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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Songwriter Matraca Berg is a two-time Grammy nominee and a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Berg is perhaps best known as a writer for other singers, including Martina McBride and Reba McEntire. Now, after 14 years away from recording, she's releasing a new album of her own called "The Dreaming Fields."

Critic Meredith Ochs has this review.

MEREDITH OCHS: Matraca Berg's new CD is about the broken dreams of adulthood, acceptance and moving on even when you know there may not be anything better up ahead. If that sounds sad, well, it is. But Berg folds these sad stories into a beautiful backdrop of melody and mood. On the title track, she waves goodbye to a family farm destined to become suburban subdivisions in a stunning, evocative ballad.

(Soundbite of song, "The Dreaming Fields")

Ms. MATRACA BERG (Singer and Songwriter): (Singing) Now, the houses, they grow like weeds in a flowerbed. This morning, the silo fell. And the only way a man can live off the land these days is to buy and sell. So I'm going down to the dreaming fields, but what will be my harvest now where every tear that falls on a memory feels like rain on the rusted plow?

OCHS: "The Dreaming Fields" is partly a rumination on losing a way of life, but it's also populated by lost souls. Perhaps, Matraca Berg is so good at telling their stories because she spent some of her career in the margins, while mainstream Nashville stars took her wonderful songs to the top of the charts.

(Soundbite of song, "Silver and Glass")

OCHS: This song is a cautionary tale about a woman who went in the opposite direction as Berg, trading in on her looks for stardom to a bad end.

(Soundbite of song, "Silver and Glass")

Ms. BERG: (Singing) Since you were a girl in school, you looked like an angel. They'd never seen the likes of you in that Texas town, but your body was a sinner's dream when you were barely in your teens. Pretty baby, you put all your hope in something so cold and easily broken. Silver and glass, silver and glass. But mirrors they crack and shatter when they fall.

OCHS: Not all of Matraca Berg's characters are so magnificently doomed. On this song, which sounds like a big nod to pioneering female singer-songwriter Bobbie Gentry, a mistress and betrayed wife team up, administering justice to the man they share when he trades them both in for a younger woman.

(Soundbite of song, "Your Husband's Cheating on Us")

Ms. BERG: (Singing) Then she said, you look surprised. Well, I'm surprised that you never knew. I can't believe you didn't see or pick up on my rather strong perfume. Well, anyway, we've been replaced, and she's much younger than me and you. I know she's out there with him now, doing things that we used to do. If we got together, don't you think we'd be dangerous? Your husband is cheating on us.

OCHS: Whether she's etching landscapes out of emotional uncertainty or revealing how someone ultimately found their strength, Matraca Berg's gift as a songwriter is her ability to convey stories from the inside out. And even though she's had great success providing songs to others, it's even more compelling to hear them sung in her own expressive voice.

BLOCK: The new album from Matraca Berg is called "The Dreaming Fields." Reviewer Meredith Ochs is a DJ and talk show host with SiriusXM Radio.

(Soundbite of song, "Your Husband's Cheating on Us")

Ms. BERG: (Singing) Crows are on the line. Ah, ah, ah, ah. The weather vane is twitching. Can't you see the sign, sign, sign?

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