of country music)
“Better late than never, so they say...” says 48 year old Northern Illinois native Pete Berwick, when asked why he’s decided to release a new album after a self imposed five year sabbatical. Truth be known, Berwick’s been ‘on the verge’ for his entire career and now with the release of “Ain’t No Train Outta Nashville,” he's poised for a hard earned breakthough.
Pete Berwick’s songs are whiskey-soaked, ragged and weathered, with a mix of hardcore heartbreak and rock-edged attitude that dares to go unnoticed. Berwick’s been making music for three decades, and the trials and tribulations bleed through in his latest album which serves as a soundtrack to his life story. He believes that now is the time for his music to finally reach a larger audience. “My goal as a songwriter has always been to reach the listener emotionally" says Berwick.
One reviewer refers to the renegade sound as akin to “Steve Earle on crack” and that isn’t far off the mark. The songs are poignant with the perspective depth that comes only from living the words first. The vocals are raw, edgy with a distinctiveness that’s been missing from radio airwaves for many years. The music is urgent and rebellious, not much unlike the man himself.
Berwick’s been in it long enough to know that the only thing that comes easy in this business are the hard knocks and tough breaks. He’s battled through and survived more than his fair share of them.
Beginning in 1981 as the founder and frontman of the Chicago cult favorites “The Generics” he found his way to college radio with the band’s two year, high octane run, playing hundreds of dates throughout the Midwest. In 1983 - 1986 he found himself as a guitarist for the punk/metal band “The End” and then in 1986 he took a solid mix of all of his roots based musical influences, from rock and blues to punk and country and the result was “Pete Berwick and Interstate”. The resulting cowpunk sound sizzled and caught fire quickly as the band toured heavily. During this timeframe Pete released two self produced records. One of the projects, “Decisions” was an accumulation of ten years of songwriting and ranked second of all 1987 indie releases by Illinois Entertainer magazine.
With momentum and hope on his side he followed his dreams on a road that took him to Nashville in 1990 where he wasted no time in securing a record and songwriting deal with Bitter Creek Records. While churning out songs during the day, Berwick was soon heating up stages at night in Nashville and throughout the south, opening up shows for legendary artists such as Charlie Daniels, Joe Sun, Doug Kershaw and Red Steagall.
In 1993 Berwick went back into the studio and recorded what would eventually be “Ain’t No Train Outta Nashville." Bankrupcy with the record company forced the album to be shelved and Berwick moved on to other projects, including an EP with Steve Earle/Billy Joe Shaver drummer Craig Wright. Berwick also made cameo appearances in several country music videos, and appeared on a commercial for Monday Night football with Hank Williams Junior.
In 1996, after over 15 years of non-stop performing, recording and writing, Berwick made the decision to relocate back to his hometown of Chicago. There he started an entertainment and publishing company and record label and in 2002 he recorded and released "Only Bleeding" on his label Shotgun Records. The album is a hard rocking yet haunting collection of real life tales of hard living, addiction, self destructive renegades and salvation,which received rave reviews.
Berwick gathered local music veterans Rick Devries, Nick Verbic and Rob Surrey and assembled the roadhouse rockin' band “Pete Berwick and the Renegades” in 2002 and has since put hundreds of live performances under his belt touring the Midwest ceaselessly in support of "Only Bleeding." The album was and remains a critic’s favorite, garnering a top ten of best indie releases in 2002 by renowned music critic Reverend Keith A Gordon, and the album also received top ten indie release honors by Tom Lounges of The Northwest Indiana Herald and Midwest Beat Magazine. The title track which also appears on his new album currently maintains in the top ten on the Americana charts for over a year on garageband.com, while the album’s opening track “Must Think She Loves Me” was featured in the cult movie ‘Townies’.
Fast forward to 2007. Pete Berwick's Nashville recording “Ain’t No Train Outta Nashville” is being released to Americana and Roots-Rock radio. The album is a rollicking and sauntering country-rock/Americana collection of hard lived songs, which includes the title track which was featured in Paramount Picture's “A Thing Called Love”. The project is an Americana snapshot of dusty roads, outlaws, small towns and late night honky-tonks. First recorded in 1993 and shelved after his record deal turned sour, Berwick’s faith in the album never faded nor faltered.
"I took the thing off the damn shelf and listened" said Berwick. "After thirteen years the songs still sounded good. I realised it was senseless to bury the album with the ill fated record deal, so releasing it on my own label seemed the obvious thing to do."
Berwick most recently appeared at Nashville's Spirit Of The Outlaws Show, performing with Willie Nelson Bassist Bee Spears and Former Waylon Jennings drummer Richie Albright.Berwick and the Renegades will tour the Midwest and the Nashville area in support of the album while appearing weekly at Sweetwater’s in Naperville, Illinois.
Renouned music critic Reverend Keith A. Gordon has written reviews for CREEM, ROLLING STONE, HIGH TIMES, THE NASHVILLE SCENE, METRO MUSIC MAGAZINE, SINGAOPRES' BIG 0 MAGAZINE and ALL MUSIC GUIDE ONLINE AND BOOK SERIES.
