The Yucca Tap Room

May 28, 2005

Live music in Arizona has been dying the same slow, agonizing death that's been afflicting taverns and bars across the country. Fortunately, we still have a few good venues, and one of them is the Yucca Tap Room in Tempe, on Southern just west of Mill.

On stage tonight was Los Guys, followed by Mark Insley and Rosie Flores, then Dave Insley and his Careless Smokers. Yes, the Insleys are related (Mark is the older brother). Rosie Flores brought with her a little taste of her native Texas for the night of pure Arizona Country, and it couldn't have been a better night.

Los Guys rocked their Americana, a four-man group formed by members of The Pistoleros, playing some strong Arizona Roots music. Mark Zubia's vocals were sharp and strong as they took on some excellent covers, including Bob Dylan's "If Not For You," as well as some original work. There was a little problem with the sound balance, but dang, the boys were good enough that I was pleased to listen to them even with the rather sharp speaker noises.

Mark Insley. I like Mark. I actually met him first, right after the release of his disc "Tucson," which I reviewed some years ago for Take Country Back ( www.takecountryback.com ). Mark took the stage with the Americana sweetheart, Rosie Flores, and together they played and sang some wonderful acoustic duets. Then Mark did some solo, and Rosie did some solo, and they sang again together. Rosie's crisp, high voice compliments Mark's crack-sharp tenor, lending a sweetness to his oft-biting lyrics, western rock with a touch of comfortable folk.

Then came Dave Insley and his Careless Smokers. I ran into Dave kinda by accident. A couple of years ago I made a very distinct effort to catch a rare appearance of Texas honky-tonk legend, Dale Watson, in Phoenix. Opening for Dale was a local group called Trophy Husbands, who just plain blew me away. I wrote a favorable review of them and got a copy of their disc, "Dark and Bloody Ground," for review, as well, and then they sort of disappeared from my radar. Still, that disc remained one of my all-time favorites, and, about a year or so ago, I was spinning it again and wondered what they were up to. I did a search and came up with Dave Insley, his website, and the fact that he would be appearing at a Phoenix night spot in just a few days. Coincidentally, he'd be playing with Dave Gleason, who had just made a splash at Take Country Back, and they asked me to cover the show. So I went. On his own, Dave Insley flat-out wowed me.

He continues to do so today. With the release of his first solo effort, "Call Me Lonesome," Dave splashed onto the Americana charts. He plays the Yucca Tap Room frequently, calls it his home base, and never fails to please the audience. Mostly, Dave plays original songs. He has a trunkload of great tunes, far more than could fit onto "Call Me Lonesome," and plays them whenever he feels like it, or on demand. He does the odd cover song, belting out Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Waylon Jennings, or Johnny Cash as the mood strikes him- and with his aggressive baritone, he really can plain kick ass with a Johnny Cash song!

Dave never fails to make his shows fun. He remembers regular audience members and is always willing to share a beer with you and chat about music or anything else. He's as sharp and funny in person as his lyrics are.

Dave's about to embark on a coast-to-coast tour, which will kick off, of course, at the Yucca Tap Room in mid-July (for dates, check www.daveinsley.com ). I plan to be there, and if Dave comes to a city near you, try and be there, too. If you like good country music, Dave Insley is a must.

And if you're in the Metro Phoenix area and are looking for a place that still plays live music, head over to Mill and Southern and check out the Tap Room. It's a tiny place, really, but the gals at the bar are friendly, well drinks and longnecks are inexpensive, and the music's great. Parking's in the back. Have a great time.