THE DEBUT ALBUM from Baltimore songwriter Joseph Bernstein.
Coming July 14, 2020.
Full of wry and effortlessly poetic reveries about self-destruction and emotional life, 1941's cinematic sound infuses Texas balladry and Telecaster rave-ups with guitar pop and haunting arrangements.
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Joseph Bernstein and his wife Deirdre run a veterinary clinic in the Baltimore suburbs and have four children. Joseph had written songs since he was 18, but he'd put music to the side as he built his family and grew his business. At 45 years old, Bernstein is finally releasing his debut album, 1941.
The album started with a phone call in 2017. Bernstein had hit a very low point in his life. He called longtime friend Lawrence Lanahan, a Baltimore journalist and recording artist, asking if Lanahan would help him record an album. Lanahan, who also has young children, imagined a bare-bones recording, but he was so bowled over by the songs that he booked some of Baltimore's best musicians--including pedal steel guitar legend Susan Alcorn and button accordionist Sean McComiskey--and gave the songs the production they deserved.
The result, 1941, is beautiful and devastating, with understatedly poetic lyrics and a sound that’s Americana at heart but allows flashes of guitar pop, chamber pop, and even Irish traditional. And it’s peppered with scenes from the Baltimore suburbs ("I feel like a million dollars now/Lookin' like a Route 40 motel").
The album sounds timeless, not surprising from a guy who haunts antiquarian bookstores. The title track ponders a photograph of his grandparents taken hours before the news about Pearl Harbor broke, and the only cover song on the album was written in 1925.
Years of real turmoil play out in Bernstein’s songs, and by the end of the album, you get the feeling of standing in his shoes, memory reeling. That's the idea, Bernstein says: "Like Morrissey urges in 'Sing your Life,' these songs tell my story, the people and things I have loved, the people I have lost, and all too brief moments that will flash before my eyes before my life is over. The songs are often dark, but they saved me."
Two decades' worth of songs, featuring some of Baltimore's best musicians, recorded at a moment of personal crisis. Hear the album Joseph Bernstein had to make: