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Cindy Lee Berryhill

Whether or not one can class American singer-songwriter CINDY LEE BERRYHILL (born June 12, 1968, Silverlake in Los Angeles, California) as a true modern-day folk artist, it was she who initially coined the phrase Anti-Folk.
After pursuing theatre studies in L.A., Cindy Lee fell in with the local punk scene and formed her first band, The Stoopids (a few recordings do exist on cassette). Subsequently becoming disillusioned with her musical environment, she suffered a nervous breakdown and it was the second half of the decade before she fully recuperated. The stalwart feminist and liberal finally made it onto vinyl via a various artists compilation, `The Radio Tokyo Tapes, Vol.3’, the track in question being her sardonic, CHRISTINE LAVIN-like `Damn, Wish I Was A Man’. The latter song featured on her debut Rhino Records solo set WHO’S GONNA SAVE THE WORLD (1987) {*7}, a record that gained a release through UK folkie imprint New Routes a year later.
BERRYHILL’s Lenny Kaye-produced follow-up NAKED MOVIE STAR (1989) {*6} found her dabbling with jazz styles but failing to convince record buyers; one track that stands head and shoulders above the rest is `What’s Wrong With Me?’ while the 13-minute `Yipee’ goes beyond its narrative PATTI SMITH-like avant-poetry. At the turn of the decade, she suffered the loss of all her personal effects when they were stolen en route to her new home in San Diego. A few years later, skinny Cindy Lee’s career was reactivated following interest from the Earth Music stable, her long-awaited third set GARAGE ORCHESTRA (1994) {*8}, named after her backing musicians. With more than a nod to The BEACH BOYS (check out her homage `Song For Brian’ Wilson) and swerving away from folk music, one must get a listen to the longest track aboard, `UFO Suite’.
BERRYHILL suffered further misfortune as her husband Paul Williams was injured in a serious motorbike crash in 1995. Although she nursed him through his ordeal, the resilient songstress found time to cut a fourth album STRAIGHT OUTTA MARYSVILLE (1996) {*6}, pitched via Britain’s long-standing independent specialists Demon Records. A bit of a let-down by comparison, it still contained one her best tunes `Unwritten Love Song’ and a cover of DONOVAN’s `Season Of The Witch’; the intimate and live concert set LIVING ROOM 16 (1999) {*7} saw at least four new tracks (from the autobiographical `Family Tree’ to the fragile `This Way Up’) alongside some past gems including `Gary Handeman’ from her brill third long-player.
2007 saw Cindy Lee make her comeback through BELOVED STRANGER {*7}, a record that had lost none of her caustic and sardonic wit (example `Make Way For The Handicapped’), while there were fractured pop explorations through `Unexpected Passages’ and the anti-Bush sentiments of `When Did Jesus Become A Republican’; in-session veterans from her new wave salad days comprised John Doe (X), Peter Case (The PLIMSOULS) and Dave Alvin (The BLASTERS). Sadly, her husband Paul died of dementia in March 2013; she’s currently living in Encinitas, CA with her son.
© MC Strong 2011/GFD2 // rev-up MCS Apr2015

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