Cliff Eberhardt: Heartbreak kid
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, August 8, 2002) -- Not many do heartbreak as well as Cliff Eberhardt. And Eberhardt has never done heartbreak as well as he does on his new album, “School for Love” (Red House), due out next Tuesday.

If the album is at all autobiographical, Eberhardt has apparently been through the wringer lately. Fortunately for listeners, Eberhardt has an uncanny talent for turning heartbreak into great ballads – not the sort of introspective, navel-gazing diary entries and the like that lesser writers churn out. Rather, Eberhardt finds a way to make his misery romantic, universal and artful.

“Where did you go to school/To learn to be so cruel?” cries Eberhardt in one agonizing couplet, and “How could I ever be so lonesome/When your memory stays with me so strong” in another. The song titles alone tell more than half the story: “Every Time You Break My Heart,” “Merry-Go-Sorry,” “Love Slips Away,” “Whenever I Sing the Blues,” “Will You Ever Love Again,” “Never Fall in Love.”

On his sixth album, Eberhardt, who calls the Pioneer Valley home, couches his ballads in rootsy, folksy arrangements that emphasize his bluesy guitar playing and his soulful, Ray Charles-like vocals. Eberhardt’s melodies, however, are as sophisticated as ever – he is the missing link between Paul McCartney and Cole Porter. Listeners will get a sneak preview of the album – and perhaps a chance to buy an advance copy – this Saturday night at the Guthrie Center (528-1955) in Housatonic at 8. And if you see him, be sure to give him a hug – from the sounds of things, he needs it.

The righteous Holmes Brothers

Blues, gospel, r&b, soul and funk rarely are so seamlessly blended as they are in the hands of the Holmes Brothers. But the Virginia-bred sounds of Wendell Holmes, Sherman Holmes and Popsy Dixon, combine those musics in ways that often make it impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends.

This is heard to great effect on “Righteous!: The Essential Collection,” a new compilation of 17 Holmes Brothers’ tunes on the Rounder Heritage label. According to the album’s liner notes, Sherman and Wendell Holmes did time early on in their career playing behind Jimmy “Handyman” Jones and Charlie and Inez Foxx of “Mockingbird” fame. Later on, they labored in nightclubs all around the New York metropolitan region.

By the time the group began recording for Rounder Records in the early-1990s, the Holmes Brothers were seasoned pros, combining the best qualities of a bar band, as heard on the hopping rock ‘n’ roll of “Fannie Mae,” with that of concert artists, as on the tearful soul balladry of “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby.”

“Righteous!” also highlights the Holmes Brothers’s original songwriting as well as their well-chosen covers of songs by artists including Tom Waits and the Beatles. The Holmes Brothers play an encore engagement at Club Helsinki (528-3394) in Great Barrington on Saturday night at 9.

Africa by way of Vienna

What is the sound of Vienna today? Earlier this summer, Mass MoCA in North Adams kicked off the season’s “Vienna Project” with a dance party that sounded not much different from what you would hear in any urban dance club in the U.S. This Saturday night at 8, MoCA (662-2111) tries again to showcase the sound of cutting-edge Vienna with a “Viennese Café Concert” featuring composer/musician Lukas Ligeti and vocalist Mai Lingani of Burkina Faso.

Ligeti is a Viennese-born and –bred musician whose group, Beta Foly, is an experimental ensemble in the Ivory Coast that combines instruments and ideas from African and Western music. Mai, as Lingani is called, is one of the most renowned singers in her native land, and she first worked with Ligeti as a member of Beta Foly.

Together, Mai and Ligeti combine the buoyant rhythms and melodies of traditional African music and Afropop with ideas and textures from contemporary classical and electronic music, making for a traditional/contemporary, African/European world fusion.

If the music itself doesn’t sound Viennese enough for you, there will reportedly be authentic Austrian food and drink available before and during the concert.

[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on August 8, 2002. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2002. All rights reserved.]

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