Jefferson Berry & the UAC will release their Americana, folk, and jam inspired Prairie Fire, on June 9, 2023. The eleven original songs featured on the new album find Jefferson Berry’s signature combination of storytelling in the Urban Folk tradition accompanied by the skilled precision of the musicians in the UAC. “The songs on this record tell stories of relationships that I hope will be familiar.” Berry explains, “they are political relationships, love relationships and those relationships with one’s own path... those circumstances of ‘wherever you go, there you are’.” Following his first California tour in late May and early June, Jefferson will bring his band to The Living Room in Ardmore, PA to celebrate Prairie Fire’s release on June 22nd.
The UAC is anchored by the virtuosity of Bud Burroughs, Dave Brown and Marky B! Berkowitz. While acoustic by nature, never missing is the locked-in bass/drums drive of Uncle Mike Damora with Adam Strandburg and Fred Berman. Complementing all this with a variety of guitar styles, Berry brings a danceable style and contemporary point of view to a unique wing of Americana/jam /folk genres. The themes of the good love, the bad love and these strange times that were on display on Double Deadbolt Logic (2020) and Soon! (2021) are given an updated context on Prairie Fire.
The album’s first single “That Was Me,” features harmony vocals from Philadelphia’s talented and rising singer-songwriter, Emily Drinker. “The song makes a subtle reference to the most infamous grifter of all-times,” says Berry. “But in general, it’s about taking credit for things one didn’t do.” Next up, “You Could Do Anything,” reflects the hopes and frustrations of an urban retail worker with a guest appearance from Philadelphia’s “Dr. Sax,” Kenny Ulansey. Title track, “Prairie Fire,” takes the listener to the edge of an angry political rally and places it in the historical context of the country’s other turbulent times. “Get You Where You’re Going” is a blues track with routine drunk-driving, characters angling for the forever-here-after romance, instructions on how to buy drugs when out of town, and why cheap business owners can’t hire anyone.
Prairie Fire follows the release of Jefferson’s solo, acoustic album, Dreams of Modern Living. His video for “Locks and Guns” was an official selection of the 2023 Philadelphia Independent Film Fest. American Blues Scene raves, “there are singers. There are songwriters. There are storytellers. Sometimes someone is all three. When that happens, it can be something special.” And the Rocking Magpie cheers that the songs on Dreams of Modern Living are “keenly observed contemporary folk stories from the shadows in our lives,” while Americana Highways exclaims, “Berry’s guitar playing is emotionally instinctive, as he uses both rhythms and melodies to buoy the intricate storytelling of the lyrics.”
Jefferson Berry is a published and cited historian, but after leaving inner-city teaching he decided to go head-long into his music. Following the UAC’s appearance at the Philadelphia Folk Festival in 2022, Berry went to work on two albums: Dreams of Modern Living and Prairie Fire. “Locks and Guns” was the first single serviced to folk radio from Dreams and its music video that has been nominated for several film festival awards. While the video has received over 50,000 views on FaceBook, the response by trolling vigilantes has been remarkable. “I had no idea that I was making such a hot political statement with this song,” says Berry. “It’s become a mix of social justice and social media.” With film festival recognition from the UK to San Francisco, film music videos have become an essential part of the UAC mix. The Urban Acoustic Movie, a film about Philadelphia’s vibrant music scene, will be shot in June with a release to coincide with Prairie Fire’s 12” vinyl release in September. Jefferson is also in pre-production on two other music videos: “First Purple Light” and “Party on the Roof” (from Soon!).
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