CONCERT REVIEW: Hot 'n' droll lickmeister
By JOSEF WOODARD, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
March 3, 2013 1:00 AM
True confession: the first bonafide rock concert I went to, as an already music-obsessed 13-year-old, was a triple-header in the gymnasium of Santa Barbara City College too many years ago to count. On the bill were Quicksilver Messenger Service, Goldfinger (with Richard Torrance, a local who went on to some fame) and the inimitable and unforgettable Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks.
He made a deep impression then, with his love of things vintage and genre-straddling ñ western-swing, gypsy jazz, Duke Ellington, '20s treats, laconically satirical lyrics and more. In every local appearance since, most recently at the Live Oak Music Festival, the Lobero Theatre and again at the Maverick Saloon on Wednesday, he seems as out-of-time and timeless as ever. He's a true-blue original, and one of the drollest men in show biz.
As part of the current eleventh year of the treasured "Tales from the Tavern" series at the Maverick, Mr. Hicks showed up with a hot version of his Hot Licks, while he introduced himself by saying "I'll be playing the role of Dan." The boss with the deadpan charisma, now 70, was perched at the center of the quintet, with the fine solo-handy instrumentalists on one side — violinist/mandolinist Benito Cortez and guitarist Paul Robinson (sometimes inserting what Mr. Hicks called "simulated bass solo, ladies and gentlemen") and signature sound of snugly harmonizing female vocalists and retro fashionistas, Roberta Donay and Daria on the other.
After kicking off with a gypsy-jazz instrumental, the show swerved through various corners of Mr. Hicks' strange yet familiar world, including his classics "Canned Music" (with some updated, digital era lyric inserts to the original) and "I Scare Myself." Late in the show, he quipped that the group has settled on a new description of its musical genre, "Caucasian hip hop." Behind that joke, there is something to the idea of intricate wordplay and vocal stuntwork tucked within the seemingly lazy, hazy veneer of some of the songs.
Yes, he is a hopeless wisenheimer who doesn't mind messing with the heads of a given crowd or room, who introduced his song "Payday" by asking "anybody out there have jobs? I know there's this trust fund kid thing going around." He introduced a country song by saying "we tried to sell this one to Willie Nelson, but he told us to get off his property."
Dry comic antics aside, Mr. Hicks is also a passionate champion of pre-rock 'n' roll American music, moving on this Wednesday night between a vocal version of Duke Ellington's "Caravan" to a Bob Wills vehicle, "What's the Matter with the Mail," to Emmett Miller's 1930s number "The Ghost of the St. Louis Blues" and gymnastic vocal workout for the Licketts in the form of Annie Ross' "Twisted."
Before launching into the final tune, Mr. Hicks accessed his inner goofball ñ never far below the surface ñ announced "and now, a little bottleneck guitar for you, because you've been such a groovy audience," before using his plastic water bottle to play some woozy, wobbly licks. As if rolling his eyes in self-effacing mode, he added "what a way to make a living." During that last song, he also interjected some hilarious faux Bob Dylan jibber jabber in the verses, and the band's curtain closer was none other than the famed jazz tune "Cherokee."
What a way to make a living, indeed, and for us fans, Mr. Hicks is always worth periodically checking in on, over lo, these several decades.
Tales from the Tavern: News & Press
Honoring the troubadour
The Santa Ynez songwriter concert series Tales from the Tavern celebrates 10 years of honoring authentic music making
BY JOE PAYNE
The life of a traveling musician is full of twists, turns, and tumbles. It’s not a profession where the fittest survive; rather, that distinction goes to people most committed to the art. One local concert series gives a home on the road to traveling and local musicians who specialize in the storytelling and wisdom-sharing side of music. Now celebrating its 10th year of concerts, Tales from the Tavern presents a lineup of musicians guaranteed to deliver an authentic experience.
The duo return:
Folk rock fame Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen return to perform as part of Tales from the Tavern’s 10th anniversary concert season. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN FITZPATRICK PHOTOGRAPHY
Founded in February 2003 by brother and sister Ron and Carole Ann Colone, Tales from the Tavern first found a home at Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos before eventually making its way to the Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez. The concert series focuses mostly on acoustic singer songwriters seasoned by years of performing on the road.
“We had spent years, both my sister and I, on the road working with different musical artists,” said Ron, co-producer for the concert series. “We were inspired by the real musical troubadours that have put in the years and the miles and that have the authenticity of the true singer songwriter.”
To truly understand the spirit of Tales from the Tavern, it’s helpful to understand exactly what a troubadour is.
“Well, there’s probably a more academic explanation, because they served a function throughout time and across cultures,” Colone said, “but they are the keepers of the stories and the relators of our histories, mythology, and philosophy.”
Cowboy troubadour Dave Stamey closed out the first half of Tales from the Tavern’s 10th anniversary, where he was presented with a “wood record.” PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN FITZPATRICK PHOTOGRAPHY
The concert series takes a serious approach to the oft-marginalized acoustic singer-songwriter. According to Colone, you can “hear a pin drop” during the music at Tales for the Tavern. In between songs, artists tell stories, relate philosophy, and elicit laughter. Performing artists include many touring musicians either signed on indie labels or their own. There have also been performances by big name artists who couldn’t wait to get in on the concert series, including Joan Baez, Donovan, Sarah Lee Guthrie with Johnny Orion, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, and Ryan Bingham.
The April 25 concert will feature the local duo of Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen. Hillman is an inductee of the Country Music Hall of Fame and of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an original member of the Byrds. He and Pedersen have collaborated for years and participated in the very first season of Tales from the Tavern. During their sound check for that performance, Colone said, none other than David Crosby (Santa Ynez local and original member of the Byrds) stopped by and rehearsed with Hillman and Pedersen and joined them on stage that night.
