'Good Music is   	Good Music'

'Good Music is Good Music'

Fret Noir brings rich blend of style and experience to Coffee Gallery Backstage Sunday afternoon

By Bliss 10/18/2012

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Instrumental music wears out its welcome quickly with many listeners, if only because pop culture trains us to emotionally engage with music through vocals. But instrumentals are the highlight of Fret Noir’s richly textured blend of Celtic, folk, blues, vintage jazz, new age and rock. Mary Tulin and Gilbert Yslas are masters of their instruments — Tulin wielding acoustic six- and 12-string and Celtic tunings, Yslas playing acoustic and electric and slide — and their guitars resonate with distinctive voices. Together they create a sound much fuller than what’s expected from a duo.
 “If you use all your resources — in our case, two guitars and two voices — when you blend well, it has a multiplier effect, and it sounds like a bigger ensemble,” says Tulin, a former Bakersfield resident who played around the Southland for 10 years with Banshee in the Kitchen before relocating to Washington state with her husband in 2010. “[Even with] four or five good, on-beat, capable players, if there’s not that kind of richness, it’s not as pleasing as a smaller ensemble that really meshes well.”
 
Tulin and Yslas have been playing together for a year and a half, since being introduced by a mutual friend in Washington’s “hotbed of Irish music.” They celebrated the one-year anniversary of their first gig with a release party for their album, “Bittersweet,” a refreshingly varied collection that defies easy categorization.
 
“Somebody asked Dave Matthews, who was over in Africa working with African musicians, ‘What do you say to people who claim you’re going away from what you do so well?’” Tulin relates. “And he said, ‘Good music is good music, and the rest can go to hell.’ The best musicians, I think, can appreciate good music, even if it’s not their particular thing. There’s never a need to apologize. Play the music you love, and you’ll find your audience.”
 
That comment engenders an exchange about age. Blues, folk and other roots artists typically work well into their sunset years, yet a widespread attitude prevails that music is the domain of the unblemished young — even though, as Tulin points out, there are “plenty of gray-haired bands” making great music on late-night TV.
 
“Folkier audiences tend to be people who can afford to come out and are looking for something like we do,” she acknowledges. “Roots music is more respectful of older performers. But music, as a whole, is so geared toward the youngest, latest thing, like Justin Bieber, who’s a great musician. 
 
“Our initial audience was pretty mature, but we get young people coming, and they stick around. It’s that ‘good music is good music’ thing. Young people with sophisticated tastes will come. One young man at one of our gigs said, ‘My dad has been telling me about you for months, but I would have come sooner if I’d known how good you were!’” n

Fret Noir perform at Coffee Gallery Backstage, 2029 N. Lake Ave., Altadena, 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21; $15. Info: 798-6236. Instrumental music wears out its welcome quickly with many listeners, if only because pop culture trains us to emotionally engage with music through vocals. But instrumentals are the highlight of Fret Noir’s richly textured blend of Celtic, folk, blues, vintage jazz, new age and rock. Mary Tulin and Gilbert Yslas are masters of their instruments — Tulin wielding acoustic six- and 12-string and Celtic tunings, Yslas playing acoustic and electric and slide — and their guitars resonate with distinctive voices. Together they create a sound much fuller than what’s expected from a duo.
 “If you use all your resources — in our case, two guitars and two voices — when you blend well, it has a multiplier effect, and it sounds like a bigger ensemble,” says Tulin, a former Bakersfield resident who played around the Southland for 10 years with Banshee in the Kitchen before relocating to Washington state with her husband in 2010. “[Even with] four or five good, on-beat, capable players, if there’s not that kind of richness, it’s not as pleasing as a smaller ensemble that really meshes well.”
 
Tulin and Yslas have been playing together for a year and a half, since being introduced by a mutual friend in Washington’s “hotbed of Irish music.” They celebrated the one-year anniversary of their first gig with a release party for their album, “Bittersweet,” a refreshingly varied collection that defies easy categorization.
 
“Somebody asked Dave Matthews, who was over in Africa working with African musicians, ‘What do you say to people who claim you’re going away from what you do so well?’” Tulin relates. “And he said, ‘Good music is good music, and the rest can go to hell.’ The best musicians, I think, can appreciate good music, even if it’s not their particular thing. There’s never a need to apologize. Play the music you love, and you’ll find your audience.”
 
That comment engenders an exchange about age. Blues, folk and other roots artists typically work well into their sunset years, yet a widespread attitude prevails that music is the domain of the unblemished young — even though, as Tulin points out, there are “plenty of gray-haired bands” making great music on late-night TV.
 
“Folkier audiences tend to be people who can afford to come out and are looking for something like we do,” she acknowledges. “Roots music is more respectful of older performers. But music, as a whole, is so geared toward the youngest, latest thing, like Justin Bieber, who’s a great musician. 
 
“Our initial audience was pretty mature, but we get young people coming, and they stick around. It’s that ‘good music is good music’ thing. Young people with sophisticated tastes will come. One young man at one of our gigs said, ‘My dad has been telling me about you for months, but I would have come sooner if I’d known how good you were!’” n

Fret Noir perform at Coffee Gallery Backstage, 2029 N. Lake Ave., Altadena, 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21; $15. Info: 798-6236. Fretnoir.com

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