Berkley Hart have found something that works. The combination of Kerrville New Folk Songwriter Award winner, Jeff Berkley, and stand-out wordsmith, Calman Hart, creates a pairing that has become one of the premier acoustic duos touring the country. Every Berkley Hart show is packed with entertainment as the duo combines their natural down-home humor with poignant, delicate, masterfully crafted lyrics delivered with stunning harmony and musicianship. Between songs, the obvious camaraderie between these two top songwriters shines as they effortlessly play off each other in what can only be called genuine comedy. Add in virtuoso playing from both Jeff Berkley (guitar) and Calman Hart (guitar, harmonica) and it’s easy to see why the two have become live favorites.
With their 6th studio album, “Crow,” the duo explore the ups and downs of life in song. Much like how the crow symbolizes despair and darkness in some cultures, while in others it is a harbinger of hope and light, this contrast fits the yin and yang of the songs on “Crow” both musically and lyrically, and thus inspired the title. Long-time fans are sure to find Berkley Hart at their best on this album while new listeners will definitely understand why this incredible duo is so admired. “Crow” has been nominated for Best Americana Album for the 2011 San Diego Music Awards.
Each of their previous five albums has earned nominations or won San Diego Music Awards (SDMA) and critical acclaim. In their 2009 effort, “Las Vegas,” Berkley Hart explored the sonic landscape as it relates to absence, love, loss, religion, redemption, and the power of rock and roll wrapped around the duo’s unique twists of observation. The North County Times said the record was “A throwback celebration of the glories of harmonized vocals, San Diego’s Jeff Berkley and Calman Hart are such gifted performers that they instantly elevate any song they touch. Soaring vocals in the model of Seals and Crofts or Loggins and Messina combine with virtuosic playing on guitar to create that elusive sense of magic that most bands never manage.”
Their previous album, 2006’s “Pocket Change,” was dubbed by the San Diego Troubadour as finding the duo “at its best, combining poignant lyrics with masterfully crafted melodies and harmonies. It captures their live sound in its purest form: two guys, two guitars, and an occasional harmonica or banjo.”
Prior to that, their third album, “Twelve,” released in 2004, was self-produced and recorded entirely in a home studio. The album received an SDMA for Best Americana Album. The All Music Guide noted, “’Twelve’… reveals that [Berkley Hart] know how to create appealing, harmony-rich country-rock songs. In fact, this disc…feels like an excellent calling card for Nashville.”
In 2002, the duo released “Something To Fall Back On,” which received that year’s SDMA for Best Adult Alternative Album. For that album, Relix Magazine proclaimed, “The band infuses its rich, harmony-laden songs with strains of bluegrass, folk, country and rock…while…their solid and finely-crafted songs are a good melding of yesterday and today.”
And their debut album, 2000’s “Wreck ‘n’ Sow,” was a critical success out of the box that won that year’s SDMA prize for Best Local Recording, and took home the coveted Best New Artist trophy to boot. SLAMM magazine said, “Sometimes an album surfaces that is so emotionally and musically authentic that it crumbles resistance to its genre.”
Both Berkley and Hart emerged from the Southern California coffeehouse circuit, each building sizeable followings of their own before joining forces. As a duo for more than ten years now, they have become fixtures on the folk circuit, making appearances at the Kerrville Folk Festival, as well as playing some of folk’s most prestigious venues including The Birchmere and The Bluebird Café. In 2005, they staged the first “O Berkley, Where Hart Thou?” a mulit-artist extravaganza that features music from the film “O Brother Where Art Thou?” and other ‘old-timey’ tunes. With a DVD of the first show now available, Berkley Hart have since presented 3 additional shows, featuring different performers, with another planned for 2012. Additionally, the duo continues the “Berkley Hart House Concert Revolution.” They ask fans to host an annual Berkley Hart show in their own homes and invite the people they know. They’ve played hundreds of house concerts not just in San Diego, but around the country, and have helped establish some now well-known series.