He is currently working on the soon to be published and highly anticipated book "The Other Side Of Nashville," which will include
an interview with Pete Berwick.
Read his review below
AIN'T NO TRAIN OUTTA NASHVILLE
By Reverend Keith A. Gordon
A few years back, legend has it, a young punk rocker followed Jason Ringenberg's trail out of Illinois and sojourned to Nashville with guitar in hand. This young man, like so many before him, was looking for fame and fortune in the Music City . He wrote the right songs, worked the right clubs and played the game like everyone told him he should but, tho' not for lack of talent or ambition, he found naught but heartache in the hallowed home of country music.
This young man found a manager, a silver-tongued fool who talked a good game but did little to advance his career. The young man recorded an album full of fine songs that nobody got to hear. After years of trying, he found himself beaten, bruised and battered, chewed up in the gears of a star-making machine that has little regard for talent, heart and soul; pissed off and pissed on, this young man left town and went back home, leaving Nashville that much darker and less interesting a place....
Like too many faithful, Pete Berwick found that there ain't no train outta Nashville . Hundreds of hopefuls flock to the Music City each year, and for every Tim McGraw or Faith Hill that finds fame, there are dozens that return home to Illinois, Oklahoma and points beyond, leaving behind their dreams and a piece of their soul. How many future Hank Williams or Patsy Clines have been denied the city's embrace after spending years traipsing up and down Music Row, how many have given up their musical ambitions in the face of indifference and corporate ignorance?
In Pete Berwick's case, there's a happy ending to the story. Unlike many who give up music altogether after suffering through the traumatic experience of trying to make it…whether in Nashville , New York , Los Angeles or wherever…Berwick refuses to go quietly into that good night. Five years ago, when the urge to create new music became stronger than the beatdown he took in the Music City , Berwick wrote the songs that became Only Bleeding. A powerful album that seamlessly mixed rock and country with punk attitude unlike anybody since early Steve Earle or Jason & the Nashville Scorchers, Only Bleeding was a defiant message that Berwick's Nashville experience may have left him bloodied, but definitely unbowed.
After the release of Only Bleeding, Berwick spent a year or so banging it out on the Midwestern circuit, playing smoky clubs and funky honky-tonks before once again retreating from music. However, the muse is hard to deny, and Pete starting thinking about the "lost" album that he had recorded back in Nashville in '93, the one that nobody got to hear. Taking it down from the shelf and listening to it with fresh ears and the benefits of hindsight, Berwick decided that it was too good a bunch of songs to let go to waste, and I agree with him.
Ain't No Train Outta Nashville is a brilliant collection of hard-knock tales that reveal the Music City for the provincial small town that it remains in spite of its big city ambitions. These songs are about the lovable losers and hopeless dreamers that flee their one-horse towns every year to go somewhere, anywhere else in search of something that will break them free of their lives of quiet desperation. Although written a decade-and-a-half ago, these songs still resonate with truth and beauty and are just as true today, in the face of corporate homogenization and the "American Idolization" of music as they were when Pete wrote them between his shift at the car wash and "writer's night" at some Nashville club. Although the words here apply to many nameless travelers going down that same road, I suspect that they are also more than a little autobiographical.
Ain't No Train Outta Nashville kicks off with "Rebels And Cadillacs," a rowdy rave-up with scorching guitar and honky-tonk piano that brings a traditional edge to this blistering portrayal of musical hypocrisy (perhaps more so than when Pete first sang these words). He decries the MTV star "with a diamond ring and a pure silk scarf, singing his concern about the homeless man," adding "I couldn't help but notice his Acapulco tan." Over at CMT you'll find "more of the same, some talking hat with a common name, singing a song about the poor man's blues, while turning on the heel of his snakeskin boots," the singer boldly declaring that "I don't want to be no rebel in a Cadillac." With this opening song, Berwick has staked his turf, drawn a line in the sand that is pure punk attitude with Hank Williams' twang.
"Six Pack Town " is more than a place, it's a state of mind as well, the sort of place that people try to escape from to "find" themselves. Berwick's description of the town as a "stop and half on the road from nowhere" is deceptive because although "there ain't nothing going down," it's still home, a place where people know their neighbors and care about their neighborhood. "Six Pack Town" is working class, small-town America, the kind of place that produces soldiers and singers, dreamers and madmen…the kind of place that people have a love/hate relationship with, the kind of place that never leaves you, even when you've left it behind….
"The Years We Left Behind" is one of the most brilliant and moving songs that these ears have heard in nearly 50 years of listening to, and loving music. We're every one of us getting older, and facing down a half-century of frustration, unfulfilled promise and lost opportunity brings with it the tendency to reminisce about "the good old days" that, to be honest, were mostly anything but good. Wise beyond his years, Berwick sings:
"Everywhere I go these days, it seems I always hear;
People talk about desperation, heartache and despair.
The broken-hearted dream that died, the memory from the past;
The good old days, the glory days, the love that didn't last,
And the childhood that disappeared too fast...
Sometimes at night when all is quiet, and I am all alone;
I hear the voice of yesterday through people I have known.
Some are laughing, some are crying, some of them have died.
I always thought the grass was greener on the other side,
I guess that's why I can't kiss the past goodbye...."
"Time doesn't wait for no one," sings Berwick on the chorus, declaring that "it's not patient, it's not kind; it seems to me we see the future only through our eyes so blind," concluding that "we're living in the years we left behind." Pete's insight is both poetic and bleakly realistic – we can't escape our past, no matter how hard we try, and our future is just the sum of the experience and heartache that we've lived through. None of us is unblemished by the past yet, when facing our inevitable mortality, we hang on to those memories like a life raft as the minutes tick by ever more loudly. Berwick addresses these concerns with dazzling beauty:
"When nighttime turns to morning, still I'm clinging to the past.
I want to stop the clock some times, those hands just turn too fast.
I don't want to get old; it's a shame how fast time flies.
If heaven's what we're living for, then someone tell me why,
Why no one, why nobody, wants to die?"
You'd think that after a stroke of musical genius like "The Years We Left Behind," that Ain't No Train Outta Nashville would flicker and burn out from lack of energy. No, Berwick has lulled us into a warm, quiet remembrance only to kick us back awake with the jolting "Devil Knows His Name," an eerie, Western-tinged tale of betrayal and escape. If the protagonist of the earlier song finds comfort and solace in his memories, the figure at the heart of "Devil Knows His Name" is trying to outrun the nightmares of his past. Washes of haunted instrumentation flow through the song like a tumbleweed until the guitar explodes and the song fades into an uncertain fate….
The album's namesake, "Ain't No Train Outta Nashville," tells the story of every hopeful songwriter and singer that ever made their way to the Music City in search of something to build a life upon. With the lyrics set to a swinging rockabilly beat, the song's truth lies beneath Berwick's tongue-in-cheek delivery, the words summing up the songwriter's experience. Describing a staggering blur of beer, cheap motels, bad jobs and dashed hopes, he sings, "I play most times for free, and sometimes I just play to eat." There's no way to escape intact, "once you're here, you're here to stay, if you're a songwriter, they just throw the key away."
The hauntingly beautiful "Only Bleeding" ties Ain't No Train Outta Nashville with its predecessor and it fits perfectly well on either album as both recordings, in their own individual way, are primarily about the continued chase of fame in the face of constant rejection or, worse yet, lack of recognition. Displaying the same sort of defiance as Dylan's "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," Berwick's Midwestern drawl sums up the intense loneliness and the darkness felt by every songwriter and poet in the face of indifference. The song's protagonist is an almost divine figure, shouldering the sins of everyman and offering salvation through his own pain, as expressed by this, and every other song that touches upon the bleak fate that befalls us all, from Springsteen's "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" to Joe Grushecky's "Blood On The Bricks." In the end, however, by forgiving those who would sin against him, the poet triumphs against those who would try to silence his or her words.
Fittingly, Ain't No Train Outta Nashville ends with the one-two punch of "Rusted Ball And Chain" and "This Used To Be A Town." Berwick searches for answers on "Rusted Ball And Chain," finding nothing but more questions. He reaffirms his commitment, however – to life, to love, to music – singing "freedom's just another word, if you ain't got a dream. Without a dream, your freedom, it just don't mean anything." And for those who doubt his efforts, he adds, "people try to put me down, and throw me off my track, but I just keep on keeping on, there ain't no turning back." Roaring down the lost highway in that ghostly Cadillac, Berwick is in it for the long run and won't be dissuaded by the obstacles that are thrown in the path of every creative person. While others would give up with a whimper, this singer carries on regardless of the weight.
In the end, the singer does escape, getting out of Nashville only to go home and discover that "This Used To Be A Town." The memories of the past have been betrayed by the unrelenting march of "progress," the kind of small-town development that tears down the past to rebuild every town in the image of every other town. "Time bulldozed it away, built a couple of malls, and they both look the same," he sings, "don't they realize the childhood that died when they tore it all down?" It's an uneasy commentary on the state of America , a sad exclamation mark on the old saying that "nothing stays the same." It's also a down song to end the album on, reinforcing, perhaps, the idea that you can't escape the past, so you may as well embrace it, protect its innocence lest somebody comes to take it away.
The best album of 2007 was actually recorded in 1993 and, surprisingly, it was so damn far ahead of its time that it sounds as fresh, dynamic and topical today as it would have fourteen years ago; maybe more so. Too rock & roll for Nashville 's taste, too country for the coasts, Pete Berwick has nevertheless been on the verge of his "big break" for almost two decades now. Luckily, it hasn't kept him from making great music. Ain't No Train Outta Nashville is proof that you can't keep a good man down, and if you ain't listening to Pete Berwick, then you ain't listening to shit....