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First Play: Art Bergmann, Remember Her Name

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Andrea Warner

In 1991, Art Bergmann released his third solo record, a self-titled collection of songs that snarled and soothed, and marked a personal turning point in the singer-songwriter’s life. Now, 26 years later, Bergmann revisits this personal landmark of an album, remastered and re-titled as Remember Her Name. You can listen to the record one week before its May 12 release via the CBC Music player. You can pre-order Remember Her Name here.

The title is borrowed from the first track on the album, itself originally a compromise because the “her” the song references repeatedly is Marianne Faithfull, musician, style icon and one-time muse of Mick Jagger. But there’s another “her” Bergmann wants to publicly acknowledge and whose name he wants known: his longtime partner, Sherri Decembrini.

“This re-release holds a great depth of meaning for me as it comes 25 years after I met and married Sherri at the same time as writing and recording the thing,” Bergmann wrote in a statement about the remastered and re-titled reissue. “She is definitely a muse to some of these tracks, 'Ruin My Life,' 'Faithlessly Yours' and to the whole endeavour, really. She is my conscience to this day."

The reissue also recontextualizes Bergmann’s earlier work in contrast to his 2016 comeback, The Apostate. The album, which was longlisted for the Polaris Music Prize, was Bergmann’s first new release in 18 years, following a self-imposed exile from public life. In part, the semi-retirement was a necessary effect of his debilitating osteoarthritis. But he was also frustrated with the music industry, even in the mid-'90s.

“It just seemed like too many walls to smash through to get people to listen to my music,” he told CBC Music last year. “I mean, the kicker was winning the Juno [in 1996] and then getting dumped off a label. That was enlightening.”

Remember Her Name captures a Bergmann who was, perhaps, at his most optimistic. He’d just signed with a new label, had a Juno Award nomination in his pocket, and was profoundly in love. Sonically, it’s Bergmann at his most faithfully devoted to external influences: you’ll hear echoes of the aforementioned Rollings Stones, the Stooges, Elvis Costello. And yet those influences are still so pervasive that it’s easy to imagine Remember Her Name is new material for 2017, not a record that’s been largely lost to time for the past two decades. The album’s best track, the one that still carries the most momentum and vitality 26 years later, is “If She Could Sing,” a song that almost bounces off the piano keys. It’s rollicking and buoyant, and the backing chorus builds to this happily unhinged crescendo that is pure joy.

Remember Her Name will be re-released on May 12. Pre-order it here.

Art Bergmann tour dates:

May 12: the Ironwood, Calgary
May 19: the Rickshaw, Vancouver