Bernas - May the Better Man Lose
Rock in the Rough
can probably tell from the album title, this semi-acoustic
folk/rock debut recording from this Chicago-based singer is
full of heartbreaking songs that are real tear-jerkers. However,
Peter Bernas's record is an emotionally wrenching journey
which is convincingly genuine and touching, if not musically
words of Ralph Covert, fellow musician and Bernas's teacher
at the Old Town School of Folk Music, this album reflects
Bernas's development from a fledgling songwriter who had to
be coaxed into playing a coffeehouse, to an artist who completed
a full-length record.
writes in the liner notes, "There's something in these songs
which reflect his journey, a mix of pain honestly felt and
the determination to somehow rise above it. To dare to love
and fail, to dream and try again..."
surrounding the recording sessions for the album is as tragic
as the material on the CD. Only weeks after the sessions wrapped
up, guitarist John Duich, who figures prominently on the album,
died unexpectedly and suddenly from a heart attack. The album
is dedicated to his memory. It is clear that Bernas has been
through a lot, and he is emotionally vulnerable, insecure
and defensive. This defensiveness is most clearly shown in
the liner notes, where he wrote in big type "A big 'fuck you'
to all those who deserve it. You know who you are."
all the history behind this recording, it is best to proceed
with caution and an open mind when listening to it, but the
truth is that it is a very uneven album. Some songs are very
well constructed, but others are barely cohesive. Bernas's
singing voice is very inconsistent. He sounds like a poor
Neil Young impersonator, and he has an annoying habit of slipping
into spoken narrative, leading one to suspect that these pieces
may have been more effective as spoken-word poetry accompanied
"St. Agnes" features a most irritating device which involves
Bernas narrating each line just before someone else sings
them. Also, the second half of the album features several
tracks which can be regarded as filler, including a second
version of "The Girl You Knew Before" which is harder and
faster than the first.
W Chicago" was originally a Covert composition with English
lyrics before Bernas wrote new lyrics in Polish. "The Paul
Super Apple Blues" is an instrumental blues jam written by
Duich which only lasts just over one minute before ending
abruptly. That song appears to be unfinished, only put on
the album because Duich died.
other hand, songs like the album's opener, "Apart" (which
is the first song Bernas ever wrote), "The Girl You Knew Before"
(both versions) and the album's last two tracks, "My Addiction"
and "The Night Our Love Died", are well-written tunes which
are very enjoyable.
the Better Man Lose is an album which alternates between
the craftsmanship of one of Neil Young's solo acoustic records,
and cliché beatnik poetry set to music ("Here I stand, and
here I wait/A broken-hearted man waiting for his fate"), all
sung rather poorly. However, it does score points for genuineness
and honesty. Peter
Bernas has poured his heart and soul out for all of us to
hear. What more can you ask for from an artist?
claims that with the help of his friends and teachers, he
has gone from being "a rock" to becoming, "a diamond, or at
least a nicer rock." This observer agrees, but he clearly
has a long way to go before he becomes a true gem of a folk
singer. It will be interesting to see if he tries again in
the future, or if he has wrung his emotions dry. Time will