September 17, 2004
September 16, 2004
Katy Davidson, Cynthia Nelson and Cubby Berk gather for an intimate evening of song at the Zeitgeist Gallery
marvels about mountains. Another peers off into outer space and
gardens. A third draws inspiration from a departed doctor of music.
Despite their different muses, all find release in introspection and
On Thursday, September 23, these three singers-songwriters - Katy
Davidson, Cynthia Nelson and Cubby Berk - come together for an all
ages, acoustic set at the Zeitgeist Gallery in Cambridge.
Each musician comes to the Zeitgeist holding new material. Nelson,
the poet and seasoned rocker from Retsin who has toured with Sara Jaffe
from Erase Errata, brings her latest solo project, "The Sophie Drinker
Record." Drinker was a 1940's feminist musicologist. Jamaica
Plain-based Berk and her studio band, Lovers, recently released, "The
Gutter and the Garden," another beautiful arsenal of songs that
showcases Berk's gift for transcendence and grace as well as lyrics
that harness the power of blunt emotional confessions. The recording
follows Lovers' well-received "Star Lit Sunken Ship," which includes
Berk's lasting audience favorite "Winter Takes a Lover."
By far, the most stripped down of the musicians is Katy Davidson,
of Dear Nora, who comes to Cambridge with "Mountain Rock." At first
glance, the CD invites comparison to John Denver or a folky strumming
her guitar at the Newport Folk Festival. But Davidson says she's more
"Cat Power than Cris Williamson."
I had a chance to quickly talk with Davidson after she stayed up
late catching a Prince show in San Jose, California. When asked about
the recording's title, she explained, "I'm almost poking fun at classic
rock but I'm also being serious."
All told, Davidson's CD marks a sincere ode to nature. After all,
she wrote it while hanging out at her mom's house in the Arizona
desert, which sits at the base of a mountain. Besides being on a nature
trip, she describes the recording as representing a "life cycle." The
first track, "the lonesome border, pt.1" has Davidson finger-picking
her guitar, producing a pretty, classical sounding arrangement while
singing, "I know it's going to be a strange time/It can't possibly be
any stranger than the present." More than breakups or heartache, time
and place make up most of the recording's themes. Indeed, if Davidson
does have any love songs on "Mountain Rock," then they are dedicated to
bears, moonlight and stars. The life cycle ends with Davidson seeking
"truth" with a playful call of "come with me" on the gloomy titled yet
happy and buoyant-sounding, "suicide song."
Like the first, the other songs are mostly Davidson's voice
accompanied by chords on a guitar or piano. Throughout, simple, subtle
lyrics capture an acceptance of life's eternally Big Questions: "the
solution: it darts and it weaves/it comes and it leaves." Still, the
songwriter has her bag of tricks. One, she alternates songs with brief
instrumental tracks that seem to draw on a variety of eastern and
western influences. Then, either fearing or despising redundancy, she
stops her songs very unexpectedly. All are roughly two minutes long and
end as abruptly as a haiku.
Though Davidson lacks an expansive vocal range, she makes up for it
by matching complicated, melodic guitar layers that show off an
understanding of melody and sentiment. It should be a cool, intimate
effect to hear her nature trip bounce off the walls at the cozy
Presented by Truth Serum Productions, Cynthia Nelson, Dear Nora and
Cubby Berk play at the Zeigeist Gallery, 1353 Cambridge Street, Inman
Square, Cambridge on Thursday September 23. At 9 p.m. Admission $7. All