Brent Berry & Honest Abe
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Brent Berry & Honest Abe

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The best kept secret in music


"'Monsoon' Blows Into Taos"

Brent Berry and Honest Abe have stormed onto the Taos music scene with their just released CD, “Monsoon,” a collection of original island inspired jam tunes. To understand how a group of musicians comes up with this Caribbean sound in the middle of the high mountain desert, we’ll need to go back a few years. Brent Berry, founder and lead songwriter in the group, was 13-years-old when he joined the famous Kansas City Saint Andrews Bagpipe and Drum Corp as a jazz drummer. He spent the next four summers touring nationally with this group of more than 40 bagpipers and drummers. Berry recalls, “We competed regularly in highland games and it made me competitive and taught me discipline.” Soon, he was brought into the Kansas City Traditional Music Society and began to learn Afro-Cuban. “They really fostered my craftsmanship,” he said.
A couple of years later, he went to Puerto Rico to find another teacher. “A local group of elders taught me in the ways of Bomba Plena (traditional Puerto Rican music),” Berry said. He also discovered Nyabingi (gospel or spiritual music of the Rasta’s). “I got accustomed to island living and met musicians from Barbados and the other islands,” he said. Berry started playing on the beaches and, when asked why he left paradise, he said, “I had to put all the things I learned into use. I left for Europe and played on the streets of Amsterdam and Madrid and earned my living as a street musician,” he pauses and smiles broadly. “Now, that was paradise.”
Europe sent him into a whole new world of traditional music, “From the flamenco of Spain to finally getting to Ireland after growing up in a bagpipe band, it all blended for me.” He was hanging out in exotic locales, living like a king, often making a hundred dollars a day in tips, but all he could think of was New Mexico. He had been here in 1995 for the Global Peace Walk and National Rainbow Gathering and was never able to get it out of his blood.
After making his way back to Taos, he locked himself in a cabin in El Rito for three months, wrote music and learned the guitar. “That’s when I left the hand drum and found the six strings. You just can’t write a song very easily on a conga,” he laughs. Unable to remain fixed in one place too long he returned to Kansas where he put together a band, “Brent Berry and the Roots Crew.” They released three albums and were, “very successful, touring from New York to the Virgin Islands and everywhere in between.” The group eventually disbanded due to “artistic differences.”
During those years he continued to visit Taos regularly, “It remained a place where I could write, recoup and hide out.” Finally, in 2002, he moved back to Taos and took a year off from music. He became a river guide and met all the members of Honest Abe along the banks of the Rio Grande.
That brings us back to “Monsoon,” the album that local shops are having trouble keeping in stock.
Jack Wilson handles electric bass and double bass, Dan Irion takes care of mandolin, James Rann juggles acoustic and electric guitar along with dobro. Berry is on guitar, percussion and lead vocals. Since the release they have added a new member, Kirry Nelson, who adds backing vocals.
The 11 songs on this record are drenched in sunlight, salt water spray and listening to them leaves a slight margarita taste in your mouth. Berry’s writing is rich with the texture of his travels and musical influences — traditional music is core to Honest Abe’s sound. It’s part Reggae, mixed with subtle Celtic, then they add a touch of funk, a little roots and toss in some Jimmy Buffet island sway but still there are a few secret ingredients that hold it all together. Whatever it is, many are calling it, “one of the best CDs of the year.”
Berry said the band will be touring next year and using radio to continue promoting the album. Already half a dozen stations have picked up “Call on Me,” and they plan on pushing another single soon. They’ll begin with dates in the southwest and Midwest and are counting on the internet to help spread the word.
Online at: www.brentberrymusic .com you can download free songs from “Monsoon” and all his previous releases. In fact, for four bucks you can download the entire album and he’ll even mail you the cover artwork insert.
Brent Berry and Honest Abe will be performing on Friday (Dec. 3) in the Zuni Lounge at the Kachina Lodge and Dec. 22 at the Taos Inn. For more information online visit:
Brandt H. Legg hosts the weekly KTAO-FM 101.9 regional-music show “Spotlight on New Mexico” Sundays, 3-6 p.m., and at Email him at - The Hum


Brent Berry & Honest Abe "Monsoon" fifth sun rec.2005 Brent Berry "Inland" 2000 Kicksave Rec, Brent Berry "Livin' and Lovin"2001 Kicksave Rec, Brent Berry and The Roots Crew "Live At The Jazzhaus 2002 Brent Berry Music


Feeling a bit camera shy


Drawn first to the sound of the drums, Brent Berry began his musical career at the age of twelve. Hashing out rhythms on an old marching snare quickly matured into a position in the Kansas City St Andrews Bagpipe and Drum Core. Under the direction of Drum Sgt. Rick Southall, Berry developed a deep-rooted respect for traditional music of world.

After becoming one of the premier young side drummers in the Midwest, Brent began studying congas and djembe with teacher Mathew Brown Jr. formerly of the Sun Ra Arkestra. Moving from the classroom to the walkways of Westport, Kansas City, Brent flourished under Brown's instruction. In 1994 Brent was introduced to the Kansas City Traditional Music Society, a family of musicians that fostered Brent's growing love of traditional and folk music. Under the guidance of Mater Drummer Augustine Diaz, Bird Flemming, and Pat Conway, Brent was exposed to Rumba, Congo, and Bata Rhythms.

In the fall of 1996 Berry moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico to study Bomba Plena and Nyabinghi with the local elders. Continuing his pursuit of knowledge, Brent left Puerto Rico for Europe in the spring of 1997. While busking from Cadiz,Berlin,Helsinki,Paris,Cork,Dublin,Zurich and to Amsterdam (Brent's favourite town in the world), Berry's talent for singing and songwriting emerged. After returning from Europe Berry performed with Bird Flemming and Smaba Du Mau at the Kansas City International Reggae festival. This performance inspired Berry to play with a host of KC Reggae, World, and Funk groups including BGR, Common Ground, The Band That Saved the World, and the Lawrence based rocksteady/reggae group The Secondhands.

In 1999 Brent struck up a relationship with Tom Johnson, composer/arranger for The Secondhands, and began work on his debut solo recording. In February of 2001, Brent released his debut solo full-length Inland on St Louis based Kick Save Records. Inland developed into a superb culmination of roots reggae, rocksteady, and folk music.

From Lawrence, Kansas to Long Island, New York,
St.John,Virgin Islands to Taos, New Mexico and has performed with legendary acts such as the Slackers, Hepcat, The Skatalites, Wailing Souls, Mad Professor, Sizzla, Boom Shaka, Luciano, and Toots and The Maytals, King Django, Sister Carol and Ritchie Havens.
Moving to Taos ,New Mexico in the fall of 2002, Brent began work on a new group. Finding faith in the fingers of producer/bass player Jack Wilson, the old tyme sound of dobro and guitar of James Rann, and the fine mandolin of Dan Irion and sweet harmony and percussion of Kirry Nelson. "Monsoon" ,the debut release of " Brent Berry & Honest Abe" was made in 2004. A new chapter in in Brent's sonwriting began. " Afro-Coastal Americana-Grass",kicking the walls down into a new genre, expect nothin but fine things from these young musicians in the future.