If I can convince even one person to track down "Bedtime Stories," I'll feel great. It's a no-good, rotten shame that the album is out of print, but you'll have a fair shot of finding it on eBay or at your local record & tape trader. This guy's a hell of a songwriter, to which this album and the subsequent "Triage" bore considerable testament. If you're a fan of folk-tinged American rock from the Springsteen/Petty school, this should be right up your alley.
Baerwald is more of a pessimist than TP or the Boss; like Mellencamp, he's less a believer in the American Dream, and very upset by its disintegration. Mellencamp believes it can be rebuilt; Petty is apt to find good-time alternatives; Springsteen has grown heavy on lament. Baerwald, on the other hand, gets angry, and walks his songs right into the street to observe the decay and report back. It's not a very encouraging trip to the front lines, but it makes for great music with some meat in it. That's not to say that he has no sense of humor or vision for the brighter side: "Dance" is a rollickingly sardonic take on paranoia, while "Good Times" is a more melodically upbeat ode to nostalgia. Much of the album, though, focuses on those things that we as individuals ("Hello Mary," "The Best Inside You") and as a country ("Liberty Lies," "Sirens in the City," "Stranger") have let slip away. Much to our discredit.
Like his colleagues, Baerwald can write a hook, so you can tap your feet while you listen to the testimony in his case against the system. Just don't forget the central message: While we fiddle, Rome burns, and very few are innocent in this fire.