Silver Lining songbook
Tall Tales is a band for all seasons
By David Cotner 01/10/2013
Photo by Betsy Winchell
There is a rare and dusty place in music that the band Tall Tales and the Silver Lining inhabits. At first aural glance, it lies somewhere between garage music and bedroom music. On closer inspection it turns out that it lives in that special space beneath the bed where you keep your hallowed things. It’s a space that is knowing yet shrouded in secret, where passion rests, waiting to flow outward in that unmistakable expression of pop devotion. The word “summery” is a fairly good summary of the loping, looping lazy-day songs Tall Tales has produced with great care and alacrity over the past five years. It released the eponymous sixth vinyl LP — a follow-up to 2011’s warmly mooted Nice to Meet You Again — on Dec. 21, 2012. It’s said that one cannot prove a negative, and yet because the Mayan apocalypse did not happen on that dreaded Friday, on some level we may have Tall Tales and the Silver Lining to thank.
Using Bandcamp.com to fan the flames of its fans’ fascination, Tall Tales released 12 different songs across four separate singles last year, one for each season. Singer-songwriter Trevor Beld-Jimenez arranged the recording sessions at a different studio for each recording, bringing in a group of trusted compatriots — friends like Jason Bays, Kyle Field and Seth Pettersen — to illustrate the singles’ covers. Tall Tales and the Silver Lining is also the first release with Rocketship Records; it’s a record released directly because of the support of longtime creative Ventura firebrand Jeff Grimes. Some inspiration for the songs, per Beld-Jimenez, include friendships, longing, love, an arch-nemesis, depression, joy, babies and family.
The list of performers on the tracks reads like a family tree of who’s who in Southern California folk Americana. There’s Trevor Beld-Jimenez on vocals and guitar (also percussion and bass on some tracks), wife Tania singing in the background, guitarist Nels Rosengren and percussionist Brook Dalton and Evan apRoberts on guitar with pedal steel player Tim Ramsey and sometime bassists Edgar Acosta and Willard Matthews. There’s also a plethora of guest appearances by Ryan Adams’ guitarist Neal Casal, Jeff Grimes on harmonica and other percussion, folk pianist Andrew MacIver, fiddler Phoebe Parros, and Pettersen on synth and additional percussion. Guitarist Matt Van Winkle shows up briefly, but since the time during which the songs were recorded, he’s become a full-time member of Tall Tales.
Dalton spoke recently about the making of the album. “We recorded at five different studios. That gives a different sound, a different take to each single. So many times you’ll listen to a record and, from a production standpoint, all the songs sound the same, but this one is four different releases from five different studios over one year.” What effect does that have for the overall product? “It’s not all homogenized. It doesn’t sound like it all came from the same session.” One song was also recorded at the beautifully titled Topanga Rest Home for Typewriters (and Apricot Farm). “That was a studio that was way up on a hill,” Dalton recalls. “Great view, and it started to kind of rain; it was really misty and drizzly that day.” What had he wanted to bring to the recording sessions? “This band is kind of a big band — the band gets bigger all the time. There are a lot of players coming on. So I always try to keep that in mind. With Tall Tales, I really want to kind of focus on playing what the song needs, and that’s it. I don’t want to stand out or distract. I just want to keep it simple, keep it Charlie Watts style, and just do exactly what the song calls for.” So what do the songs call for? “There are so many other things going on, usually, that if even one of us tries to stand out a little bit, it would be more distracting and have less of an impact.” So is he an artisan or a workman? “I think before last year, I would have thought of myself more as an artisan. Trevor is a great songwriter, and there’s something really facilitating about him writing; he’ll sit in his room and pump out three great songs a day. So when we all practice, or when we all record, the songs are done, and I have a role to fill. And that’s what I do. I play drums.”
Tall Tales and the Silver Lining will perform at Bombay on Saturday, Jan. 12, with Jeff Grimes and The Blank Tapes.