Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

In 1988, I had been hanging out with a bunch of singer-songwriters on New York’s Lower East Side, reporting a story for Option magazine (which you can read here) about a new punk-inspired movement called “antifolk.” I’d interviewed several people for the piece: Lach, Roger Manning, Michelle Shocked, Kirk Kelly — and Cindy Lee Berryhill. At the time, Berryhill was working on her second album, Naked Movie Star, and I was able to parlay my one story into two, writing this short blurb for Spin magazine. It’s not nearly as substantial as the think piece that I did for Option, but it was fun writing it, and two paychecks are better than one.

She left Southern California for New York City’s new Village folk scene.

By Mark Kemp, Spin, June, 1989

CINDY LEE BERRYHILL is hanging out in the rain beside a revival movie house in New York’s Greenwich Village. Her shortish blond hair is soaking wet and hugging the sides of her face. Under a second-hand overcoat, she wears a black leather jacket, torn tights, and a pair of shiny black wingtips. She’s just finished Naked Movie Star, her second LP, a collection of folk hottail jazz and beat theatrics produced by Lenny Kaye. On it, she comes clean about all the true-blue Americana of her past.

Cindy grew up in Harper Valley, USA. Her mom, who wore a conservative wig in public to conceal her mod hairdo, sent Cindy off to school in miniskirts — and Cindy would get in trouble for wearing them. Her dad wore groovy turtlenecks. Cindy’s parents had his-n-hers guitars and played ’60s and ’70s folk songs — Glen Campbell folk songs like “Galveston” and “Wichita Lineman.” When she was 10, Cindy got a guitar of her own. “My friends and I would pretend we were the Partridge Family and I’d be Danny,” Cindy says in her southern California drawl. “I luuuved Danny.” Now she writes lyrics like “she cut his banjo strings with a knife,” and works with Lenny Kaye.

“Lenny’s a rock god,” Cindy says. “I don’t think of him as Suzanne Vega’s producer; I still think of him as Patti Smith’s guitarist.” On “Yippie,” Naked Movie Star‘s long, climactic rhapsody, Kaye (who plays on the record under the name Jones Beach) slashes out semi-psychedelic chops that clip and stutter and bend like on “Land,” from Smith’s classic album Horses. Meanwhile, Cindy moans Kerouac-like speed poetry.

The record’s a mixed bag of post-punk, swing, jazzy R&B, country twangers, wailing ballads, and beatnik verse. It wears its influences like the buttons on those ancient new wave sport coats. But when Cindy hollers, “Eeo, eeo, eeo” against a squealing, plucked guitar, she’s checked the coat at the door.

Since folk music seems to sound better coming from New York than it does from California, Cindy sounds better today than she did last year. The distribution of ballads, anthems, R&B, and novelty songs on the new album mirrors her debut Who’s Gonna Save The World. But that’s O.K. “Rock ‘n’ roll,” Cindy says, “was market tested in the 60s.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.