By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
When Mustard’s Retreat steps on the Pemberville Opera House stage Saturday night, they’ll arrive as old friends who haven’t stopped by in a spell.
The duo of David Tamulevich and Michael Hough were regulars in Bowling Green a few years ago. Anne Tracy brought them to BG first for her concert series back in the late 1990s, and since they’ve played the Black Swamp Art Festival. Most recently they visited as part of the Yellow Room Gang, a songwriting collective from Ann Arbor, playing at the festival and Grounds for Thought.
It’s been a few years, though. When the Ann Arbor- based singer-songwriters return, they’ll bring an old friend, Libby Glover, an original member of the group when it formed in 1974.
The show is part of the Live in the House series and starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12.
Mustard’s Retreat is all about friendship. The members met back in Ann Arbor when they were working in the college town’s bars and restaurants, not as entertainers but cooking food and serving drinks.
Tamulevich and Hough worked as short order cooks.
They shared a love of music so they pulled together three songs, and brought their act to the stage of The Arc, the legendary folk venue.
Glover was tending bar at another place where Tamulevich was performing, and she started joining him on stage to sing harmony. “The blend of the voices was captivating,” Tamulevich said in a recent telephone interview.
The three together performed as Mustard’s Retreat until Glover left town to pursue a solo career. She got standing ovations on her last gigs with them. The guys decided to soldier on without her, Tamulevich said. And they got a standing ovation on their first show as a duo.
When Glover returned to Ann Arbor five years ago, she started to do shows with the duo again. “She stepped right back into it and, it was like no time had gone by. It was the same magic,” Tamulevich said. Glover joins the duo for regional shows, including Saturday’s Pemberville concert.
Whether as a duo or a trio, “we just tell human stories, and people connect to them. They come up and tell their stories. That’s the thing I like. … It’s a concert, but it’s also a social thing. It touches people and moves them and inspires them.”
That’s the power of folk music. “We hope to be uplifted and inspired. That’s what this music does. … We have a dialogue with the audience. Wherever we go it’s like meeting relatives you haven’t had a chance to meet yet.”
Hough and Tamulevich each have 75 to 100 songs. That includes a couple “Gather the Family,’ which they co-wrote, and Tamulevich’s “Simple Faith” that have made the rounds on the folk circuit and in Unitarian churches. In their songs they seek out the truth without being “preachy.” They also draw on the people, folklore, and humor of the upper Midwest.
“There’s an underlying theme of community and respect for each other and respect for the earth,” Tamulevich said. “You write around those themes.”
A sense of community is what drew Tamulevich to music. He remembered being in England as a high school student, and seeing how a singer on a bus drew people to her and held their attention with just her guitar and voice. A shy kid, Tamulevich wanted to be able to do that.
He also drew inspiration from a film about Pete Seeger’s first cruise on the Hudson River advocating to get the waterway cleaned up. “Here were all these great artists singing, and it was about something, not just pop. That’s the great thing about folk music. It’s stories about real people, real concerns, and it has something to say. Folk songs survive because they offered community and content.”
Tamulevich recalls during a PBS broadcast of a reunion of Peter, Paul and Mary, the announcer was grappling with how to describe the group’s appeal. “Defiantly hopeful,” he said.
Mustard’s Retreat has adopted that as their mission statement. “It just struck me that this is what folk music was always about. This is what Pete Seeger was about and the whole sixties folk scene was about … music that means something.”
Music meant to share. Tamulevich said he’s heard that the Pemberville audience is very inquisitive. “I’m thrilled.” He’s eager to share Mustard’s Retreat stories with them and hear some of theirs.