“David Crosby has been extremely supportive of our series,” Colone said. “He has really acknowledged in a positive way what we do.”
Tales from the Tavern pulls out all the stops when it comes to professionalism and musical integrity. Every single show has video and audio recorded with high-quality equipment. Tales from the Tavern has its own record label of live performances by favorite artists, as well as a compilation album. The video from the series was used to make a documentary film that premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The film included performances and interviews with the artists, exploring the nature of the modern troubadour.
Tales from the Tavern has literally sold out every show, Colone said. Tickets can be purchased on talesfromthetavern.com either for the whole series or for individual shows. Most concert regulars, Colone explained, buy their tickets before the lineup is even solidified for the season. The series is also made possible by sponsorship from many local businesses and patrons.
CONCERT REVIEW : Householders hold court - Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin filled the Maverick Saloon with warmth and winking wit on Wednesday
By JOSEF WOODARD, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
October 22, 2011 8:19 AM
For the latest edition of the unusually strong current "Tales from the Tavern" concert series, Wednesday at the Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez, the "tales" aspect of the series' agenda took some engaging twists and turns. For starters, there are tales nicely told within the songs of the headliners Danny Schmidt (heard here two years ago) and Carrie Elkin, two gifted Austin-based singer-songwriters, who are married at the heart and hip levels.
On another level, the interpersonal warmth and jabbing banter between them made for an extra layer of tale-spinning on a real and philosophical level. The artists wove stories about themselves, their collective life, and the symbolic import of something so basic as house-hunting, as Mr. Schmidt's poignant new song "House Sing" relays.
This was a special evening, all in all, partly because these two inspired artists — both qualifying for the artist-deserving-wider-recognition badge and both on the respected Red House label — normally tour alone, as they have been most of this year, promoting respective solo records (Mr. Schmidt's "Man of Many Moons," and Ms. Elkin's "Call it My Garden"). Wednesday's Maverick stop was the beginning of a rare duo tour, and they get along famously onstage, with a naturalness and good-humored, salty symbiosis encountered in such classic musical couplings as Johnny Cash and June Carter and Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
Wednesday's opener Kacey Cubero, an artist who has played around the area and has expanded her international reach of late, made an impressive showing, as well, with her strong and true blues-folk-country sound and songbook of fine originals. Multi-instrumentalist Bill Flores — fresh off of working on stages and network TV in Jeff Bridges' band — supplied a versatile sonic spice rack of support, on pedal steel, mandolin, lap steel and assorted guitars.
In song styling and vocal approach, the Washington D.C.-born and now Southern California-based Ms. Cubero can sometimes be reminiscent of Lucinda Williams, Shelby Lynne and Bonnie Raitt, adept with juggling sure-noted singing with colorations of her slight twang and blues riffing rasp, to suit the song at hand. Ms. Cubero is an adaptable artist to watch for, who fit as naturally into this singer-songwriter setting as she did as an opener for the R&B Bombers at SOhO awhile back.
Post-intermission, the music and tragicomedy team of Mr. Schmidt and Ms. Elkin took command, from the git-go. He sat down, a dry-witted, stubbly figure in a vintage golf cap at a tilted angle, and she, an ambling character in a cheery blue cowgirl dress. They complement each other beautifully, musically and otherwise. After the rollicking country blues opener of Mr. Schmidt's "Better Off Broke," fortified by her harmonies, he quipped "when I sing that alone, it sounds like Kumbay Ya."
She stepped in with her impressive and glowing "Gospel Song," and his harmony contribution was a reciprocal gift, demonstrating that they have something palpably magical together, something sweet and gently gruff where it counts. The latter angle came into play with Mr. Schmidt's wry new song, inspired by an encounter with his wife's "hormonal" behavior, called "Ragtime Ragtime Blues," about which Ms. Elkin joked that "three weeks out of the month, I love that song."
On more serious notes, spiritually inclined and self-introspective songs also worked into the set, from Mr. Schimdt's song addressing his personalized, pragmatic concept of karma and Ms. Elkin's moving new song, like a self-helping hymn, "Lift Up the Anchor" (which she explained as a response to her double dose of guilt, as a "guilty Jewtheran"). She later crossed over into Mr. Schmidt's own songbook, singing one of his better-known favorites, "Company of Friends," a "list song" more about values than things.
Returning for encores, the pair first basked in a sense of mutual admiration in the room, connected by this admirable series. "This is our first gig of the tour," said she. He added, "yeah, thanks a lot. You ruined California for us." Ending in benediction mode, Mr. Schmidt sang another of his religiously themed songs, the new one "This Too Shall Pass," and Ohio-born Ms. Elkin ended the night by singing, sans microphone, "Amazing Grace," in a weathered and sweet voice as big as Middle America.
Pardon the cliché, but they really must go on meeting like this, on stages and other places where music is made and shared.
CONCERT REVIEW: Veteran singer-songwriter allies John Gorka and Eliza Gilkyson teamed up for a bold, interwoven show
JOSEF WOODARD, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
October 4, 2011 5:19 AM
For the third and latest installment in the current "Tales from the Tavern" series, a full house of admiring listeners packed into the Maverick Saloon to catch a hearty night of tales and tunes, courtesy of veteran "new folk" singer-songwriters Eliza Gilkyson and John Gorka. Both have made their way through Santa Barbara-area venues for years, although she much more than he. One surprise here was the fact this was actually Mr. Gorka's first time in this special series, which he suits with an uncanny grace, humor and musical rightness.
