When Maria Francis and Jeff Overbo first met, they couldn’t have known how complex their journey together would be. How their life together would be marked not just by making music, but by periods of illness and strife.
Back then Francis was simply the new drummer in Overbo’s band in Minneapolis, Minn. One can readily imagine the flurry of creativity and excitement afforded to young musicians falling newly in love. The spark was there, but it would be up to them to learn how to stoke the fire that would eventually become the slow-burning Americana duo Silver Lake 66.
Though the original band broke up, Overbo and Francis continued playing music together, eventually marrying and moving to Los Angeles where they performed as the band The Ruby Trees for more than a decade. During this time, life dealt them a difficult hand, and over the next several years Francis would battle both lupus and thyroid cancer.
“There were quite a few years that I was too ill to make music,” Francis reflects, “and eventually I got to a point where I decided I will take whatever energy, health, etc., that I was given each day and make the best music I could with whatever condition I was in at that time. I think that attitude, along with the joy of playing music, really helped me to feel better overall. Once all of that was over, I was singing better than ever and very grateful for another chance to experience making music.”
The song “Devil’s Looking For Me” and the album that it comes from, the aptly named Let Go or Be Dragged, feel like the perfect creative culmination of their life experiences. While Francis jokes, “We may be late bloomers,” it seems more like the type of well-worn sound that is earned through time and trouble. Overbo writes that the song itself is “about strength and defiance; pushing through obstacles.”
The tune builds slowly; there’s no rush now. It’s as if the group extends the listener an invitation to pour a glass of whiskey and settle in to appreciate the fine intricacies of pedal steel and guitar atop “a tight rhythm section” with Overbo’s baritone growl and Francis’ pure tones. Together they are rough hands with a soft touch. The contrast in each singer’s verse preps the listener for a payoff of harmonies in the chorus.
There’s a refreshing ease to their performance that is no accident. Francis notes, “We feel more free and confident, and have less attachment to any sort of expectations or outcome now. The most important thing for us is being present in each performance.”
Where can you experience more performances like this from Silver Lake 66? Find them performing every fourth Sunday at the Alberta Street Pub, quarterly at the Adrift Hotel in Long Beach, Wash., and regularly at Corkscrew Wine Bar in Sellwood, including Saturday, January 13 at 8pm.