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November 15, 2000
Despite a disappointing turnout, Cliff Eberhardt demonstrated to an intimate yet appreciative crowd of about 50 at The Brokerage in Bellmore, NY that he is arguably one of the most engaging and entertaining performers in the folk music universe. Perhaps Long Island music lovers stayed home to take in more of the litany of lawsuits and counter lawsuits surrounding the presidential election. Those that ventured out on a chilly Wednesday evening to one of New Yorks best acoustic music venues caught a rare glimpse of a seasoned songwriter who has never sounded better or funnier. Eberhardt ran through a number of familiar tunes from his last three albums, accompanied for most of the evening by the ever impressive Liz Queler on backing vocals and Seth Farber on electric piano and what might only be described as an accordion-like squeeze box. Highlights were emotive, lively renditions of "Brave Little Gray," "Voodoo Morning," [this link is to a video clip on Cliff's web site] "My Fathers Shoes," "Mason Dixon," "Always Your Face" and "Borders," the title song from his latest CD. All through the lengthy set Eberhardt wasnt so much singing but dramatically performing the songs in his own inimitable style. The newly goateed troubadour also treated the audience to a handful of brand new tunes, with titles like "Love Slips Away" and "School For Love" written, he said, for his young teenage niece who was nursing a broken heart. All were impressive, each with hook-laden melodies.
Ever the tease, Eberhardt continually joked about launching into a medley of polkas, nimbly finger-picking the opening notes of various classic Polish dance tunes. Why was I not surprised he could effortlessly play these so well? In this writers view, Eberhardt is one of the most original songsmiths currently on tour, a highly intelligent and articulate artist whose penetrating and profound lyrics are sometimes overshadowed by his extraordinary guitar playing. But upon closer listening, the Philadelphia-born singers gift for the English language is abundantly clear. The words that tumble from his mouth are framed by a raspy yet deeply elegant voice that is at once resonant and, dare I say it, sexy.
Eberhardt chose to close the intimate yet remarkable evening with "Memphis," one of my favorite tunes from his 12 Songs Of Good And Evil CD (also covered by Cry Cry Cry). Eberhardt performed the song much slower than Ive heard him do it in past shows, lending a heart wrenching soulfulness to a song already bounding in emotion and passion. Perhaps the most rewarding part of the eveningEberhardt announced that he had just finished recording his new album, which he said could be in record stores as early as next April. Thats as welcome as the next Cliff Eberhardt performance I may be lucky enough to attend.Ralph DiGennaro