In fact, the main takeaway of the evening, at least for this listener, was that Mr. Gorka – whose discography, on Windham Hill and Red House, now numbers 11 titles – has nudged his way deeper into the ranks of notable song artists deserving wider recognition by now. His mix of well-crafted, poetic and incisive songsmithing and his rich, resonant baritone voice feels older and wiser, as does his songbook. In the cracks between his songs, a dry, drawling wit helped liven up the room even further.
But this was not a headliner/opener two-fer evening, instead with its two generous sets involving the interweaving of the sounds and songs of both artists, longtime comrades in musical crime.
Whereas the first two "Tales" shows drew on commonalities between the two acts of an evening – old friends Slaid Cleaves and Rod Picott for one, Texans Ruby Jane and Butch Hancock for another — Sunday's song soiree had an even stronger, timelier link. Mr. Gorka and Ms. Gilkyson, both members of the Red House Records family of fine new folk artists, were two-thirds, along with Lucy Kaplansky (not present here) of an imaginative trio project, "Red Horse."
On that well-received and cleverly conceived album, each singer chose a tune by another in the trio to sing, and from that project, Sunday's show featured Ms. Gilkyson nicely taking on Mr. Gorka's tune "If I Could Forget to Breathe," and he doing up Ms. Kaplansky's "Don't Mind Me."
Highlights from each artists respective and distinctly different songbooks also filled the air. From the opening of Mr. Gorka's jocular howdy-do, "I'm from New Jersey," he moved through his moving anti-war song "Where no Monument Stands" and his touching older gems, "Love is Our Cross to Bear" and "Ignorance and Privilege." Attesting to his veteran status, with a discography dating back 25 years, he gave a knowing grin at lyrical references to life in the later chapters. He also flexed an impish humor, as when, late in the show, he informed us "I didn't tell you before that all of my songs were ... singalongs. I probably should have told you earlier."
For her part, Gilkyson demonstrated her house blend of lyricism, activism, country-folk aplomb and faint punk spices from her old days in Los Angeles (she's now a proud Austin, Texan). She played "a medley of my hit," "The Beauty Way," the funky New Mexico motel-inspired, detail-enriched "Midnight on Raton" and the sensitive newer original, "A Blue Moon Night."
Sunday's opening set finished off with an ear-opening fresh version of the great old Buffalo Springfield song "I Am a Child," written by Neil Young. The song was ringing in some local music fans' ears, as Mr. Young himself sang the song when the reunion-ized Buffalo Springfield concertized at the Santa Barbara Bowl early this summer.
For another of the rare cover songs this evening (not including the covers each did of the others' songs), Gorka slipped over to a digital keyboard for a version of Bob Dylan's classic "Just Like a Woman." The song choice was partly a legendary local angle, playing off the alleged fact that Dylan wrote the song for the Santa Ynez Valley-bred Edie Sedgwick. Let it be noted that Gorka heeded the melodic contours more faithfully than the willfully melody-reinventing Dylan in recent concert settings.
Coming back for encores, the pair served up her tender ditty "Wildwood Springs" and, as a Sunday night go-to gospel finale, a rousing, rusticated version of the Curtis Mayfield soul/gospel song "People Get Ready."
As a wonderfully integrated whole, Sunday's "Tales" affair managed to affirm the idea that these allies in song are still vitally active 50something artists, with deep pockets, creative resource-wise.
Folk music, by whatever particular definition, may be humble in its logistics and market share compared to other public sounds, but some awfully rich work is being done in that American cultural corner. Here was more proof.
All Content Copyright © 2011 Santa Barbara News-Press / Ampersand Publishing, LLC unless otherwise specified.
Squarely hunkered down at the end of Santa Ynez' short main drag, the Maverick Saloon serves several functions. For one, this is Santa Barbara County's most vibe-alicious cowboy bar, dance hall and watering hole. Defaced dollar bills coat the ceiling above the bar area, and the stage side of the operation hosts weekend bands pumping out country and cover songs, and such occasional special events as "midget wrestling."
Meanwhile, in the last couple of years, this atmospherically seductive Saloon has also been one of the County's prime sanctuaries for the art of song, through its hosting of the now six-year-old singer-songwriter series "Tales from the Tavern." On Wednesday night, the "Tales" series kicked off the second half of this year's series (broken up into spring and fall rosters, usually on weekly Wednesdays), with Slaid Cleaves, an artist who has played Santa Barbara a few times before, but whose artistic importance seems to continually deepen.
This season, the 45-year-old Cleaves, an Austin, Texan, by way of his native Maine, is hitting the road in support of another dazzling new � and long-awaited ��album, "Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away," with eloquent liner notes by one of his newer high-profile fans, Stephen King. King was drawn into Cleaves' special world after hearing the singer's potent 2004 album, "Wishbone."
This guy works slow, yes, but he works very well. By this point, Mr. Cleaves is one of the best there is, plain and simple.
Opening Wednesday's show was a repeat "Tales" visitor, Gretchen Peters, a successful Nashville songwriter and preternaturally gifted and impassioned solo artist whose 2007 show in this room came on the heels of her best album so far, "Burnt Toast and Offerings." That album, a response to her divorce from her longtime husband and also her life in the song-slinging trenches, featured such moving songs as the lazy-sweet "Sunday Morning" and the "Breakfast at our House."
Tipping her hat to her successful songwriting career, Ms. Peters also pulled out her biggest hit, "Independence Day," and prefaced it with a telling anecdote. The song, a big hit for Martina McBride, and used in such public settings as Sarah Palin's coming-out as VP, took on a life of its own, and its writer fought back during what she saw as Palin's misuse by dedicating royalties to Planned Parenthood, in Palin's name. The song ended up steering more than a million dollars, in Palin's name, to the organization. Artists can harness social power, in mysterious and creative ways.
