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Songs and Stories - John Berry
Songs and Stories
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Reviewed by Matt Bjorke

Have you gone to an artist's show and wished to hear your favorite song from one of their albums? When John Berry decided to embark on an acoustic show in 2002, he had those exact songs in mind when he went to perform the shows. Wanna know the best part about the acoustic tour? John recorded the shows to make his self-released new CD. Containing eighteen songs and stories intersperced throughout, Songs & Stories has everything a John Berry fan could want.

Opening with "She's Taken A Shine," a Billboard Top 5 hit from 1997, John shows off both his guitar playing and his strong tenor voice. This song, about a plain Jane who blooms into a beauty when one guy gives her the light of day, is from the 1996 album Faces.

Right after "She's Taken A Shine," John breaks into his first ever Billboard Top 5 hit, "What’s In It For Me." Released in 1994, from John's self-titled debut album, this uptempo song sounds really great in the acoustic arrangement. The song’s lyrics are about a guy who wants to know where a relationship is going before deciding to go after love.

After the song, John tells a story about songwriter Gary Burr and a song called "Salvation" which John thought would've made a great single. Sadly, his label at the time, Lyric Street, thought it was "too-Christian" and alas they released pop country stuff that saw John end his relationship with the label. As Randy Travis has proved with "Three Wooden Crosses," country music fans are primarily Christians and love a good story song.

"Salvation" is a great story song about a truck driver who has a statue of Jesus looking over the highway because he'd "rather have Jesus watch where He's going, because he already knows where he's been." I have always loved this song from John's 1999 CD Wildest Dreams and can't help but wonder how it would've fared on radio.

John goes on to tell a story about the inspiration for his 1995 hit "Standing On The Edge Of Goodbye." His friend felt that he had one foot out the door and felt that he was "standing on the edge of the driveway." John went on to write the song with noted songwriter Stewart Harris and it became a song that went on to have a double meaning for John himself for the song was the title track to his second CD, which was recorded after John had brain surgery to remove a cyst from the top of his spinal column.

Before singing his signature song "Your Love Amazes Me," John tells a neat story about a couple who got engaged at a John Berry show the year before and danced to this song. The song is one of my absolute favorites and to hear it as an acoustic track with just some piano and guitar strips the song down and absolutely shows what a great song it has always been. This song is from John's self-titled debut record.

One of the best stories on the CD is how John got to go to France to go to a songwriter's retreat. John compared it to going to band camp and how he had a great time with these songwriters. John's wife, Robin, who also sings with him at his shows, interjects that the family didn't go with him and John then says he did write a song for her. That song, "Sanctuary," was written with Darrell Brown, a frequent writing partner of Radney Foster. John says that this song contains his favorite line that he's ever sang, "You're the prayer that mother's whisper every night for their sons everywhere."

John kicks off the second disc with three covers and tells stories about Hank Snow, Growing up in Georgia and listening to Neil Young and then John Denver. The Neil Young story revolves around John learning how to play guitar to Neil's Harvest album and "Heart Of Gold" in particular. John then plays "Heart Of Gold" and nails a song that is tough to cover for many artists.

After the song is over he tells a story about driving around town with his sons, and one asks one time when the Harvest CD is in the CD player, "Dad, Why's he singing YOUR song?" That's a priceless story and I'm glad John shared it with his fans that were at the show and now even us who weren't lucky enough to go to the shows.

Those of you who remember the 1995 Country Music Awards will undoubtedly remember a poignant part of the show where John sang "If I Had Any Pride Left At All" with nothing but his acoustic guitar. That night, John tried to play it cool and ran into George Jones who said he sounded good. The version John does here is performed with a piano instead of the acoustic guitar but still sounds as great as it did back in 1995.

Oftentimes, my favorite tracks on a CD are the ones that never become singles. "Faithfully," from the Faces album is one of those songs. With the piano as the backdrop, John sings a beautifully written ballad that could be played at weddings and anniversary parties with lyrics like "As long as there's a river looking for an endless sea, I'll always love you faithfully."

John chose a stirring rendition of "America The Beautiful" to end his Songs & Stories CD. With his beautiful tenor voice, John sings a song that many have sung but failed to make their own. Apart from Ray Charles' version, I never heard anyone do just that until now. John could make a living traveling around to stadiums and singing this song along with "The Star Spangled Banner."

While he never was the biggest star in the middle of the 1990's John still tours and does quite well with a loyal fan base. After hearing, Songs & Stories, I have no doubts as to why those fans remain loyal to him. I have been to his shows and met him and this CD just makes me want to go out and see John again when he comes to my neck of the woods. If you want to hear an enjoyable live album, head on over to John's website and pick up Songs & Stories You'll be glad that you did.

Song List:

Disc 1:

  1. She's Taken A Shine
  2. What's In It For Me
  3. Salvation
  4. Standing On The Edge Of Good-Bye
  5. I Give My Heart
  6. Kiss Me In The Car
  7. Your Love Amazes Me
  8. Sanctuary
  9. How Much Do You Love Me
  10. Forty Again

Disc 2:

  1. 90 Miles An Hour (Down A Dead End Street)
  2. Heart Of Gold
  3. Annie's Song
  4. If I Had Any Pride Left At All
  5. Faithfully
  6. You And Only You
  7. I Think About It All The Time
  8. America The Beautiful
  9. Hidden Track: Power Windows.

Album cover used with permission of John Berry.

The album is only available through John Berry's website

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