From the first note from Cliff Eberhardt’s acoustic resonator guitar to the final trailing edges of the last electric guitar chord, you can tell that 500 Miles: The Blue Rock Sessions was a labor of love. Named after the Texas recording studio where it was made, Eberhardt’s latest release resounds with a depth of maturity and weltschmerz that few contemporary singer-songwriters can match.
Eberhardt’s career began when he was only fifteen years old. He began touring the Eastern folk club circuit as part of duo with his brother Geoff. In 1978 Eberhardt moved to New York City to pursue a solo career, but things got off to a slow start. While working as a cab driver, Eberhardt did gigs in the NYC area and played back-up guitar for Richie Havens and Melanie. He even sang on ad jingles for Coke, Miller Beer, and Chevrolet, where his voice could be heard on the early “Heartbeat of America” commercials. 1990 was his breakout year. Windham Hill Records released his first solo album, The Long Road. Since then, Eberhardt recorded two more Windham Hill Albums and then joined Red House Records in 1997. With Red House he released four more albums prior to 500 Miles: The Blue Rock Sessions.
Most of the songs on 500 Miles: The Blue Rock Sessions are never-before-recorded Eberhardt originals. Some, such as “I Love Money,” employ subtle twists in both melody and lyrics to tweak and bend them into evocative creations. Eberhardt’s “Break a Train” uses a train as an environment for a tale of lost love. The line “You can break a train, you can break a heart, but you never learn to like the sound...” echoes down through a long chain of great American train songs to the original singing brakeman, Jimmy Rodgers. The two covers on 500 Miles: The Blue Rock Sessions, Hedy West’s “500 Miles” and John Hiatt’s “Back of My Hand,” demonstrate Eberhardt’s unique personal performance style - his uncanny ability to find a song’s core meaning and amplify it with his performance. In Eberhardt’s hands “500 Miles” becomes a far more resonantly mournful tale.
Guitarist Mike Hardwick, bassist Glen Fukinaga and accordion player Joel Guzman contribute to 500 Miles: The Blue Rock Sessions’ lonesome Texas sound. Producer Billy Crocket gives the whole album a spacious free-floating ambience. Even the faster-paced songs are as wide and open as the plains around Levelland, Texas. Eberhardt’s smoky, richly nuanced vocals are given ample space to bloom like a field full of blue bonnets in early spring.