When the headliner took the stage, the art of song took a turn toward the folkier, twangy-er side, compared to Peters' work. In Mr. Cleaves' songs, tough talk and dress-down poetics conspire toward deeper-than-first-impression expressive powers. Although Mr. Cleaves studied English and Philosophy in college before heeding the call of music, he has an unpretentious flair for finding stories and meanings in simple language, as heard in "South Austin drinking songs" early in Wednesday's set.
During his long, up and down musical life, Mr. Cleaves has occasionally scored above-the-surface hits, such as "Broke Down." "Cry," the first song on his new album and an instantly loveable and admirable creation, should be another hit, in a perfect universe.
After singing the new "Horses and Divorces," a witty, drawling song about a redneck neighbor of his Maine-bound parents, Mr. Cleaves only half-jokingly promised to return to his more comfortable turf of "miserable folk songs." But his misery is laced with humanity and poetic matchups of lyrics, melody and his particular warm and smoky vocal timbre.
In the course of his hour Saloon set, he sang eloquently of human suffering. He moved easily from the plight of American troops in Iraq and back home to an epic folk song about a 19th-century Canadian lumberjack tragedy, to a closing "coalmining disaster song," the touchingly poignant "Lydia." But he sings of frailties and sorry fates in the folk music tradition, as metaphors and as story song fodder. There is a compelling compassion and folky grit and wisdom to his work.
Long may he croon, and pen.
"Tales from the Tavern" becomes an almost-every-Wednesday night song club for several weeks, continuing next week with Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart, with Cheryl Wheeler. This sub-series ends with a twang bang, a double bill of rebel country gal greats Shelby Lynne and Carlene Carter on Nov.11.
Grammer lessons and listening to Hawks
JOSEF WOODARD, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
February 23, 2009
One of the most effective music series in Santa Barbara County is the 6-year-old Tales from the Tavern, whose creators have managed the impressive trick of matching site and sound. The site is Santa Ynez's Maverick Saloon, and the sound includes a solid roster of traveling singer-songwriters who have a country and folk leaning.
At Wednesday's kick-off show, the series was blessed with a third part of the equation -- an act whose very name and thematic garb ideally suited the setting. Alt-country band I See Hawks in L.A. is a tuneful, vocal harmony-enriched group whose songbook bemoans the underappreciated and imperiled open-spaced life of California.
Here, the band appeared drummerless, stripped down to a trio with lead singer Rob Waller in the center, warmly supported by three-part harmonies from Paul Lacques (also on guitar and dobro) and Paul Marshall (also on bass). (Local note: Mr. Marshall also used to play in the band Strawberry Alarm Clock, whose big hit was "Incense and Peppermints," which started out in Santa Barbara.)
While the band has played a couple of times before at SOhO Restaurant and Music Club, its set at the Saloon soared to special atmospheric heights, aided by the faithful Tavern series' audience. Deep into the set, the band played its theme song "I See Hawks in L.A.," and the leitmotif of "nature vs. pop culture" and "a final frontier vs. a haven for minimalls and shallow rich folks" rang out strong and poetically true.
Opening the show, in no way a lesser artist on the bill, was respected singer Tracy Grammer, who was known for years as half of a duo with insightful singer-songwriter Dave Carter. Mr. Carter died unexpectedly in 2002, at 49, and Ms. Grammer has carried on in solo mode. Not surprisingly, Mr. Carter's legacy and songbook continue to be her traveling companions.
Ms. Grammer lent her clear and unpretentious voice to such cover songs as Emmylou Harris' "Red Dirt Girl" and Townes Van Zandt's "Poncho and Lefty," but the deepest-felt material was Mr. Carter's work, from the obscure "Crocodile Man" to his well-known gem "The Mountain," once covered by Joan Baez (who, incidentally, played the night before, at Lobero Theatre).
But the surprise highlight of Ms. Grammer's set came from a lesser known source -- Oregon singer-songwriter Kate Power, whose song "Travis John" is a powerfully poignant ode to a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq. By extension, the song pays homage to all fallen troops and those who know and love them, and it makes a plea for peace -- neatly packed into a three-minute marvel of a song.
Tracy Grammer Pays Tribute to Her Other Half in a New Season of Tales from the Tavern
Thursday, February 12, 2009
By Brett Leigh Dicks
For most musicians, the path to success is a long and winding road that typically contains more trappings than it does riches. But, as difficult as its progression might get at times, most wouldn’t swap it for the world. And while a successful trek will not shower all travelers with unparalleled fame or glory, it usually makes for a good story or two. Every spring and fall, some of music’s finest gather in an old saloon on the outskirts of Santa Ynez, where they share both the music that has fueled their careers and the tales that have flavored them. And with another season of Tales from the Tavern about to get underway, there is probably no better introduction to the series than Tracy Grammer.
Born in Florida and raised in Southern California, Grammer’s induction into music was two-fold. While it was a borrowed violin that first introduced Grammer to composition, it was with a violin in hand that she saw the dawn of her second musical coming—thanks to an accidental meeting with Dave Carter. And though the violin has laid the foundations of Grammer’s musical career, it is Carter who has defined its direction.
Folk singer Tracy Grammer will play the Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez this Friday. The show will open this season's Tales from the Tavern concert series.
Grammer’s musical journey started in Oregon. Although she was studying at UC Berkeley at the time, her then musical partner was residing in Portland. During one particular visit, Grammer felt an undeniable calling from the city and, as peculiar as it was, she heeded the call.
