David Berkeley & Ben Parker Bring Us Son of Town Hall

Welcome to the mythic world of Son of Town Hall, the unusual union of Ben Parker of London, England, and David Berkeley of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Parker, a London-based songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist, and Berkeley, a celebrated singer/songwriter/guitarist/author/auteur, have created a buoyant narrative that transcends time and space, complete with tenement-era imaging that one can feast eyes upon in real time, should you be lucky enough to find yourself in one of their November tour markets (see below for dates).

The tour will coincide with the release of both a 45 and a 4-song EP CD, eponymously titled. Check out “Honest Man,” from the EP here: https://soundcloud.com/davidberkeley/honest-man

Says the Santa Fe New Mexican, "As Son of Town Hall, Santa Fe's David Berkeley and London's Ben Parker present themselves as a duo born of the high seas, where they traveled together on a raft, crafting harmonies and writing songs about wonder and woe. Their sound is light and plucky, purposely timeless yet anachronistic, a sort of aural steampunk.

Son Of Town Hall springboards from the story of the aforementioned two finding themselves side by side aboard a junk raft crossing the mighty Atlantic in search of new lands, new inspiration and to recover squandered fortune. It’s as if the two sailed their ship back a century or so. The presentation is at once completely transporting and utterly hilarious. Neither Berkeley, nor Parker openly acknowledge the anachronistic quality in their songs or presentation. They do, however, recognize how special their sound is. “Perhaps it was the salt spray in our beards,” Parker explains when we caught up with the two of them on the coast of Maine, “or maybe the solitude out there on the open ocean. Hell, we didn’t see another soul for the better part of a month. But we learned to sing out there. More importantly, we learned to sing together.” And sing together they do, harmonies that haven’t been heard, perhaps, since the Louvin Brothers. “You learn a lot on the high seas,” Berkeley adds. “You can’t count on a whole lot. My guitar ultimately was down to just four strings, and none stayed in tune. But we developed a blend and a sound that we knew was something special. We just had to hope that it would translate on dry land.”

In other news, Berkeley’s acclaimed album, Cardboard Boat, released last year and featuring Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek) on background vocals, has more recently been interwoven with its novel accompaniment, The Free Brontosaurus, a collection of vignettes tied to the album’s ten heartfelt tracks vis-a-vis a brilliant audiobook.

The pairing of story and song has never been done in this way before (a song for each story’s main character from the book), and it provides a uniquely cathartic experience. Lyrical references are hidden throughout the tales, and listeners will find place names and details from the stories throughout the songs. The audiobook is the perfect way to present this dual creation, as listeners will alternate between story and linked song seamlessly. The Free Brontosaurus is full of dark humor and sadness, each story a profile in loneliness and grace, and Berkeley has collected a wonderful cast of songwriters to read:  Vienna Teng, Dan Bern, Garrison Starr, Kim Taylor, Natalia Zukerman and Jono Manson; plus band mates Jordan Katz and Bill Titus; Berkeley’s wife Sarah Davis (who also sings on the album’s closing track); and Berkeley himself reads the closing story.

The overall result makes for a sort of rare auteur-issued experience, fully immersive, engaging and ultimately heartbreakingly beautiful. The book has a soundtrack. The music has a book. Look and listen.

Cardboard Boat, released on Berkeley’s own label, Straw Man, was recorded in a converted adobe near Berkeley’s home in New Mexico and features an impressive list of central musicians in addition to Watkins: trumpet and banjo player Jordan Katz (De La Soul, The Indigo Girls), guitarist Bill Titus (Dan Bern, Brother Ali), bassist/keyboard player Will Robertson (Shawn Mullins) and drummer Mathias Kunzli (Regina Spektor).

Said Popmatters’ Lee Zimmerman of Cardboard Boat, “despite its hushed essence, it’s an amazingly beautiful collection of tracks,” and No Depression’s Cara Gibney who proclaimed, “Cardboard Boat travels beyond uneasiness and separation, though those are the contexts, the potential empathies, and probable sympathies. Listen and you will find connection and much more light.” San Francisco Chronicle adds “Berkeley’s a musical poet.”

SON OF TOWN HALL SHOWS:

Thurs Nov 10 – The Lilypad (Boston)

Fri Nov 11 – Dusty Ridge (Putney, VT)

Sat Nov 12 – Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3 (NYC) – 2 shows, matinee and evening

Sun Nov 13 – Casa Phoenix (DC)

Mon Nov 14 – Bourbon and Branch (Philadelphia)

Tues Nov 15 – The Atrium (NYC)

Wed Nov 16 – Secret (Brooklyn)

Thurs Nov 17 –The Great Room (Memphis)

Fri Nov 18 –The Terrace (Nashville)

Sat Nov 19 – The Loft Series (Atlanta)

Sun Nov 20 –Eddie’s Attic (Atlanta)

 

DAVID BERKELEY SOLO DATES:

Sat 10/22: Cave Concert (Santa Cruz, CA)

Sun 10/23 Back Room (Berkeley, CA

Sat 12/9: Meow Wolf (Santa Fe, NM)

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