Cliff Eberhardt,
Borders
(Red House, 1999)

Cliff Eberhardt is my favourite kind of folksinger: totally different from any other I've heard. From the liner notes: Borders is about "frontiers, and the lines that demarcate the spaces ... physical and personal ... that divide us all." There's a lot of song-worthy material under that umbrella, as Eberhardt proves. He is a songwriter. He is a poet. And he sings. And then there's that guitar he plays. Rarely, those characteristics combine to create a record that can trouble you, make you think back on good memories long forgotten, and involve you in an entirely new, passionate, musical experience. Borders is one of those records.

His voice reminds me of a warmer John Hiatt, as does the blues-tinged country folk-rock that he sings. His lyrics are honest, and tortured enough to make you wonder if they're as personal as they sound.

In the opening track, "Why is the Road So Long," Eberhardt ponders why going home is never as easy as leaving it, suggesting that there is something besides distance that keeps us away. Liz Queler and Seth Farber provide a beautiful harmony, adding a note of desperation to the lyrics. A piano/violin accompaniment by Farber and Carol Sharer adds to the drama and hopelessness of "The Wrong Side of the Line," which explores the dynamics of life when a Virginia family is caught south of the line when Civil War comes to Georgia: "I never dreamt that I'd be walking with strangers/Because I was born on the wrong side of the line." And then there's "Anna Lee," a sad love song, full of dobros (played well by Eberhardt) and piano and heartbreak. "The Long Goodbye" is a country tune; the music sounds like that tune you hear in classic westerns when cowboys are ramblin' by.

Eberhardt pulls influences from blues, rock, country and folk, and meshes them together very well. The result is an excellent record, easy to listen to and full of songs that I keep finding myself singing.

[ by Rachel Jagt ]
Rambles: 18 May 2002



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