Tip Toe through the Tulips

Additional stuff in the cooler.

Additional stuff in the cooler.

This is just a few of things to be found at our favorite Oriental grocery. Mostly the produce.

 

 

 

There are 10 doors to this cooler. The last 2 contain cheese, meat, butter, and yogurts.

There are 10 doors to this cooler. The last 2 contain cheese, meat, butter, and yogurts.

More cool things. I'm dying to find out what these little Rhizomes are.

More cool things. I’m dying to find out what these little Rhizomes are.

This is a unblocked banana tree bloom. The owner said the cut it in 2 and roast it.

This is a un-bloomed banana tree bloom. The owner said the cut it in 2 and roast it.

Posted in Culinary | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Alliums are flowers too

As Kim and I embark on this year’s gardening season, I’ve discovered I don’t know as much as I do know. We’ve rearranged the layout at least 5 times.

There is nothing lazy about gardening.

There is nothing lazy about gardeningmes.

I fear I will be doing it again. Just me, my reference material, my ruler, the calculator, and my self made garden grid paper.

Over my shoulder is my editor, her blog,

http://thelazygardenerblog.wordpress.com/

the dog, and the 1000 plus plant starts awaiting order.

We keep adding things is the main reason for the constant redesign. As children of the Cold War that came out of it confused as to what is really wrong with being community orientated, being less consumer orientated, and the big one–conservationist at heart– we want to get as much as we can from an allotted space. Bigger is not always better in our book, but utilizing resources wisely is. Please do not confuse me with a conservative as in politics. Here’s the basic difference between the tree huggers and me. If the tree is dead or dying bring it down. Grind it up and use it as mulch to put around the new trees you had better be planting. If the tree is alive and still healthy tell me why you can’t build around the tree. If logical I will trade 100 new trees planted amongst your project for my old tree. If it is illogical I await your new plan with the crazies chained to the tree.

Okay put simply new roads, buildings, and parking lots are all essential to growth of our culture but let’s do this wisely with consideration to all the life on the planet just not of human life.

So how does that apply to gardening? I had class once that actual discussed Soviet Union policy on housing, food, and transportation. The housing thing has stuck with me–900 square feet for a family of 4 or 5. You know what that forces you to do? Right, not waste space. That logic applies to what most call companion gardening. The plants are backed in there relatively tight. Plants are placed next to each other for beneficial reasons like pH, insect control, flavor, pollinators, and shade.

Correlation to that 900 square feet? The is not just a coffee table but the lid flips open and it holds the extra sheets and linen. We also use it as a bench for our dinner table and it’s also a desk and a work table.

So the garden is 25 x 25 feet. One of the things I had originally excluded was garlic. Kim remind me that we would need a bushel in the fall when we canned. We also consume a bulb a week easily. In addition, the health benefits of garlic are amazing. I added garlic. Still on the spring board of jumping into the lake of let’s add more she asked about ginger and horseradish. I escaped near drowning, as ginger and horseradish are quite potable. The garlic on the other hand was added and for extra measure she added red onions.

Off to the Oriental grocery Emma and I went.

Here are some examples of what I meant when I said it is so much cheaper and the selection is mind blowing. While there the owner said, and I quote, “We have hardly anything out. Thursday is the day to come. ”

Bay leaves.  Not laurel bay.

Bay leaves. Not laurel bay.

Lemon grass

Lemon grass

Fresh Dill...this bunch was a $1

Fresh Dill…this bunch was a $1

Posted in Culinary | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Eat the Shasta Daisies….

In the preface of Mark Bittman’s book “How to Cook Everything: The Basics”,  in the opening paragraph is :

When I first wrote “How to Cook Everything”, I began with this statement: “Anyone can cook, and most everyone should.” I no longer believe “that most everyone ‘should’  ”  cook, but it’s clear that in recent years more people want to learn how.

I’d like to expand on the thought that not everyone should cook. Well sure cook but please do not force your cooking wares upon the rest of us. People who aught not cook include those who only eat 5 things. People who would rather use cheap vegetable oil to sautee in than say olive oil can, again,  cook for themselves just not the rest of us. People who uses store bought mixes and then try to convince you that it is ‘homemade’…and believe it…are not good cooks! People who can prepare a food–say fish–only one way, and than to compound it all by saying something so mundane as ‘this works’,  are not really great cooks either. Humility is very essential to learning and beginning anything great. It’s ever so true when it comes to cooking.

