Songwriters: Matraca Berg, Gary Harrison
Though Matraca Berg is quite deservedly one of the most acclaimed and successful Nashville songwriters of the past few decades, her own recorded work has often been criminally underappreciated. She supplied numerous hit songs for the likes of Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, Suzy Bogguss, and Martina McBride, among others. She even won the CMA Song of the Year award for the Deana Carter-recorded hit “Strawberry Wine.” Still, her own efforts to break through as a recording artist in the country music mainstream continuously met with a cold shoulder from the industry.
Trisha Yearwood fans may recognize this particular song as having been one of the crowning moments on Yearwood’s stellar 2007 set Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love. The song later served as the title track to Berg’s first studio album in 14 years, released last year. It has now been released as a single and video.
“The Dreaming Fields” is a wistful reflection on the loss of a family farm that has stood for generations. Berg relates “Oh, my grandfather stood right here as a younger man in nineteen and forty-three/ And with the sweat and his tears, the rain and the years/ He grew life from the soil and seed.” The song goes on to invoke natural elements in rich poetic imagery, while weaving in some social commentary on the industrialization of agriculture. (“It seems the only way a man can live off the land these days is to buy and sell”) Berg paints a vivid picture of the world that has meant so much to her, such that any listener, regardless of whether or not you grew up in similar surroundings, can be gripped by it. She sorrows not just for the farm itself, but for a cherished way of life that has come to an end.
Some may dismiss Berg’s own recording as inferior to Yearwood’s, and indeed Berg obviously does not have Yearwood’s voice, but Berg herself gives a deeply moving performance that stands fully on its own merits. Backed by nothing more than piano and cello, her honey-sweet voice is full of subtlety and nuance – rising one moment, falling to a plaintive whisper, and then trailing off the next moment. She ends the song by choking out a soft, deeply felt “Goodbye.” Throughout her performance, Berg’s deep personal connection to her lyric is not only audible, but thoroughly unmistakable.
All in all, it’s one of the finest songs of Berg’s illustrious career. Music doesn’t get much better or more beautiful than this.