“On one of my first visits to Portland I had this premonition,” explained Grammer. “Two words came to me, and they were ‘He’s here.’ I had never heard anything like this in my head before, but I left and went back to Berkeley and had this nagging feeling about Portland. So, six months later, I moved up there. About three weeks after I got there I was at a songwriters’ night accompanying my boyfriend. There were a whole bunch of people playing two songs apiece and at the end of the night this tall cowboy-looking guy walked in and people were whispering, ‘It’s Dave Carter. It’s Dave Carter.’”
When Carter climbed onstage and started performing, Grammer was transfixed—and not just by his defiant presence. Carter’s literary sensibility, delivered with a country twang, was a revelation to Grammer, who saw the performance as somewhat of a calling and resolved to redirect her own musical ambitions starting then and there. As luck or fate would have it, Carter and Grammer tangled guitar cases while exiting the venue that night, and by the time they had straightened themselves out Grammer had accepted Carter’s offer to join his band.
“It wasn’t like me to accept such invitations, but I realized that was a chance that I wouldn’t get again,” explained Grammer. “We started playing together and had a band of about five people for around a year before everybody else gradually got busy with their lives and we were the only two people with nothing better to do. So we kind of broke off and started playing as a duo, and as soon as we did things started happening for us. It was a very fast trajectory, relatively speaking. Four years later, we had made three albums and were on tour with Joan Baez.”
Baez had started playing one of the duo’s songs and invited Carter and Grammer to join her show. Shortly after, the pair found themselves touring across the country again. Then in July 2002, while traveling through Massachusetts, Carter went out for a jog and, shortly after returning to his hotel room, suffered a massive heart attack and died. Since Carter’s passing, Grammer has made it her mission to keep her partner’s legacy alive. It is a musical torch that she is only too happy to carry, and one that inspires her daily.
“Since then my job has been what it was from the day I met him; to carry on these songs and make sure people hear this music,” she explained. “I play songs from other songwriters, but a lot of the show is dedicated to Dave Carter’s music, not just because I think it is some of the best songwriting that I will hear in my lifetime, but also because I love the songs and people seem to love discovering them. I never tire of them. In fact, the more I sing them, the better I come to understand them.”
Grammer’s are not the only tales to be told in the upcoming season of Tales from the Tavern. Joining her to open the series will be I See Hawks in L.A. On Wednesday, March 4, Teresa Tudury and Greg Trooper will share the stage, and Priscilla Ahn and JD[cq] Souther will round out the month on March 18. Kenny White and Jack Tempchin play Tales on April 1, and April 15 marks the return of Dave Stamey and Steve Moris. The series will be brought to a sparkling close by our very own Glen Phillips when he is joined by David Wilcox on Wednesday, April 29.
Tracy Grammer will headline the season-opening Tales from the Tavern show this Wednesday, February 18 at the Maverick Saloon, 3687 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez. Call 688-0389 or visit talesfromthetavern.com for details.
REUNION - The third in the series of Lake Town Tales by Jerry DiPego, and FROM GROUND TO GLASS - the beautiful film by our friend and Tales from theTavern videographer/film editor Robert DaFoe, are both available for sale now on our "BUY" Page
Love Letter on a Fish:
Live at Tales from the Tavern Too
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker
That Jimmy Buffett, Steve Goodman, Jerry Jeff Walker, and a host others have taken to Smith's songs is shown in the many covers rendered of his marvelous, ironic, imagistic, and oft hilarious music and lyrics. Here, we get water from the well—live, solo, and in fine fettle. Dead Egyptian Blues (Mr. Tut) starts the disc off with mirth and a guffaw, but the second selection "Rondi's Birthday" is undercut with a gentle repeating guitar figure that instantly draws the listener from high emotion to reverie and wistfulness with nary a jar or flutter.
Between every so many songs (19 tracks in total, including the 0:16 intro), Smith delivers a spoken observance that's inevitably funny and very cool. For one, he met Roy Rogers, but the monologue on that incident is not exactly what one might expect, given tradition. On the Rogers tribute song Palomino Pal, he even gets the audience to contribute backing vocals and it at first works beautifully…until purposely and subtly crossed up.
There's more than a little Warren Zevon in Michael Smith, as cuts like Panther in Michigan show, so much so that not only the words but the melodic approaches are similar. "Barbara Dodd" has huge affinities with my favorite modern folker, JP Jones (reviewed here), and if Pink Floyd's Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict is one of music's bizarre titles, then Smith's Bees, Bees, Bees, Bees, Bees, Bees, Bees may well fall into second place.
Smith is a genuine folkie but, as a guy in or just before the Baby Boom generation (he was born in 1941), is also one of those who provided the nexal point for the modern forms, the sort of transitional musician that sprang up after Dylan turned electric, signalling permission to not endlessly repeat madrigal or Mitch Miller. Smith is rebellious and didn't need the okay, but that's where his time slot placed him. Had Dylan never been born, he'd have done what he's been doing for so long anyway. Rolling Stone has called the guy "The greatest songwriter in the English language". Make what you will of the Stone or the accolade, it cannot be argued that Smith's presence has been highly affective—16-plus releases well attest to that.
