If you have ever driven Hwy 154 north of Santa Barbara on a Sunday afternoon and stopped at the Cold Spring Tavern for a tri-tip sandwich, you will undoubtedly remember the “good-time” blues music that went along with it. Tom Ball, on harmonica and vocals, and Kenny Sultan, on guitar, have been playing their own brand of American roots styles of music together for 35 years, and outside on the porch of the Tavern on Sundays for much of that time.
On Saturday, July 15, at 7 p.m., Fiddlers Crossing will be bringing the fun back to Tehachapi for a second time.
The popular Santa Barbara duo is highly sought after for concerts all over the world. They have been called, “America’s Good-Time Ambassadors,” and can fit in festivals of blues, jazz, folk and even bluegrass. Their music draws upon traditional songs, ragtime favorites and their own infectious blues numbers.
Sultan moves fluidly on the guitar from finger-picking to slide to blues chords and back again. Ball alternates his throaty vocals with soulful harmonica playing.
Along with playing festivals, college campuses and other concert venues — and jamming at the Cold Spring — Ball and Sultan have worked on countless film scores, TV soundtracks, commercials and other music sessions. They were the only musical act in America to play all four venues of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. They have appeared on international television, were featured on the “Levi’s 501 Blues” commercials, have played on Voice of America, and are frequent guests on National Public Radio. They have also garnered awards among their eight albums .
Tom Ball was born in Los Angeles and began playing guitar at age 11, and harmonica at 13. While still in his teens, he was in the Yerba Buena Blues Band, and in the mid-1960s, played “Love-ins” and Sunset Strip nightclubs.
In 1978, Ball teamed up with fellow Californian Kenny Sultan. Sultan had been playing guitar since age seven, and his older brother had introduced him to blues at an early age. He graduated with honors from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a major in music and ethnomusicology, specializing in African-American music.
Both Ball and Sultan teach and give workshops. Sultan has several instructional books and CDs to his credit, and has been honored with a Martin signature guitar named after him.
On July 15, you won’t have to go to the Coast, to the Cold Spring Tavern, to enjoy the good-time music of Ball and Sultan.
Fiddlers Crossing is at 206 East F Street at Robinson Street, in Downtown Tehachapi. Tickets may be purchased at Mountain Music, at Tehachapi Treasure Trove, Tehachapi Furniture in Old Town, and Lucky’s Barbershop on Green St., or online at fiddlerscrossing.com. Tickets to the concert are $20, and as always, coffee and goodies are included. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.