Storied Songs

Bill Sparkman began performing outlaw country as a Marine in Vietnam. Meanwhile, Taelen Thomas is a master at telling stories. Together they’ve been bringing the musical past to life.

“What do Outlaw Country and Valentine’s Day have to do with each other?” I asked the question three times in my interviews about Taelen Thomas and Bill Sparkman’s presentation of Waylon Jennings’ music. Each time I received the same “nothing, it was purely coincidence” response.

Thomas chuckles though, and says, “If there isn’t a connection, we can make one with beautiful poems and love songs.” Off the cuff he recites some of Jennings’ lyrics: “Late one night a light of love finally gave a sign/ Jessi parked her Cadillac and took her place in line.”

Reciting poetry and lyrics from memory is second nature to the Bard of Monterey. When Thomas combines his craft with Sparkman’s well of over 66 Jennings songs, the result is a living documentary of a classic country icon. They interpose live acoustic music with stories about songs and the artist. It’s been well scripted, and told by two experienced performers. It’s not their first rodeo, either.

This will be the third installment in an unintentional series. The previous episodes – about Bob Dylan and the music of Laurel Canyon – were both performed to a packed audience at the Lab. Mike Scutari, who booked the show at The Lab, says, “Taelen and Bill are the real deals. Having them join forces has been epic, and people are really enjoying their performances.”

Since Sparkman shares the same rich, baritone register as Jennings, the songs came naturally. “I jumped on the bandwagon quickly and started doing only outlaw country.”

Outlaws don’t do roses for Valentine’s Day though, so bring a six-pack.

A MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY OF WAYLON JENNINGS WITH TAELEN THOMAS AND BILL SPARKMAN 5:30pm Friday, Feb. 14. The Lab, 3728 The Barnyard #G-23, Carmel. $15. thelabarts.com.

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