A skeleton has nothing to hide. And a stripped-down acoustic run-through of a famous song is similar. Jack Tempchin has penned many of those songs, most notably the Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Already Gone” and “The One You Love.” On his new CD, Live At Tales From The Tavern, Tempchin reveals the soul of the skeleton.
Right off the bat on the opening track “The One You Love,” I instantly find myself humming the Glenn Frey version in the back of my mind. I can’t seem to help it, 80’s rock radio tattooed that one permanently into my brain. However, as Tempchin starts moving through the first verse, with his slow, soft and eloquent approach, I now hear only the words. The subtle accent of the acoustic guitar and a soothing harmonica riff to help sell the famous harmony is a nice touch, further separating the song from its famous Glenn Frey vocals. And suddenly, it becomes the “who ya gonna choose” tragic love song it was all along. And that right there is the strength of the record and the ace in Tempchin’s deck. He’s a master songwriter, a crafter of songs that feel tranquil but run layers deep.
With Live At Tales From The Tavern, Tempchin returns a bag full of his famous hits to their roots. No longer is the Glenn Frey Miami Vice theme song “You Belong To The City” a glitzy over-produced pop song. Here, Tempchin strums a moody guitar while creating a lonely longing tale from the streets delivered with a layer of grime. The 1977 Johnny Rivers top ten hit “Slow Dancing,” becomes even more graceful with Tempchin’s reading accenting its romantic underpinnings. And the mega-famous Eagles hit “Already Gone” transforms into a hootenanny sing along of independence celebration. With a comfortable straight ahead approach, Tempchin reclaims these songs, returning them to their rightful owner and exposing the beauty in their craft.
Tempchin also gives you a two-song glimpse at his blues abilities. The slide guitar work he does on “Bender” jumps out, and when he throws his head back and howls out the chorus, you can really feel it. The second blues number on the record “Loneliest Piano in Town” not only displays enough of Jack’s comfort with the blues but also shakes up the tempo of the whole CD. Tempchin’s two passes at the blues leave you wondering what an entire record of original penned blues songs coming from him would sound like.
The Live At Tales From The Tavern CD rounds out with Tempchin singing “Peaceful Easy Feeling”–a perfect homage to the man’s persona. Tempchin’s vocal timber is warm and inviting, and sung in his thick lower register, it creates the perfect nightcap to the evening.
The album package also comes with a live DVD of the night which offers an even more insightful glance at the artist. It’s the full run of the album’s songs with added between-song banter that shows off Tempchin’s dry wit. You also get a glimpse behind the creations of some of the songs. Tempchin’s warm personality and wise sage-like vibe are contagious; once you see the DVD, you instantly miss it when listen to the recording.
Tempchin is a San Diego treasure who, for years, has relied on the lasting power and longevity of a well-constructed song to cement his legacy. Live At Tales From The Tavern throws a tight spotlight on Tempchin and his songs and serves as a showcase to his far-reaching talents.