Tavern Too, a second live offering from the same locale as the first, is a great document of the lone troubadour tradition enshrined with all it's warm flaws, huge heart, impressive composing talents, and unique vibe. As modernity kicks into overdrive under uber-capitalistic depredations, discs like this serve to engrave the style into the frontal lobes and then pull counterpoints from the much more important recesses of memory, reminding us what we're being robbed of as music…evolves…under corporate guidance.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
Michael Smith—Live at Tales From the Tavern Too—Love Letter on a Fish
2008, Tales From the Tavern
There were several years after I found out that Michael Smith was more than just the guy who wrote “The Dutchman” when I kept missing him when he performed in my area. Then within a year I was lucky enough to see him twice, once at a house concert and once at a small venue. Similarly, we are lucky to now have two concert albums from Tales From the Tavern. Tales From the Tavern is a concert series held in and around Santa Ynez, California. Love Letter on a Fish is a follow-up to 2003’s Such Things Are Finely Done. It is hard to imagine that Michael anticipated a second album with Tales From the Tavern, because Such Things Are Finely Done is a perfect set of accessible and memorable songs. “Sister Clarissa,” “Move Over Mister Gauguin,” “I Brought My Father With Me” and of course “The Dutchman” are songs any fan of Michael Smith would want to hear at one of his shows. Having the opportunity to record a second show of all different songs might leave another musician short on material, but not Michael Smith! Love Letter on a Fish is another beautifully paced set of songs that beguile or amuse. Songs like “Dead Egyptian Blues (Mr. Tut),” “Spoon River,” “Panther in Michigan,” “Vampire” and “Crazy Mary (From Londonderry) have to be considered signature songs in Smith’s vast catalogue, but every song brings its own bit of magic to the evening. Although Michael is reputed to be somewhat quiet offstage, he is genuine and gracious with the audience, telling jokes and sharing stories about the songs. I have no doubt that Tales From the Tavern could invite Smith back to record another show of different material with similarly splendid results. Don’t miss this album, or any opportunity to experience Michael Smith’s music! —Michael Devlin
IN CONCERT : Tale of the newcomer vs. the veteran, at Tavern
JOSEF WOODARD, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
November 22, 2008 8:54 AM
At the double-header Tales from the Tavern show Wednesday, in the cool and rustic Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez, the evening amounted to a study in the familiar and the untested. Chuck Prophet and Annabelle Chvostek put in impressive sets, if moving in different stylistic directions, and from different junctures in their respective careers.
Mr. Prophet, veteran songman and bandleader hailing from San Francisco, is fairly well known and loved in these parts, having performed in the Tales series in 2005 and more recently at Lobero Theatre, courtesy of Sings Like Hell. He fits the bill for both series, with his literate and irreverent ways, mixed with underlying emotional warmth as a musician and an entertainer.
In some way, though, Wednesday's show was stolen by the newcomer, Montreal-based Annabelle Chvostek. In this, her area debut, Ms. Chvostek won our hearts and minds. She busily is making a name for herself as part of the progressive roots band Wailin' Jenny and also as a solo artist worth taking note of. Her Maverick show was one of those magical, chemistry-connected sets, with a sense of discovery attached.
Singing with pluck and precision (while backing herself up beautifully on guitar, mandolin and fiddle), Ms. Chvostek exudes organic musicality, whether when digging into folky roots music or art-pop turf, whether with original songs or the old Ella Jenkins' tune "Rising with the Sun." She served up a bit more carbonated comic relief than she needed to here -- with a singalong Slovak drinking song from her pre-Canadian root system and a throwaway confection called "Motels of America," back to back.
But she also got down to more serious business with the compelling "Resilience," the title track to her fine new album. With a sinuous melody line recalling the early work of fellow Canadian chanteuse Jane Siberry, this song drew the strongest response of the night, and rightly so.
Mr. Prophet sings with a kind of curled upper lip, and a similar attitude comes through in his lyrics, fueled by a ripe, punk-ish wit that might go back to his early days in the new-wave band Green on Red. But his tough surface sometimes disguises the underlying sentimental goo of his closet romantic self.
His between-song banter frequently was hilarious and, we assume, revealing. After playing the haunting "Would you Love Me" -- from last year's album "Soap and Water," he launched into confessional testimony, and said, in a breathless blur of words, "I spent my entire adult life in a state of perpetual adolescence, in a Ford Econoline van, sitting on a Twin Reverb and trying to read an Elmore Leonard book with a flashlight in the dark."
That compounded image says much about his frame of reference -- a smart rocker who has found a latter-day life as a solo singer-songwriter. His songs are invested with emotion, borrowed emotions and pop cultural references galore.
Among the highlights of his set, "New Year's Day" deals with the brief time he was forced by circumstance to move back in with his parents, and his tunes ranged from sweet to snarly, from "Long Shot Lullaby" to "Run Primo Run." The romantic within emerged with the penultimate waltz "The Heart Breaks Just Like the Dawn."
Next, Mr. Prophet stirred up a giddy rocking party favor, to close an altogether enjoyable evening in the song-enriched saloon.
All Content Copyright © 2008 Santa Barbara News-Press / Ampersand Publishing, LLC unless otherwise specified.
IN CONCERT : Songs and suds on tap at the reopened Tavern
JOSEF WOODARD, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
Veteran singer-songwriter Kevin Welch played the opening of the fall Tales from the Tavern series Wednesday at Maverick Saloon.
This week, good news rained down on fans of the singer-songwriter and loosely corralled Americana circuit of musicians: the Tavern is open for business again.
In the rustic comfort zone of Santa Ynez's Maverick Saloon on Wednesday night, veteran songsters Kevin Welch and Carla Olson offered their wares in the first of six shows in this fall's Tales from the Tavern music series.
Now in its fifth year and looking healthy, Tales from the Tavern is an enterprising singer-songwriter series now programming twice a year. In addition to the subscription series-based live roster, the series gradually is building up titles on its in-house record label, releasing new recordings by Steve Poltz and Michael Smith, recorded right here in Santa Ynez. There's a buzz about the Tavern, and it's growing stronger.
Wednesday's show boasted much of what's good about the project, including the musical element but also including the wondrously woodsy atmosphere of the Maverick, a joint for which the colorful terms "saloon" and "tavern" fit.
