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 MP3.com. 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.