Jeff Berkley ("I'm one of the rare native San Diegans") and Calman Hart ("I moved here from Utah in the early '80s") joined forces as Berkley Hart in October 1999. Berkley thinks it's their third and most recent album Twelve that best captures their rootsy Americana sound. "About a year ago we built a new home studio, so that was our first entirely self-produced effort. I've been producing records for a while but never had my own equipment. Now that I'm engineering, I've been listening to a lot of older records and learning how the great bands got that actual sound you know them for."
In the gap between records, Berkley Hart have played some oddly themed shows. "We do it just to put a different spin on things," says Hart. "For New Year's 2001, we did '2001: A Berkley Hart Odyssey,' which was the film music with a smoke machine. There was the 'Harvest Moon Party' -- all Neil Young songs from that album with a bale of hay and a scarecrow onstage. We once played an entire album by Gregory Page, The Romantic Adventures of Harry, including an outtake that wasn't on the album. Gregory was there and played with us at the end of the night. We even did 'Berkley Hart Bingo,' where we put all our song titles on bingo cards. As we'd play a song, you'd mark it off and jump up and yell if you got bingo."
The newest tribute show is called "O Berkley, Where Hart Thou?" wherein the duo will perform music from the film soundtrack O Brother, Where Art Thou? and similar classic Americana songs. The show takes place Saturday, February 19, at the Seaside Church Auditorium in Encinitas. Also appearing will be Eve Selis with Marc Twang, Tim Flannery, Cindy Wasserman, Robin Adler, Lisa Sanders, and the 7th Day Buskers. Hart says, "We love that music and, as soon as we thought of the name, we couldn't resist."
FAVORITE AMERICANA/ROOTS SONG?
Berkley " '1913 Massacre,' Woody Guthrie. It's a horribly sad song, but I love the way he keeps you enthralled in the story for, like, six minutes."
Hart " 'O Come Angel Band,' an old traditional number -- especially the version by the Stanley Brothers. It's been done by so many people...Emmylou Harris even did a whole album by that name."
WHAT'S IN YOUR CD PLAYER?
Neil Young, Harvest ("I'm rediscovering a lot of older music.")
Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II ("It's like they're just jamming the night away.")
Nick Drake, Way to Blue ("He used a lot of alternate guitar tunings, which we do a lot too.")
Fleetwood Mac, Fleetwood Mac ("The one before Rumours, when Lindsay Buckingham and Christine McVie had more of a hand.")
Buddy and Julie Miller, Love Snuck Up ("Americana country...Buddy plays guitar in Emmylou Harris's band, and Julie has written songs for her.")
James Taylor, Hourglass ("One of my favorite songwriters.")
John Katchur, Friend of the Moon ("He's started the original Java Joe's scene and introduced Jewel to everyone.")
Emmylou Harris, Starbucks Artist's Choice ("It has everything from Springsteen to Daniel Lanois.")
Nick Drake, Pink Moon ("There's a sort of Zen-ness to his music.")
CHOCOLATE OR VANILLA?
Berkley "Dark chocolate, for the same reason I like Guinness more than regular beer. It's just more bodacious."
Hart "Chocolate, 'cause you get a little buzz from it."
LOCALS DESTINED FOR FAME?
Berkley "If you mean outstanding, not just someone lucking into fame, I really like the 7th Day Buskers. Lisa Sanders has a lot going on too. We're lucky to have bands like that in a small-city scene like ours."
Hart "Steve Poltz. He can take a room with 3000 people or with just 3 and completely captivate them. Eve Selis has been hooking up with Nashville songwriters, and she has a good shot. That Tom Waits guy, he's good too."
WORST GIG STORY?
Berkley "In one of my old bands, we had a song included on a Jazzercise tape, given out to classes all over the country. So when they had a big Jazzercise convention downtown at the [San Diego] Convention Center, they brought in all the bands who'd done the music. We played our regular set, but then they wanted us to get up with them and Jazzercise for the big end number. And we did it! We Jazzercised ourselves off the side of the stage and went home with our tails between our legs."
Hart "In Oklahoma we were booked for a gig at a college in Tulsa on the same night as the Oklahoma State playoffs, and the entire state was watching it. Nobody showed, but we still played. The only people that came in were asking when the game started."
FIRST INSTRUMENT OWNED? AGE/COST?
Berkley "A white upright piano. My parents got it for me when I was three or four. My father was a minister, and it was handed down from some old church -- all dirty, cracked in a bunch of places, and I think it leaned to the left. I messed around with that until I was old enough to set up boxes to play with wooden spoons, after I decided to become a drummer for a while. It didn't cost me anything. Since it came from a church, it was a gift from God."
Hart "A red-and-yellow electric guitar. I can't remember the brand, but it wasn't very expensive. It wouldn't stay in tune, and the action was too high. It wasn't until I got an acoustic guitar that I took it seriously, but I have pictures of me holding it and looking all rock and roll. I was 12. You'd have to ask Santa how much it cost."