Mr. Welch, who has appeared many times with the Sings Like Hell series, is a familiar face by now. Ms. Olson, less so. The talented gruff but sweet-toned Texan's resume includes a stint with country-rocker Gene Clark and solo work. But the story goes way back to the late 1970's new wave era sound of the Textones, the band she fronted to critical acclaim if not widespread fame, per se.
At the Maverick, she strummed an acoustic guitar and was joined by an acoustic guitarist and drummer, working her way through a songbook three decades deep. At times, her rock-fueled songs seemed to want more of an electric guitar texture, with a bass to provide the foundation between guitars and drums.
Overall, though, Ms. Olson made a good, gutsy impression with her folk-country-punk style. She moved easily from the driving "Loserville" to more poignant tunes about her parents, alive and dead, "Jazzbo Jim" and "Number One is to Survive."
A certifiable member of the songwriting scene who pays most of his bills by getting his songs covered, but who performs for much love and less money, Mr. Welch is one of those troubadours who seems to have it all mostly going on.
The Oklahoma-born, Nashville, Tenn.-based artist possesses a strong and nuanced voice, a sure emotive and image-geared way with songwriting, and also a winning technical skill on guitar. He is, in a sense, the Americana paradigm, incarnate, and coming soon to a venue near you.
When he performs, the songwriter is prone to fly without a setlist, dipping in and out of his expansive songbook, according to the mood of the room. For Wednesday's 90-minute set, Mr. Welch admitted he was in a mellower mood than usual, and he drew heavily on the more introspective balladry he specializes in. Tunes such as "Something About You," "The Last Lost Highway" and "Anna Lisa, Please" nicely illustrated Mr. Welch's softer touch, coaxing heart strings while eluding sentimentality.
But there were country-bluesy up tunes, humorous twists and even a train song (''The Long Cold Train") along the way, as well. For a couple of numbers, guest singer Kelley Mickwee (formerly of the duo Jed and Kelley) lent her vocal timbre and looping harmonies to the mix.
After capping off his set with the folksy fatalistic grin of his song "Life Down Here on Earth," Mr. Welch returned for another mellow-toned encore of his song "Till I'm Too Old to Die Young," which has been recorded by Linda Ronstadt. It is a sweet and simple anthem about a parent's wish to live and watch what his child becomes, and to keep the chill of death at bay as long as possible. The night at the Tavern thus ended with a warm glow, only faintly tinged by thoughts of mortality.
Peter Case Kicks Off Tales from the Tavern Music Series
Singers in Santa Ynez
Thursday, October 4, 2007
By Brett Leigh Dicks
When legendary songsmith Ramblin’ Jack Elliott took to a makeshift stage behind Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos on a wet and windswept February night back in 2003, no one could realize the legacy he was launching. As the eternal troubadour interspersed musical highlights from a 50-year career with enthralling tales of Wyoming cowboys and New Orleans brothels, Elliott laid the foundation for what has since evolved into one of the most unique performance experiences Santa Barbara has to offer.
On successive Wednesday nights each spring and fall, the elite of the nation’s singer/songwriters converge in the Santa Ynez Valley to tout their talents. And, while the Tales from the Tavern series might have evolved from humble beginnings—it’s now held at the Maverick Saloon—it has quickly become one of the most sought-after performance opportunities on the West Coast. But as Elliott so passionately said, Tales from the Tavern is about more than simply presenting music; it is about opening the world to the boundless possibilities that only spending an evening in the company of musical luminaries can afford.
Tales from the Tavern may have only been in our midst for four-and-a-half years, but it has led us on a path both captivating and diverse. From musical icons like David Crosby, Chris Hillman, and Elliott, to emerging talents like Anne McCue and Devon Sproule, the only criteria the series employs within its recruitment of artists is a dedication and passion for their craft. Although the audience might not know some of the names when the acts are first introduced, by the end of an evening, they tend not to forget them.
“If you asked the audience on any given night about the artist they will be seeing, 90 percent of them won’t know,” said series coproducer Ron Colone. “Nor will they care, as they come here for the experience of discovery. The artists who come to Tales from the Tavern not only bring their talent, but also come to share their experiences. So even if the audience isn’t familiar with an artist or his or her music, they can still relate to the tales they have to tell.”
Photo: John Fitzpatrick
The series’ October 3 kickoff featured Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Peter Case, whose latest recorded endeavor, Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John, not only grinds away in its unrestrained rawness, but does so with a considered elegance. This week, San Diego’s favorite musical jester, Steve Poltz, drops by to offer insight into Traveling and Unraveling—the two new albums he is about to release. For someone who is difficult to get into the studio, this is certainly no small achievement. And, if we are really lucky, he might even reveal just how one of the songs has found its way into a Jeep commercial.
Despite his recent flurry of studio activity, like all who grace the Tales of the Tavern stage, Poltz carves out his living on the road. Having played everywhere from packed stadiums during his time as a sidekick to Jewel (he cowrote her breakthrough musical monolith, “You Were Meant for Me”) to dusty brewhouses and the occasional yoga studio, Poltz has experienced the gamut of performance possibilities. And, with such experiences upon which to draw, he is only too quick to instill the virtues of something special when he encounters it.
“I would drop shows to go up and play there,” enthused Poltz. “I really like it when people take a lot of pride in the shows they put on, and they’re such good people with an impeccable taste in music. It is so cool because people come to the series and have a leap of faith in the fact that Ron is going to have good music there. And, for a musician, there is no better situation because you’re playing to a completely new audience and they’re all potential fans. What more could a musician ask for? He basically hands you the goose that’s laid the golden egg.”
