In a Barn with Berkley Hart

[l1]U[/l1]pstairs at Kevin’s Acoustic Barn in Newcastle, Jeff Berkley and Calman Hart were amazing. The last time I found a musical performance anywhere near this entertaining was when Best Beloved took me to see Michelle Shocked at Marilyn’s in Sacramento.

The artists and venue graciously allowed me to video the event, so hopefully there’ll be clips of some of my favorite moments posted here soon.

Up the River with Berkley Hart

[az]B00006HCBB[/az][l1]H[/l1]ard to believe it’s been over five years since I wrote about ‘Elvis Einstein Rockefeller Jones‘ (and almost as long since I’ve seen my older kids, one of whom introduced me to ‘Wake Up, Charlie’ way back then; both songs and more are included on 2002’s ‘Wreck ‘n’ Sow’)

I found out earlier this week that Jeff and Calman will be doing a house concert at The Acoustic Barn, just up the road from us in Newcastle, a hilly town between Sacramento and Auburn, the seat of Placer County (Placerville, of course, is in El Dorado County; Yuba City, rather than being in Yuba County is in Sutter; I wonder how Sacramento ended up in Sacramento County?)

Listening to Calman Hart’s ‘Up the River’ from the unavailable ‘John Boy Drum’ reminds me that these guys aren’t a small-time bar band. Opening with a flute way off in the distance, ‘Up the River’ is a complex and painful song about loving too much and not too wisely.

For your love there's not much I wouldn't doBut I never dreamed I would sail up the river for you . . .

Why is it that what we all think of as love is so often just a peculiar sort of brain damage? Even now, after nearly four years married to the right person, painful memories are still just below the surface. Sometimes letting them out just a little relieves the pressure enough to move on again.

But, tonight, it’s just us and BH and the music. Thanks to Kevin and Co. at The Acoustic Barn; Best Beloved and the Little One and I intend to enjoy ourselves.

Elvis Einstein Rockefeller Jones

[az]B00006HCBB[/az][l1]A[/l1] while ago my second son Brendan played an MP3 he’d downloaded called “Wake Up Charlie.” It’s a poignant bluegrass tune about a young boy caring for his older brother, and why. I recognized the voices as Berkley Hart, an alt-country duo whose songs “High School Town” and “Something to Fall Back On” get some airplay on our local independent radio station KPRI.

Jeff Berkley and Calman Hart are gaining notoriety in the local music scene, and I certainly hope the rest of the country catches on soon. They swing wildly from bluegrass and straight country to tunes which defy pigeon-holing. Their lyrics are intelligent and thought-provoking and sometimes sad, their music carefully crafted and deceptively simple.

Songs like “Elvis Einstein” are the reason the genre ‘alt-country’ exists. The opening banjo is closer to Bela Fleck than Earl Scruggs, and the lyrics are a tale of a baby found in a dumpster. Delivered to a nearby church by the old man who found him, he’s left with a note telling the priest that, in order to give him a good start in life, his name is ‘Elvis Einstein Rockefeller Jones.’ In each succeeding verse, the boy gets a new name from someone who thinks he deserves better, but in the end, it’s not his name that makes him who he is.

Jeff and Calman have two albums together, “Wreck ‘n’ Sow” released two years ago, featuring Charlie, Elvis Einstein, and the tragic couple of “Barrel of Rain”, and their new album “Something To Fall Back On” released July 27th of this year. Many of their tunes are available at While you’re there, get copies of “Up the River” and “If I Die In A Nuclear War”, only available on Calman’s solo album “The John Boy Drum” which I can’t find anywhere.