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Customer reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
8
Speed of Grace
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:$13.99+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime


on February 16, 2009
Matraca Berg is best known around the music biz as a songwriter, and not a lot has ever been heard from her as a solo performer. If you listen to this album, you'll hear a lot more than the Nashville sound or the West Coast polish. It's somewhere in between, and has an interesting sound all its own.

There are several standouts, and the music is consistently solid, with support from such stellar musicians as Michael Landau. Guns in My Head is an interesting turn on seeing yourself as the problem. There is a loping version of Parton's Jolene that fits the generally relaxed tempo of the CD. Come to Mama, a remake of the standard Come to Papa, has an awesome band groove and a little growl from Matraca.

The haunting "Lying to The Moon" is the most memorable tune here, and lends itself to repeated listenings. Matraca evokes an honestly hurtful performance, sounding as bewildered as the lyrics suggest.

This won't be the best album you've ever heard, but it will fit easily into any relaxed listen and reward you with a couple of attention getting performances along the way. You'll catch yourself singing the songs days afterwards.
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on March 18, 2009
If only for the cover of Dolly Parton's 'Jolene' this CD is worth buying; Berg's version puts all others in a class of 'second place'...she's made this song her own...I know this because when I listen I forget that I'm 'only' hearing a song instead of eavesdropping on a private (and passionate) conversation. The whole album is like this...wonderful writing from an artist who has released precious few albums. Buy this before you can't . It's out of print. You will not be sorry. Thank you Matraca. Can't wait for more.
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on May 13, 2014
I really liked Matraca Berg's first cd. This was her second one. I dont know if it's because she did some songs that she didn't write. But I dont think this one is as good. She is sort of like Nanci Griffith. It seems like as a vocalist she doesn't fit in any catagory. And her label doesn't know what to do with her.
I dont know if it was her own idea or somebody elses. But putting Jolene on this cd is an example. She does a good job on it. But it is forever a Dolly Parton song. And nobody including Dolly has anything on Matraca as a writer. I find it hard to believe that she didn't have better original songs then that. And these songs have sort of more of a bluesy lounge singer feeling to them. She has got the voice, and certainly the look to be a sultry blues singer. But this cd doesn't work.
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on November 18, 2009
Have to agree with everyone here about Matraca Berg. In 1993 I read a review of this in the now defunct "Stereo Review" magazine. That is when I learned of Matraca Berg's roots as a Nashville songwriter and bought this cd soon after. Though she had sucess as a songwriter for other people, her own solo recording career was not given enough attention. This album must have slipped by alot of people when it came out because Matraca Berg is the real deal. "Speed of Grace" goes for a more polished, atmospheric sound compared to her first one, this second album is closer to pop country/rock, at times it actually rocks pretty hard with some nice electric lead guitar work and driving drums, so this was maybe a slight departure from what Matraca herself considers her true sound (she left RCA shortly after this). Yet it is my favorite album by her. "Speed of Grace" has top west coast session men, excellent recorded sound, and great cd mastering by Bernie Grundman. For what it's worth, this is the cd my friend asked me to bring over anytime he bought new "high end" stereo gear. The quality is "audiophile". Great songs and a sincere performance from Berg make this little known disc a gem.
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on April 14, 2005
The name might not be immediately familiar but you know her songs:"Everybody Knows","Wrong Side of Memphis","XXXs and OOOs" (Trisha Yearwood),"Strawberry Wine","We Danced Anyway" (Deana Carter),"If I Fall You're Going Down with Me" (Dixie Chicks). She managed a minor hit herself with the relatively lightweight "Back in the Saddle" a couple albums after this one, but she usually deals in fairly thoughtful lyrics and relaxed arrangements.

If there's a fault with the disc, it's the pacing. She opens with her two weakest songs which decreases the likelihood of someone sampling her stuff at a CD shop picking up the album. If you keep listening into track 3, there's some really fine material here.

HIGHLIGHTS:

Once you get over the 2 false starts at the beginning, almost everything here is good to great: Her cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene" captures the power of a lyric about a romantic rival, "Guns in my Head" points responsiblity for the state of the world squarely at Berg and, by implication, at ourselves. ("Fear,ignorance and anger/Oh, these guns in my head are what keep me in danger") Unusual imagery anchors "Waiting for the Sky to Fall"'s unrequited longing ("There's a firefly in love with a distant star/Looking longingly up through the atmosphere") while "Lying to the Moon" finds Berg in denial about a beau's warward ways. "River of No Return" is a particularly dark look at a woman fed up with her mate and headed out the door ("Yeah, I cried myself an ocean/Now I'm gonna pack up my dreams and sail away/And my destination is none of your concern/'Cause I'm going down the river of no return") There's no anger to "Let's Face it"'s admissions of a flailing relationship...just resignation and a desire to break it off. ("Go softly when you,Go easy when you,Go sometime in the night/It's over, baby/Let's face it/It happens all the time")

LOWS:

"Slow Poison" just isn't up to par with the other tunes here and it's a bad note to lead the CD off with. While not "bad", it's not especially memorable and should have been buried toward the end if it even made the cut. "Tall Drink of Water" is a fairly ordinary lust song.

BOTTOM LINE:

Skip the first two songs if you're listening to samples here..they're not her best work. Listen to "Jolene","Waiting for the Sky to Fall",and "I Won't Let Go"..if you like those you'll probably like Berg. This is better than about 90% of what you hear coming out of Nashville, though I know she's got a truly great album in her at some point.

3 1/2 stars
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Matraca has emerged as one of the most important songwriters in country music history, yet her attempts to establish herself as a singer failed utterly for reasons that remain a mystery to me.

Following on from Matraca's debut album, Lying to the moon, which yielded four minor hits on the country charts, her second album, The speed of grace, was released in 1991. This album was even less successful than its predecessor. Curiously, only nine of the songs were new - Lying to the moon, the title track of her debut, was also included here.

Although most of the songs here were co-written by Matraca, she did a truly outstanding cover of Dolly Parton's Jolene, giving it a new, fresh, almost spooky arrangement. Among the original songs, highlights are Slow poison, I won't let go, Waiting for the sky to fall and River of no return, but I enjoy all the songs here.

Following the failure of this album, Matraca focused entirely on her songwriting, although she tried again a few years later, also without success. This collection provides ample proof of Matraca's ability as both singer and songwriter. Her cover of Jolene also proves that she can interpret other people's songs. So the contrast between her success as a songwriter and her failure as a singer remains a mystery.

All the tracks from this album and its predecessor were released on the British compilation The masters. When I wrote this review, that compilation was still available in the UK but is now out of print.
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on February 23, 2005
my first knowledge of this cd was the lyrics. i bought her cd, sunday morning to saturday night and COMPLETLY fell in love with this womans music. so i checked out the lyrics to her other cds. and they TOTALY amazed me. she has also written/co-written songs that other artist have recorded, artist like, Trisha yearwood, Mindy MCCready, Martina McBride, Suzy Boggus, Pam Tillis, Deana Carter, Dixie Chicks.

there is not a song on this album that i DON'T like. But some songs are better then others. she opens the album with the slow-passed song; slow poison, then she continues with the a little more up-beat song Tall drink of water, that not only sounds great, it also have clever lyrics, the 3rd song is amazing,let's face it! and so the album carries on, with one amazing song after the other, track 5 is her version of Dolly Partons classic; Jolene.

what i love about Matraca Bergs music is the wonderful images she gives the listeners, the words she uses in adition to her voice and the music.
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on March 5, 2007
I absolutely love Let's Face It, I Won't Let Go, and Jolene, so I think that this disk is essential. But unlike her first disk, where every song was great, the other songs on this one aren't quite so striking. So, you should buy this, but get "Lying to the Moon" first. It is the best alt-county album ever, and her masterpiece (so far).
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