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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Tashians: Gently Into the Night

March 29, 1993|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LAGUNA NIGUEL — What a long, strange trip it's been for Barry Tashian. Nearly 30 years ago he was leading the now near-mythic Barry and the Remains, opening shows for the Beatles on their last American tour.

Saturday night, here at Shade Tree Stringed Instruments, he and his wife, Holly, presented a gentle program of beautifully harmonized country music which only once or twice stirred memories of his rock 'n' roll past.

Remarkably, given that both are from Westport, Conn., the Tashians' eclectic array of tunes--some original, some familiar--were played with striking fidelity to traditional styles. The singers' use of such techniques as melisma, throat timbres and glottal effects dated back to the earliest days of recorded country music.

The Tashians sang "My Window, It Faces South," an eight-bar blues, with the rollicking swing of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys; Ernest Tubb's "An Old Love Affair" which rang with classic roadhouse melancholy; and Bill Monroe's "Sittin' Alone in the Moonlight," with its arresting chromatic harmony on the word "alone," demonstrating that the master of bluegrass could be lyrical as well as rhythmic.

Tashian's few references to his past included a hard-swinging duo-guitar rendition of Bill Doggett's "Hot Ginger," a chorus or two of the Remains' "Diddy Wah Diddy" and a rewrite of Bo Diddley's "I'm a Man," called "I'm a Person."

The couple's original songs such as "Ready for Love," "Making a Change" and "My Journey's End" were sweetly optimistic, with well-crafted, instantly memorable melodies. A somewhat more vigorous "Long Train of Fools" sounded perfectly tailored for Garth Brooks.

The Tashians' most attractive characteristic was their extraordinary vocal blend, reminiscent at times of the Everly Brothers at their best. On two a cappella numbers, their singing was so precise, so on the mark, that the room rang with vocal overtones.

If there was a problem, it was with the persistently upbeat quality of virtually all the Tashians' material. A little more density and a touch or two of the dark side would have made for a better balanced program.

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