Tales from the Tavern shows:
• October 10
Walt Richardson and Steve Poltz
• October 17
Paul Curreri and Devon Sproule
• October 24
Jesse DeNatale and Gretchen Peters
• November 7
Dan Gerber and Ray Bonneville
• November 14
Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart,
Michael On Fire, and Ced Curtis
All shows start at 7 p.m. at the Maverick Saloon (3687 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez). Call 686-4785 or visit talesfromthetavern.com
Tales from the Tavern kicks up heels at Maverick Saloon
JOSEF WOODARD, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
October 6, 2007 12:00 AM
In taking stock of the healthy singer-songwriter culture in Santa Barbara County, the short list of main contenders is, well, short but powerful. The Sings Like Hell concert series makes its monthly visit to Lobero Theatre, and SOhO brings nationally noted artists into its comfy nightclub vibe.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the impressive Tales from the Tavern series, in Santa Ynez Valley, has been going strong for five years. Hosted by Ron and Carole Ann Colone, with ample help and good vibes from the community, the series has become a model operation.
Wednesday night at Maverick Saloon, in Santa Ynez, we got a doozy of a double-header, featuring two of the song trade's underdog heroes, both of whom have played Sings Like Hell. Peter Case, the reformed pop-punker-turned-bluesy-folky-troubadour, made one of his regular visits to the series, and Austin, Texas-based favorite Jimmy LaFave followed with a four-piece band, not long after he appeared at the Lobero earlier this year.
Starting the show on a comic note, Mr. Case's first appearance this night came with a knock on the back door. He had been locked out and was lurking in the parking lot behind the saloon. Or maybe it was planned: Mr. Case, with his floppy hat, specs and post-beatnik appearance, seems to thrive on loose, slightly off-kilter charm.
Playing his guitar fluidly in various open tunings, Mr. Case ran through a songlist that included originals such as "Poor Old Tom" and "In the First Light." For cover material, he veered from a country-blues tune by Blind Willie McTell to Jimi Hendrix's "Waterfall" and then a disarmingly moving version of the Bach-inspired Procol Harum chestnut "Whiter Shade of Pale."
Mr. Case stated this night's musical case by his lonesome and created a big sound. Mr. LaFave established his presence through the robust and introspective qualities of his singing and songwriting, and with the help of ace guitarist John Inman (long a part of Jerry Jeff Walker's band). At times, Mr. Inman summoned a faux pedal steel guitar sound, using a volume pedal and his slinky fingerwork.
Mr. LaFave's versatile keyboardist Radoslav Lorkovic -- who has a local connection through his Santa Barbara-based brother -- dialed up various sounds on his synth, and he also broke out the accordion for an added unplugged reality check.
In his generous set, Mr. LaFave pulled up originals, including "Hideaway Girl" and "This Land," from last year's "Cimarron Manifesto," a tribute to his upbringing in Oklahoma. He also covered Bob Dylan's "Simple Twist of Fate" and "Just Like a Woman."
In a roundabout local angle, the song was reportedly written about Santa Ynez-bred Edie Sedgwick.
Mr. LaFave ended his show with the Woody Guthrie classic "This Land is Your Land," luring the crowd into a singalong. But Mr. LaFave comes to Mr. Guthrie's songbook honestly and with good references, having been invited by the Guthrie family to pay tribute to one of Oklahoma's cultural icons.
It was a long, satisfying evening at the saloon -- the first of several musical Wednesdays in the continuing saga of "Tales from the Tavern." Stay tuned.
From the heart
I'm not going to type a big drawn out review of this collection. Rather, I'm going to tell you that if you love music that comes straight from the heart, from vocalists with only their own guitars as accompanyment, this is the CD you are looking for. Just about every single performance on here will pull at your heart and soul. Honest and open, soul to soul. Sit back, get in the right frame of mind, and give this collection a good listen. You'll be glad that you did.
Il Mattei’s Tavern di Los Olivos (California) è uno dei tanti locali della della Santa Ynez Valley dove si può ascoltare buona dal vivo. Ciò che lo rende davvero particolare è il fatto che sul suo palco, nel corso degl’anni, è passato il meglio della scena roots americana nell’ambito dell’ormai celebre rassegna Tales From Tavern. Mentre la direzione artistica, si appresta a preparare una nuova stagione, al Mattei’s Tavern, hanno deciso di dare una testimonianza di quanto fatto nel corso degl’anni con questa compilation che raccoglie splendide performance live inedite. Prodotto da Ron Colone, Tales From Taver, racchiude nei diversi brani lo spirito che anima questo locale, si passa dal poco noto ma bravissimo Jesse DeNatale con la sua Shangri-La West ai ben più famosi Chriss Hillman, Herb Pedersen e David Crosby che eseguono una versione acustica molto commovente di Turn! Turn! Turn!. Nel mezzo ci stanno magnificamente Jon Dee Graham con la splendida Faithless, Peter Case con On The Way Downtown, Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Iron con In Lieu Of Flowers ma soprattutto un Dave Alvin in gran spolvero che regala insieme a Greg Liesz la magnifica King Of California. Che dire di più se non che è un disco da cercare (è in vendita su www.talesfromtavern.com) per il grande valore delle singole partecipazioni.
The enthusiasm [Bo] Ramsey projects for the series is echoed by the myriad artists who are now soliciting performances. But such a response is not confined to the artist — audiences too yearn for the musical enrichment offered by the undercurrent of talented performers that adorn the series.
... The intimate and appreciative setting quickly inspires an unwavering connection between performer and appreciator. Tales from the Tavern has matured into one of the county’s hidden gems."
“It’s part conscious raising, part adult education, part U.S. music history … and one of the best small concert venues on the West Coast.”