For a few Wednesday nights throughout the spring and fall, the typically raucous Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez is transformed into an intimate, candle-lit listening room. With the pool table pushed against the back wall, the glow extinguished from the neon Budweiser sign, and the two-stepping and boot-scooting put on hold, the room is turned over to some of America’s finest singer/songwriters, who fill the place with songs and stories born on the road.
Tales from the Tavern is fast becoming one of the most sought-after gigs on the Americana touring circuit. And those who are stopping by are an apt reflection of that. With alumni including musical legends David Crosby and Chris Hillman and rising stars Pieta Brown and Devon Sproule, the biannual series takes great pleasure in mixing the tried and the new. And in doing so, the series has introduced its dedicated fans to numerous talents they might not have otherwise encountered.
With the new series getting underway next Wednesday night, the first show promises two performers who are plenty familiar to these parts. While Kevin Welch has been a frequent visitor to the Sings Like Hell stage, Carla Olson regularly traversed Santa Barbara in its musical heyday. During the course of her career, Olson has played alongside Gene Clark and former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor. But it was a show at the old Bank of America building in Isla Vista that still remains one of her fondest live performances.
“The venue had gone bankrupt the day before we were supposed to play there,” she recalled. “They didn’t advertise and they had pulled out the sound system. A friend up there had a PA in storage and he pulled it out for us. Someone even had to go out for some kegs of beer. Despite all that, there were about 100 people there and I have to say it was one of my all-time favorite shows to play. Not only did we play every song we knew, they kept asking for more. And Mick Taylor was the best I have ever heard. I wish I knew someone who had recorded that show :”
While that performance may be a particular favorite of Olson’s, the former Texan has a resume that’s brimming with musical highlights. Having spent the latter half of the ’70s playing covers in Austin, a move to Los Angeles with her band The Textones (featuring would-be Go-Go Kathy Valentine) found her writing her own material. Soon Olson had names like Don Henley, Ry Cooder, and Gene Clark lending a hand on her band’s debut album.
The connection that Olson forged with Clark was such that the pair subsequently ventured in the studio together to record an album of duets. The result, So Rebellious a Lover, was an intimate affair that was recorded in Clark’s living room in 1989. But their musical union wasn’t just restricted to recording-the pair performed together throughout the ’80s. Having also dueted with Taylor, Mark Lindsay, and even Lucinda Williams, Olson said that having a connection with her fellow artists is a big plus.
But Olson’s musical legacy isn’t simply confined to collaborations. While we might not have been treated to a new album since 2001’s The Ring of Truth, Olson currently is laying the foundations for a new recording. And this year alone, we’ve seen a slew of her retrospectives hit the shelves (Detroit ’85: Live & Unreleased, live recordings with The Textones, a re-release of Too Hot for Snakes with Mick Taylor).
Given Olson’s love of recording and releasing live performances, her appearance at Tales from the Tavern is both fitting and timely. Throughout their musical venture, series producers Ron and Carole Ann Colone have recorded each and every concert they have staged, as well as collected interviews with the various performers. And while many have since been released as audio recordings, this month marks the release of the duo’s first DVD, Steve Poltz: Live at Tales from the Tavern.
“Steve Poltz is such a visual performer and entertainer who is all over the place when he is onstage,” enthused Ron Colone. “And he had such a great performance to an amazing audience that night. We have interspersed several segments of the interview we did, along with a couple of songs he did backstage in the dressing room. And, as a result, the DVD reveals so many different aspects of him as an artist and a person. It seems like he was definitely the right one to get this going.”
And while Welch and Olson are the perfect candidates to kick off the new series, rest assured the remainder of the program won’t disappoint either.
October 22 boasts an evening with Eliza Gilkyson, while November 12 sees the return of Malcolm Holcombe (with Tony Furtado). Chuck Prophet stops by on November 19 with Annabelle Chvostek from The Wailin’ Jennys. And local favorites Wil Ridge and Tom Russell command the bill on December 3. The series finale will be held on December 10 with Kelly Joe Phelps.
Carla Olson and Kevin Welch jump-start the fall 2008 Tales from the Tavern series this Wednesday, October 8, at the Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez (3687 Sagunto St). Call 688-0383or visit talesfromthetavern.com for details.