A big part of the back-story behind Cindy Lee Berryhill's first album in ten years, 2017's The Adventurist, is that Berryhill spent much of that quiet decade caring for her husband, the pioneering rock journalist Paul S. Williams, who died in 2013 after sustaining a traumatic brain injury in 1995. Williams' death doesn't drive most of the material on The Adventurist, but with the second track, "Somebody's Angel," Berryhill bravely opens up about his medical struggles, dealing with the loss of the love of your life, the pull between disappointment and wanting to find a new love, and the sudden onset of the responsibilities as a single parent. It's a remarkable, deeply moving bit of work, and it says a lot about The Adventurist that, as great as that song is, most of the rest of the album is absolutely up to the same level of craft and imagination. The Adventurist is an album about experience, challenge, and change, and if "Somebody's Angel" is the most openly autobiographical composition, numbers like "An Affair of the Heart," "The Heavy," "American Cinematography," "Deep Sea Dishing," and the title track show Berryhill's muse has been generous with her. As a songwriter, Berryhill is just as literate, witty, and knowing as she was when she was one of the pioneers of the anti-folk community, with the addition of a lot of hard-won life experience that informs the work. And the eclectic arrangements, with judicious use of horns and strings, suggest she's still reaping the rewards of her experience with her Garage Orchestra. If tragedy informs The Adventurist, it's not an album about death, but about life. Not every song here is a happy one, but taken together, this is an album that celebrates human existence in all its tarnished glories. And anyone who can record a tune using her dishwasher as a rhythm machine is an artist more than worthy of your support.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming