Berkley Hart delves into its country-rock roots, not its hair roots. (courtesy photo)

No one ever said that you can't judge a folkie by his hairstyle, but it's a point that could be applied to San Diego duo Berkley Hart. Both of the group's namesake frontmen, Jeff Berkley and Calman Hart, have cultivated mangy hair-don'ts that suggest they either aspire to play in a .38 Special tribute band, or that they're closely related to Travis Tritt. It's enough to make you wish that Queer Eye's Fab Five would make a Pacific Coast road trip.

Once you get past such superficial issues, though, it's obvious that Berkley Hart's musical cardiovascular system pumps out sturdy, country-inflected roots-rock, with sharp harmonies and sharply observed song vignettes. Berkley honed his skills on the African djembe and applied that experience to his unorthodox, bare-handed percussion approach. He went on to co-found the Joel Rafael Band and jam with people like Steve Poltz, Ben Harper, David Crosby, and Jackson Browne. Hart worked the coffeehouse circuit, playing his acoustic material in Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah, before settling in San Diego.

Tuesday, January 13
The duo quickly developed a symbiotic musical connection, with Berkley playing on a Hart solo album and Hart encouraging Berkley to enter the Kerrville Folk Festival's 1999 Songwriter Contest (Berkley won the New Folk Songwriter Award). Their 2000 debut CD, Wreck 'n' Sow reflected Hart's bluegrass background while their sophomore effort, Something to Fall Back On, offers evidence of Berkley's rock leanings. At their January 13 Casbeers show, don't be surprised if they pull out a cover of CSNY's "Ohio," a hint of where their own heavy rootsiness is taking them. •



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