NORTH BENNINGTON -- After six weeks on the road, North Bennington-based touring musicians Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangson are happy to be back home for a concert this weekend at the Meetinghouse Cafe on School Street, where they will share the stage with fellow folk-singing duo Lou and Peter Berryman.
Performing in town for the first time in 2014, Steve and Cindy say they're excited to introduce their longtime friends, Lou and Peter Berryman, to the Bennington audience. After years of close friendship and musical admiration, Steve and Cindy recorded and released an entire album of the Berryman's light-hearted, often humorous songs in 2013, called "Berrymania."
Steve said they once joked around about the idea of recording an album of their friends' songs, but the jokes quickly started sounding like a good idea.
"We admire them a lot," Steve said, "not just because they're so professional and so accomplished, but there's a heart to their work. It's not just that Peter is brilliantly funny, because he really is, but I think he goes the whole distance to make sure that every aspect of that song pulls its weight. I don't have any qualms at all about presenting any piece of material they've ever done."
Since meeting the Berrymans -- a once-married couple, who say they have enjoyed a long friendship that survived a brief marriage -- in the late ‘80s, Steve and Cindy say they have become close friends on and off the stage. Not only have they frequently performed Berryman songs in their live sets ("There are certain ones we could rely on just to kick the doors down and everyone would have fun and laugh," Steve said), but they are frequent guests in each other's homes, they have been on camping trips together, and Cindy said she's perpetually locked in games of Words With Friends against both Peter and Louise Berryman.
Even though Peter once lived in Bennington, this will be the Berrymans' first performance in town. Steve and Cindy said they are looking forward to the show, saying they hope to perform some songs with the Berrymans.
"We'll do separate sets as duos in the first half," Cindy explained, "and then in the second half, we'll all sit up there and do a round robin, even though that usually degenerates into something really silly."
"Berrymania" is the sixth album Cindy and Steve have recorded as a duo, although both of them have recorded albums, toured and written songs as solo artists. Their first joint album came out in 1991, two years after their wedding in 1989.
"We actually decided to get married before we even tried to sing together," said Cindy, "so it's just lucky that it worked out."
Before their marriage and the beginning of their musical partnership, Cindy had been working as a singer and librarian at Bennington College, while Steve worked as a songwriter.
Steve first entered the music business as a young man growing up outside of Los Angeles. After spending his formative years in the clubs and coffeehouses of Los Angeles, he started writing songs for Disney, contributing tunes that would be sung by Winnie The Pooh, Dumbo and Jiminy Cricket, before shifting his attention to Nashville.
Steve's most recognized song, "Darcy Farrow," was first recorded by folk duo Ian and Sylvia in 1966, and it has since been covered by John Denver, The Kingston Trio, Nancy Griffith and bluegrass guitar legend Tony Rice. He has also written songs for Garth Brooks, Kenny Rodgers and Linda Ronstadt.
Though his songs have been hear around the world, Steve says he still hasn't completed his mission as a songwriter.
"I have to admit, I still have that dream of writing a song that everybody knows," said Steve.
"But you did that!" Cindy said.
While Steve said he still wants to be Buddy Holly, Cindy is more interested in the traditional narrative ballads of Appalachian and English folk music, many of which date back centuries.
"It's so cool when you sing something and you think it was sung so long ago, and across the ocean," she said. " It feels good. It makes you feel very connected in time and space."
"It's hard to ask an audience to go into a six-minute story song," she admits, "and yet there are people that will do it. I'll only do one in each concert, because I know there's a limit, but I really love them."
If you go ...
What: Steve Gillette, Cindy Mangson
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 11. Where: Meetinghouse Cafe,
108 School St., Bennington, Admission: $20. Information: uubennington.org