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Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2008 11:07 am

Singing songwriters in Berlin

Nashville singer/songwriter Sally Barris joins locals on Saturday

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Sally Barris (above), Ben Bedford (below), and Tom Irwin play at the Old Berlin School house on Saturday, Jan. 26.

Honestly, folks, I really do try to keep my job as a music columnist separate from my work as a musician, but once in a while I’m involved in a show that deserves to be highlighted. This Saturday, Jan. 26, I’m playing with Sally Barris and Ben Bedford at the Old Berlin Schoolhouse in Berlin. (My three sons, performing as the Irwinites, open the show.) We three singer/songwriters are performing in what’s called “the round” — we’re all onstage at the same time, taking turns. Barris is the honored guest here, so we’ll concentrate on her story. Inspired by the work of such mid-’80s country/folk artists as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Nanci Griffith, and Lyle Lovett, Barris moved to Nashville from Minnesota in the early ’90s, hoping to establish a music career. She signed with the prestigious publishing company Wrensong and slipped right into the Nashville songwriting scene. Over the last 15 years she’s had decent success, with her songs recorded by such heavy hitters as Kathy Mattea, Martina McBride, Lee Ann Womack, and, most recently, Trisha Yearwood. Her lyrically unique music, which is not mainstream modern country (thank goodness), is supported by common folk motifs, specifically Irish and English traditional song structures and melodies. Branching out into singer/songwriter territory, Barris co-produced Restless Soul, her recently released CD with Chas Williams, a Nashville musician and producer who also worked as player/producer on Bedford’s latest work, Lincoln’s Man. The record features some well-known Nashville pickers. Barris originally played in central Illinois a few years back at the Cabin Concerts series in rural Pleasant Plains co-hosted by local musician and healer Ann Bova. Berlin (as opposed to New Berlin) is about seven miles west of Springfield on the Old Jacksonville Road (which begins as Monroe Street), and the old schoolhouse is next to Berlin Cemetery, behind the Berlin Christian Church. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. and costs $20. Call 217-741-8411 for more information. Thank you for allowing me to be self-indulgent; now on to other spectacular news. After ruling the local music scene for several years with bands and bars at its top and bottom, the Hilton Springfield brought the fun times to a screeching halt in September. The Underground City Tavern is forever buried under a Bennigan’s, but — amen brothers and sisters! — Jazz Central Station (Hilton Springfield, 700 E. Adams, 217-789-1530) is alive and well, back with bands on weekend nights and DJs on Wednesdays and Thursdays. This Friday it’s Typhanie Monique and Neal Alger as the Duo, a Chicago-based jazz/soul/groove group whose 2007 CD In This Room was recently chosen for consideration as a 2007 Best Jazz Vocal Grammy nominee. Saturday features Prism, a funk/dance/jam band out of Fort Collins, Colo., in the midst of a national tour. Music is back atop the mighty Hilton. Yippee!

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.
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