By Pat Launer
Take four mellifluous voices. Add two terrific musicians (and a great backup band). And what’ve you got? BHST, otherwise known as Berkley Hart Selis Twang — a mashup of San Diego Music Awards winners.
The first two (Jeff Berkley and Calman Hart) have worked together for years, as have the last two (Eve Selis and Marc “Twang” Intravaia). The killer concert at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts last Saturday was a CD release event for the debut collaborative album, “BHST.”
During the near-sellout evening, the group sang all 13 co-written original songs on the new CD — an appealing mix of country, folk and rock. The tight harmonies are gorgeous. The stellar acoustic and electric guitar-playing of Berkley and Twang, coupled with Berkely’s six-string banjo and Hart’s acoustic guitar and harmonica (not to mention Selis’ first effort on guitar), made for a melodious mix. The three backup musicians added rhythm and texture, but BHST sounded great on their own, too.
A medical emergency during the first set forced an early and extended intermission and a slightly rearranged second set, but the performers were flexible and unflappable, and the audience was right with them every step of the way — including for two sing-alongs (“Let’s Go Out Drinkin’” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling”).
Jack Tempchin, Encinitas native and writer of the latter song, as well as “Already Gone” (for the Eagles) and “Slow Dancing,” was onstage for those numbers, which were popular with the crowd. Ironically, a new song on Selis’ upcoming DC is also called “Already Gone” — a very different feel to the music and lyrics, though Selis said it could be taken as a response or sequel to Tempchin’s tune.
Selis is an irresistible presence, energetic and ebullient; she seemed to be having a blast (she even gave a shoutout to her “Mommy” in the audience). But it’s Berkley who sets the stage, gives most of the intros and gets the laughs. He’s a mega-talent: he not only plays and sings on the CD, but he produced and mixed it, and added percussion (and, reportedly, made soufflé for the group).
There were many touching ballads (most memorably, Berkley and Hart’s “It’s Gonna Be All Right,” with Hart singing the moving tale of a single father trying to raise a teenage daughter). “Tomorrow on My Mind” was a strong contender and “California Mountain Time” featured lovely imagery in the lyrics. The psychedelic rock lead-in to “Delilah” was a knockout, as was Berkley’s sitar-sounding banjo for “Norwegian Wood,” with its stunning harmonies. Best of show, though, was the encore finale, the wailin’ blues of “Steam Roller.”
The group road-tested the new CD songs all over England this past summer, but they made it all feel fresh, spontaneous and joyful.
Pat Launer is a long-time San Diego arts writer and an Emmy Award-winning theater critic. An archive of her previews and reviews can be found at www.patteproductions.com.
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