Yellow Brick Road: Mustard’s Retreat keeps folk music’s legacy alive locally, nationally

. November 26, 2019.
Libby Glover and David Tamulevich perform together in the current lineup of Mustard’s Retreat. Photo Credit: Gary Lester.

Nearly 45 years later, Mustard’s Retreat remains defiantly hopeful about keeping folk music’s spirit alive.

The Ann Arbor folk music trio of David Tamulevich, Libby Glover and Michael Hough continues to preserve the genre’s timeless sound through iconic tales about love, growth and change. 

With 14 albums and 6,000-plus live shows, Mustard’s Retreat has attracted a dedicated fan base locally and nationally spanning three generations.

“As popular in Michigan as we got back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, we always just did what we wanted and enjoyed,” Tamulevich said. “We weren’t there looking ahead to where it was going to get us. It was all about being on stage, having fun and entertaining people.”

The early days

Mustard’s Retreat started entertaining people when Tamulevich and Hough performed together at The Ark’s open mic nights in 1974. The two short-order cooks met while working at The Brown Jug and discovered their mutual love of folk music.

After performing at The Ark, Tamulevich secured a two-month residency at The Rathskeller located below The Heidelberg. Hough joined Tamulevich for the performances, and the duo quickly became a trio once bartender Libby Glover added her soaring harmonies on stage.

“Libby had her musical training in the Flint schools, and she had already played in bands at other places,” Tamulevich said. “She was so good at laying in those harmonies, and it’s the sound that really gets inside of people.”

The newly formed trio needed a name after packing The Rathskeller on weekends and securing additional gigs at other local venues. Tamulevich suggested the quirky moniker, Mustard’s Retreat, to brand the act as they started touring.

“Mustard’s Retreat was the name of a song I wrote. There was a local family called Mustard, and Nancy Mustard was my supervisor at the undergrad library, and she played guitar. She showed me how to do this little slide on the guitar that I’d never seen before,” said Tamulevich, who’s inspired by Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and Peter, Paul and Mary. 

“I went home and wrote an instrumental, and I thought I’ll name this after her. The Retreat comes from an old fiddle tune, ‘Bonaparte’s Retreat,’ so I just named it Mustard’s Retreat.”

From trio to duo

Mustard’s Retreat continued as a trio through the late ‘70s as Glover also traveled and performed in other projects. The band later became a duo once Glover moved, and Tamulevich and Hough spent the next 40 years writing, recording, performing and touring.

By 2014, Glover returned to Michigan and rejoined Mustard’s Retreat to restore the original lineup. For Tamulevich and Hough, their original sound re-emerged and transported them back to the early days of playing at The Rathskeller.

“We started singing together, and it was just like no time had passed,” Tamulevich said. “We had all gotten better, and there was just always that magic.”

Mustard’s Retreat recaptured that folk magic on their latest album, “Make Your Own Luck,” which dropped last year and features 13 classic tunes about relationships, progress and perseverance. 

One of the album’s gems, “The Whisper of the Stars,” traces Tamulevich’s Lithuanian heritage to the early 20th century and chronicles his ancestors’ resiliency during the Soviet deportations in Eastern Europe after World War II.

Mustard’s Retreat today

Since the release of their latest album, Mustard’s Retreat has returned to a duo with Tamulevich and Glover. Hough recently went on hiatus after learning his girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer.

“Michael said you two should absolutely go ahead and do this as a duo,” Tamulevich said. “There’s a legacy here, and he’s been absolutely supportive of this and so have audiences.”

As a duo, Tamulevich and Glover continue to perform locally and nationally. They will return to the Ark February 8 for a headlining show and celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with an April 22 performance during Live Climate at The Town Hall in New York City.

“We deliberately chose not to go the commercial route because this is what we want to do, and this is who we want to play for,” Tamulevich said. “This is a real thing with real people, and this is where we want to be.”

Mustard’s Retreat
Doors 7:30 pm, Show 8 pm | Saturday, February 8
The Ark, 316 S. Main St. in Ann Arbor
Tickets: $20 at theark.org

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