Garnet Rogers's previous album, 1996's "Night Drive," was a breakthrough for the Canadian singer-songwriter; he had finally outgrown a glib romanticism to write sharply observed lyrics set to starker music. He has now built on that leap forward with an even better album, "Sparrow's Wing." The songs include tunes from Elizabethan England and Scottish immigrants in the Canadian Maritimes, and Rogers works hard to make his own compositions sound as if they, too, had been handed down by generations of fireside singers.
For the most part he succeeds. "Next Turn of the Wheel" evokes the loss of loved ones by describing a hometown in such intense detail that the loss is felt rather than merely announced. "Under the Summer Moonlight" describes the lives of Rogers's aunt and uncle to the bouncy beat of a Scottish dance tune. "Stormfront" is an eight-minute, rock 'n' roll excoriation of modern development that achieves the purging anger of a Bruce Cockburn song. It's followed by "Threshold," a seven-minute, acoustic folk song that evokes both the thrill and evanescence of first love.
Cliff Eberhardt has been less successful in leaving behind the romantic glibness of the Christine Lavin school of folk music. On his new album, "Borders," Eberhardt offers the trademarks of that school: cutesy cleverness, narcissistic confession, sing-song melodies and bland vocals. Typical are "The Long Goodbye," a half-hearted satire of how love falls apart, and "Unrequited," a self-pitying ballad about the pain of love that never gets started.
Appearing Saturday at the Barns of Wolf Trap.
To hear a free Sound Bite from Garnet Rogers, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8123. For a Sound Bite from Cliff Eberhardt, press 8124. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)