Berkley Hart

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Twelve Review

by Michael Berick

Berkley Hart is a San Diego-based duo composed of veteran singer/songwriters Calman Hart and Jeff Berkley. The 14-track Twelve, their third album together, reveals that they know how to create appealing, harmony-rich country-rock songs. In fact, this disc at times feels like an excellent calling card for Nashville. Memorable songs like the "How Could I Not?," "Enough Is Enough," and "Twelve" all should spark Music City executives' interest. The first tune is an earnest love ode, the second impresses as a Jim Lauderdale-like ballad and the third is a cleverly constructed and catchy apologia. And while the opening tune boasts the "controversial" chorus line "I still love the Dixie Chicks," it too is a rousing, hook-filled number that would find favor among the Nashville brass. One problem with the disc, however, is that it suffers slightly from a lack of a strong identity (not surprisingly when the two singer/songwriters are splitting singing and song duties). A prime example occurs in the middle of the disc as it moves from "Holding the Sun"'s laidback groove to lively jump blues of "Big Bad Barbie Doll" before abruptly slowing down again with the gentle country ballad "I Ain't Nothing." And while the songcraft often comes off as impressively tuneful ("Across the Rubicon," "Twelve"), other numbers also seem a little too soft and generic ("All Roads Lead to You," "Slide"). Still the duo shows a lot of promise here -- as songwriters as well as performers in their own right -- and the disc's standout cut, the easygoing rocker "Gimme Back My Heart," would fit in with the best of Matthew Sweet's work.

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