- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2002

Like a lot of folk artists, Cliff Eberhardt is a singer-songwriter who schleps an acoustic guitar or two around the country for a living. Just don't expect him to sing about trains or rivers, or much other standard folk fare.

Mr. Eberhardt, 48, says his songs have been influenced as much by pop music as by folk. He describes his music as "very American."

"There's pop and old standards in there, and folk and blues and jazz and every kind of American style in there," says Mr. Eberhardt, who will appear at Jammin' Java Coffee House in Vienna at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

"I don't think I write any one kind of song, which has gotten me into trouble before, because I think people like sameness," he says.

Mr. Eberhardt started playing music right out of high school in the area of his native Berwyn, Pa. He moved to Carbondale, Ill., in the mid-1970s, where he played guitar with Shawn Colvin for a time. He moved to New York in 1978 and immersed himself in the city's folk scene, honing his acoustic chops, performing in clubs and writing. His was the voice people heard in the Chevrolet "Heartbeat of America" spots, among other advertising jingles.

He did not record his first album, "The Long Road," until 1990. It featured a duet with Richie Havens, who later covered one of Mr. Eberhardt's best-known compositions from that record, "My Father's Shoes." More recently, his songs have been covered by Lucy Kaplansky and Cry Cry Cry.

Mr. Eberhardt recently finished the studio work for his sixth album, as yet untitled. Co-produced with long-time musical collaborator and pianist Seth Farber and featuring Liz Queler on backing vocals with guest appearances from Cheryl Wheeler, Dar Williams and Mark Erelli, the CD is planned for an early summer release. On it he recorded several songs he has been performing for the past year including "Love Slips Away" and "Merry-Go-Sorry," a title which he gleaned from a book of forgotten phrases in English. It refers to laughing and crying at the same time.

This is his longest break between records "Borders" was released on the Red House label in 1999. Mr. Eberhardt attributes the gap to injuries he suffered in an auto crash two years ago. Despite performing almost immediately after his car was rear-ended in New England which destroyed two of his prized, custom-made Granata guitars Mr. Eberhardt said that within two months of the accident, "I just couldn't walk." Now, he is fully recovered.

He compares writing songs to working a crossword puzzle and says the appeal of modern acoustic music is mostly lyrical.

"These are not banal pop lyrics," he says. "I don't think there has ever been a folk song with the lyrics 'Hit me baby one more time' [from Britney Spears' "… Baby One More Time"]. We tend to tell more stories."

Mr. Eberhardt's shows run from soulful ballads to guitar-pounding pop-rock, punctuated by his funny observations of life.

He recently returned from one of his occasional outings with the "Winter's Night" group a song-swap involving Miss Kaplansky, Miss Wheeler and John Gorka which this year focused on Midwestern venues.

The current tour, which finds Mr. Eberhardt playing to rooms seating 100 to 300, will take him far from his Williamsburg, Mass., home all the way to Alaska, a place he grew fond of during his previous six visits.

"The venues are great and lots of people come out," he says. "I find people who enjoy this music to be pretty similar everywhere I go.

"I think people have become more diverse, audiences have become more diverse now," he says. "I'm drawing better now than I was 10 years ago."

Why? "I have no idea," says Mr. Eberhardt. "I'm just really happy it happened."

WHAT: Cliff Eberhardt

WHERE: Jammin' Java Coffee House, 231 Maple Ave., Vienna

WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday


PHONE: 703/255-1566

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