A Study in Contrasts
From the February, 2020 issue
Before Mustard's Retreat formed as a trio in Ann Arbor in 1975, folk musician David Tamulevich had been playing informally in two duos, one with vocalist Libby Glover and one with singer and multi-instrumentalist Michael Hough. When Glover moved away after a couple of years, Tamulevich and Hough retained the name and continued as a duo for the next four decades, through thousands of shows and a baker's dozen recordings. Glover joined them occasionally on her return visits to Michigan. Then Glover moved back to the area in 2016 and the trio regrouped, began performing, and even recorded an album. Last year Hough retired to Arizona in order to care for his girlfriend, who was diagnosed with cancer (see Up Front, p. 11). Tamulevich and Glover have carried on, keeping the Mustard's Retreat name and continuing to play shows.
Most successful musical duos are a study in contrasts: two people with complementary rather than identical skills, who also find ways to merge those contrasts into a unified whole. Tamulevich and Hough honed that formula to perfection throughout Mustard's Retreat's long run, and Glover and Tamulevich are continuing the same approach in MR 2.0.
Tamulevich and Hough had distinct, dissimilar voices, yet one of their hallmarks was tight harmony singing, Tamulevich's rounded tenor blending smoothly with Hough's more pointed baritone. Glover and Tamulevich's voices, not surprisingly, differ by nature, yet also create a singular meld. Glover takes the high harmonies above Tamulevich, a departure from the previous MR sound in which Hough usually sang low harmonies. The first MR created visual as well as sonic variety with an ever-varying combination of instruments, among them Tamulevich's guitar, mandolin and harmonica, and Hough's guitar, bass and percussion. Glover brings a vibrant kinetic component. While she sings, at times with closed eyes, or with blissful smiles, she sways, dances in place, and embellishes the music with graceful hand gestures.
And then there's their material, now primarily Tamulevich's large repertoire of original songs,
some of them co-written with Hough. These are life-affirming, socially conscious, and well-loved--and sometimes fully memorized--by MR's many fans. But the new MR includes new songs as well as ones Tamulevich and Glover used to sing together before they were joined by Hough. "In looking forward we are also looking back to our time as a duo," says Tamulevich. On their new recording they sing, "Make your own luck if you're tired and beat/Step up to the plate. Swing for the seats. Make your own luck and luck will find you." MR shows no sign of being tired and beat and--to mix two sports metaphors--they've successfully passed the baton and continue to step up to the plate and swing for the seats.
Mustard's Retreat plays the Ark at 8 p.m. on February 8, their first time there as the duo of Tamulevich and Glover.
[Originally published in February, 2020.]
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