Material: Cliff Eberhardt has earned the right to call himself a piece of folk music history. Able to tag performers like Shawn Colvin, Suzanne Vega, and John Gorka as peers, he’s been livening up legendary spots such as The Bitter End and The Speakeasy since the late ‘70s. For this intimate, nearly hour-long performance, he delivered songs regarding the plight of the poor (“Room In The City”), the ability for good and evil to live within us all (“Thieves And Kings”), and a heartbreaker concerning heroin addiction (“Joey’s Arms”). The set concluded with “The Long Road,” a duet from 1990 originally recorded alongside Richie Havens.
Musicianship: Eberhardt’s voice, charcoal- rubbed flavor neighboring Bob Seger or Joe Cocker, bleeds masculine sensitivity while riding smoothly atop perfectly plucked notes. Sturdily constructed yarns are as likely to trigger streaming tears they are a reaffirmation in humanity. The definition of strength through simplicity, it’s no wonder he’s been hired by the likes of Coke and Chevrolet to grace their brands with a sense of toughness through unrepentant vulnerability.
Performance: Eberhardt is not a technologically savvy sort and would prefer connecting with listeners from within a darkened club instead of via his living room couch. He actively voiced his lack of comfort with the streaming format and even noted that he was “not monitoring” the chat. False starts marred three separate occasions. Yet while these missteps interrupted the evening’s flow, they increased Eberhardt’s overall appeal. When it comes to between-song chatter, however, he excels, restfully regaling his audience with captivating tidbits regarding his life and artistic exploits.
Summary: A master songwriter, Eberhardt’s contemporaries consistently tap him for the material. He is also an accomplished producer and arranger. Past label deals include Windham Hill and Red House Records. Yet he remains relatively unknown. It’s baffling that someone with his accomplishments and obvious talent could receive such a dim spotlight. Perhaps it’s a reflection of how many amazing musicians are currently vying for our attention. Or maybe it’s time we ended prioritizing flash and novelty over substance and quality. Let’s initiate a movement by patronizing one neglected artist at a time. Eberhardt would be as good a start as any.