The Free Brontosaurus is a novella comprising ten interweaving stories. Minor characters in one story are major characters in another. It is a bit like Olive Kitteridge, if reimagined by Miranda July. These are gently written narratives of isolation, describing characters disconnected from home and community. The characters see beauty in surprising places, and that appreciation eventually connects and redeems them. Ultimately, their struggles help us to see a more beautiful world and to look at each other with greater empathy. This book is only half of this project, though, for it also comes with a soundtrack, one song per story, written loosely from the perspective of the main character from each tale. Both the book and the album can stand alone. However, when the two are appreciated together, an unusually moving and multi-layered world is born, likely to break and then heal the heart.
Berkeley’s sixth studio album is undoubtedly his finest. Here we find the lush arrangements and layered textures of strings and horns, guitars and keys we’ve come to know from his previous work. But there’s a new power in Berkeley’s writing and performance, perhaps a result of the New Mexico landscape in which he now writes and records. Berkeley’s vocals have never sounded been better, and when he blends with Nickel Creek’s Sara Watkins, the results are sublime.