Lyle Lovett, left, and John Hiatt played the Chumash Casino last weekend. | Credit: Courtesy

This edition of ON the Beat was originally emailed to subscribers on November 17, 2022. To receive Josef Woodard’s music newsletter in your inbox each Thursday, sign up at

Concert venues have feelings too, and personalities and legacies. They are not just neutral vessels or packaging into which musical or other cultural content is poured for a night. Take the Chumash Casino’s Samala Showroom, which is still one of the younger of Santa Barbara’s large-ish rooms, compared to the Bowl, Lobero, and Arlington (though older than the renovated Granada). Over the hill and through the gambling woods, we wend our way through slot machined, blackjack and other lady luck-baiting landscapes and enter the Samala, which takes on the feel of a comforting sanctum, beyond the aura of gambling spirits.

I finally returned to the Samala last weekend after a few years away, to soak in the finery of all-American singer-songwriter great Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt, and couldn’t help conjuring up memories of classic shows caught in this space. COVID times and a hiatus in music programming delayed the room’s comeback, and settling in, I reflected back on a list of high times here — the inaugural christening concert of Fleetwood Mac in 2004, soul stars James Brown and Al Green, George Clinton P-Funk, Stevie Winwood, Steely Dan, Los Tigres del Norte (returning there on December 2), twang royalty Loretta Lynn and Vince Gill, and others which will spring to mind later. On my “ones that got away” list: Stevie Wonder and Jeff Beck. Needless to say, the Samala has hosted some great nights of music in its time.

And here was another one, courtesy of a friendly pair of song heroes, call it the regal firm of Lovett and Hiatt. Since they last played this stage in 2011, the pair have further cemented their solid place in the foundation of what gives “Americana” musical distinction and continue working their lifelong songwriting habits. Lovett’s new album is 12th of June (hey, that’s my birthday!) and Hiatt’s latest is 2021’s collaboration with Jerry Douglas, Leftover Feelings.

Together on stage, they make for a mutual admiration society and witty bantering with a pleasant haze of spontaneous hanging-out in the air between them. Lovett is the Texan well-dressed man, owner of a carefully-tended twang in his voice and songbook, while Hiatt is the jeans and a thrift store jacket type with the artful rasp, vocally, a Hoosier-gone-Nashville. They swapped songs and stories for nearly three hours, exceeding the typical casino set duration of 75-90 minutes (the better to get customers headed back to the baccarat tables).

They covered the range of old favorites and new gems, including the renewably loveable stuff of Lovett’s “She’s No Lady” and “If I Had a Boat” and such prizes from Hiatt’s vast and deep songbook as “It Feels Like Rain,” “Thing Called Love,” and his anthemic “Have a Little Faith.” The most poignant point of the evening came with Hiatt’s deeply touching reflection on the 9/11 tragedy, “New York Had Her Heart Broke,” its quirky ¾ measure adding a pang of tension.

Lovett is now 65, and has finally fallen into family man mode, with five-year old twins to recharge his sense of home (and the subject of his heartwarming new song “12th of June,” a sweet show-closer). Hiatt, 70, added grandfather to his resume during this tour, and dedicated his ode to his daughter, “Georgia Rae,” now in tribute to said daughter’s newborn. Life goes on, and these two stellar singer-songwriters carry on with their life’s work, whether or not modern radio is paying attention. As Hiatt said to Lovett (and us) at the casino: “writing is hard … but not writing is harder.”

Sign up for ON the Beat, Josef Woodard’s semi-weekly newsletter preaching the gospel of eclectic music tastes.

Composer and UCSB Professor Emma Lou Diemer turns 95 on Thanksgiving Day. | Credit Courtesy

Birthday/T-Day Greetings to a Veteran Woman of Music

My first exposure to the work of Emma Lou Diemer came when I was an impressionable teen, eager to soak up whatever experimental music I could find, in the days before Spotify. Diemer, a longtime UCSB Music Department faculty member, co-founded and directed the Electronic/Computer Music limb of the department, and enabled analog synthesists rare stage time at Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall. Also being an avowed organ geek, I was excited to learn of Diemer’s respected work as an organist and composer of music for organ and many other settings.

As it happens, Diemer has been one of the most prolific and respected composers who have called Santa Barbara home, and a woman who thrived in a male-dominated sphere, decades before the current semblance of gender parity was underway. Born in Kansas City, Missouri and trained at Yale and Eastman, Diemer landed at UCSB in 1971. Her long list of compositions, oscillating between tonal and more experimental work (with a fondness for Hindemith’s notion of anti-elitist “Gebrauchsmusik”) includes music from her Santa Barbara Symphony composer-in-residence period, 1990-92, Songs for the Earth and Concerto in One Movement for Marimba. For local color, with the London Symphony Orchestra in the mix, turn to the tonal yet aptly, restlessly venturesome Santa Barbara Overture, from the 2013 album Pacific Ridge (Navona Records).

Diemer turns 95 on Thanksgiving Day. We hereby offer a hardy toast to this highly musical woman by-the-sea.


In other Americana news … the ever-loveable “Tales from the Tavern” series at Santa Ynez’ ever-loveable cowboy bar Maverick’s, brings its autumn series to a close on Wednesday (November 16), on a glowing note. A dazzling twofer slate of Jimmy Dale Gilmore and Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones haspredictably sold-out. Keep an eye and wallet out for cancellations.
Speaking of twofers, a pair of world-class jazz concerts descends on the calendar this week — the Django Festival Allstars returns to the Lobero on Tuesday, November 15, and wunderkind pianist Matthew Whitaker makes his local debut at Campbell Hall on Thursday (November 17).

Support the Santa Barbara Independent through a long-term or a single contribution.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.