Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Jack Williams and Cliff Eberhardt on September 27, 2003 at Moore Music in the House, Rockville MD
Scott Moore presented Cliff Eberhardt as the feature on a "demented" Valentine's day show at The Moore Music in the House shows about 5 years ago. (Scott: "demented" because Cliff writes maybe too eloquently about unrequited love?) Anyway, as Scott says, Cliff lives in Massachusetts and has toured with the likes of Christine Lavin , Patty Larkin and John Gorka.
Always of interest at Scott's is the background for the "stage" in his basement. This time there is a brown abstract design backdrop. I miss the more colorful ones you can see in the back of pictures from former shows.
Cliff's set includes:
Yankee - Cliff gives us the Yankee view of the South. When he traveled there recently, a tour guide who confided she is a lifelong Elvis fan asked where Cliff was from. When he said, Masschusetts, she said "oh bless your heart". Cliff implies this is the polite Southern equivalent of you are going to hell. That is not what Cliff literally says, however "oh bless your heart" become very very funny this evening.
You Always Say You Love me, every time you break my heart - Cliff calls this his co-dependent country blues song
Joey's Arms - A reporter once wrote that Cliff was singing about himself in this song, and he tells us he had to immediately assure his mom the reporter was wrong. Another reporter once wrote that singer song-writers write about their own sad miserable lives. It is not true, Cliff says, I write about your sad miserable life. (Someone's anyway. This songs nails addiction. As an addict - not to drugs/alcohol but to more middle class socially acceptable addictions- I find this song rings uncomfortably true.)
Land of the Free - "only in heaven, there are no borders"
I'm Goin Down to Sugartown, maybe we'll fall in love- great slide guitar on this, wow!
Love Slips Away - Cliff, a positive song about telling folks you love them while you can, still has that possibility/ probably of loss in the title!
In introducing Jack Williams, Scott Moore invites us to view the evening as a postgraduate course in master guitar playing. Professor Eberhardt gives us the Northern Style, and Jack Williams presents the Southern Gentleman Style.
Jack retorts that Cliff Eberhardt is the most delightful Yankee he has ever met. But he intends to celebrate the Southern man, reminding us of great Southerns like Woodie Guthrie and Josh White. Jack considers house concerts the ultimate folk venue, and like a true Southerner has a sense of history about this. He tells us the Leadbelly and Woodie Guthrie did a house concert in 1946. Jack's set includes:
Natural Man - "Josh White got the gift of song, but he never saw the promised land"
Across the Winterline the winterline - a place that lives in myth and before and after truth, and is it too late for love? - how to cross the line - that winterline...
The Old Buckdancer's Gone Jack sings this song he wrote when James Dickey died . James DIckey wrote the novel Deliverance and some wonderful poetry. Like Faulkner he was a mix of redneck and scholar; Dickey lived imperfectly and wrote beautifully.
How much better can the sun beat down? It brings a fever...the heat will make a beast of me yet... (In this basement room we feel the fall humidity. It is not a summer heat though, until Jack evokes it in this song.)
Walkin Dreams Jack talks about having no answer when people ask what does this song mean? (Jack it may be too brusque for you to say this, but my answer is: breathe deeply and listen with your heart. This song-poem is about our times, past explanations.)
Sometime before the break, Jack tells us its his first time to perform with Cliff Eberhardt, a great American songwriter and guitar player, even if he is a Yankee...God bless his little heart. In announcing the break, Scott challenges us to use the time writing a two-page essay comparing and contrasting the two singer-songwriters. Well Scott, we have the Yankee who is skeptical and sort of afraid of the South, and the Southerner who teases the Yankee, loves the best of the South and knows what the South is and what it could be (if/when it lives up to its lofty ideals.). Ok - maybe I'm reading in all my own stereotypes from history 101. In Cliff we have the man who knows quite a bit about losing love, unrequited love, and the dark side (songs of good and evil). And in Jack, a man of optimism, gentle humor, whimsy and caring, the care to look evil in the eye and still care kind of caring.
Jack William's set starts first:
You're the one
Tonight there is no border This is a song about the Southwest. Texas is one of the least understood States; it is about 6 States (yes this sounds right.) Jack takes us to a moment in time, evoking the sights. sounds, and and feel of the night and border on the Rio Grande.
This Moment is Mine - a runaway slave speaks - I watch the stars, I watch the signs
Mr. Cherry - damn your soul - was God nearby? Some thoughtful angry words about the Birmingham church bombing.
Coyote - The trickster god who leads you out to where you need to be.
Cliff Eberhardt's set:
What I Gonna Do
All I can see is you
Whenever I sing the blues
That Kind of Love - (Oh, oh it is steamy hearing this. At the break, singer-songwriter and Cliff Eberhardt fan Eliot Bronson exaggerated that this is "folk sauna" night, but it is not the room temperature that is turning up the heat now!)
I know what Happiness is (this is NOT the bite me song) - though it is maybe a jaunty little melody with a demented twist
Goodnight - I hope if you dream you have a dream of me (Scott tells me Cliff wrote this when he was 18. Oh I think, another prodigy, like Baltimore's young Eliot Bronson!)
A fast and furious pun exchange between Cliff and a guy in the audience about bowling and lots of other things leads Scott Moore to announce that anyone who buys a Cliff Eberhardt CD also get a free bowling game (not!).
And at one point Cliff's humor got so raucous, after the show Debra Shapiro said "there should be a show with Vance Gilbert and Cliff Eberhardt, but that show would require frequent bathroom breaks, otherwise we would all pee in our pants from laughing so much".
It is late when we left the Moore's. Either Cliff Eberhart or Jack Williams is a full evening. So we left rich with 2 evenings worth of song, wisdom and humor. M o o o re Music - YES!