In a recent conversation I had with my son, the sous chef, he talked about training people. In the telling the story of one individual who simply did not appreciate that artists, those who cook, who have a method to their madness and that methodology is scared, my son spoke with a grace that sent me scrambling for my pen.
He was explaining to this kid the reason behind why one should not slice mozzarella but tear it into chunks. Exactly what he said was along the lines like more exposure to the vapors of the brick oven, allowing the sauce to breath, and so forth. The clueless kid he was training retorted with something like it’s so much easier though to slice it. My son said, “But I just spoke poetry to you.” Indeed he had.

Clueless child needs to stick with generic mac n cheese for Kraft is too good for him.

Bradley in the stock room of Bottega just before his shift.

Bradley in the stock room of Bottega just before his shift.

Bradley needs to come home and cook for his mom.

Thinking back on where in time my son got interested I would have to say it was one morning when I, being extremely broke, needed to, one, feed my visiting child and two, entertain him. He wanted French Toast. He listened. He asked questions. Confessed when he was a little intimidated by the hot skillet. His sisters wolfed it down like it was their last meal praised him, but still made little comments as to the thickness and doneness of his first endeavor. I believe he was 10. Today he is 23. I sent him a message today asking for a picture of him in his chef coat.  I’ll post it to this story when I get it. Mom is very proud.

I asked several people to list the things they feel are essential for a good kitchen. You know a serious cook from those who just manage. A serious cook starts with the essentials and I don’t refer to what brand of mayonnaise they prefer. Here’s some things we all agreed on.

#1 sea salt or kosher salt

What’s the difference and why?

Sea salt and table salt have the same basic nutritional value, despite the fact that sea salt is often marketed as a more natural and healthy alternative. The most notable differences between sea salt and table salt are in their taste, texture and processing.

Sea salt is produced through evaporation of ocean water or water from saltwater lakes, usually with little processing. Depending on the water source, this leaves behind certain trace minerals and elements. The minerals add flavor and color to sea salt, which also comes in a variety of coarseness levels.

Table salt is typically mined from underground salt deposits. Table salt is more heavily processed to eliminate minerals and usually contains an additive to prevent clumping. Most table salt also has added iodine.

So table salt has an additive in it and often iodine. That’s what I want food to taste like….like for sure.

#2 Good Oils

Like Olive Oil, Grape seed Oil, Sesame Oil, Peanut Oil, Truffle Oil, and Almond Oil, Walnut Oil, Coconut Oil, and even Canola

http://greatist.com/health/what%E2%80%99s-best-cooking-oil

Opinions vary but there’s always a better choice of oil to use than ‘vegetable’ oil.

http://www.oliveoilsource.com/definition/cold-pressed-olive-oil

One the easiest brands to find is http://latourangelle.com/

Educate yourself on how to store your oils. I have for sure made grave mistakes with mine. If you lose one it is my strong suggestion that you do not simple throw it away. Do not pout it down the drain either. Oil burns and burns well. We save our bad oil for bon fires and camping. BE WARNED though it is as dangerous as lighter fluid if not respected and used with caution. Bradley usually pours it over the wood before he starts the fire. He allows the oil to soak into the wood.  He uses another point of ignition for the fire and then the oil slowly catches. Yes there is some extra smoke but sometimes it’s good thing to keep the blood sucking vermin at bay.

#3  Onions, Shallots,  & Garlic

I will confess I like dried onions, but not the ones that the size of rice kernels. I like the huge bag of dried red onions you get from an Oriental grocery.

Anybody who doesn’t like onions….I’m like you are not a rational human being and I cannot talk to you about cooking. Some cooks have preface to what onion they like. I think it’s what I’m cooking or eating.

http://onions-usa.org/

#4

Good pots

I have a favorite skillet. It’s stainless steel and weighs a ton. Not as heavy as a cast iron skillet equal in volume, but still more hefty than $15 deluxe from Wal-Mart. It’s also my favorite skillet because my son choose it from all the others at Grandma’s Attic to be his first ‘real’ pot. When he moved out of my house he ‘bequeathed’ it to me. Apparently until then I had been cooking in sub-standard cookware. Second hand stores are a great place to buy good cookware. Davis Cookware in Hillsboro Village, Nashville, is one of my favorite places to buy new cookware and gadgetry. I much prefer it to the chain specialty stores like Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Sorry but YUCK!

Janet Hansen, world famous publicist from Seattle now Nashvillian, is a cook whose opinion I value. She added that quality cookware is essential to the cook who has decided to explore the boundaries. I have to agree to a point, but buying copper cookware isn’t necessary either. My explanation for the insistence is that most cookbooks are written by people who indeed have great cookware. How a pan distributes heat is relative. Keeping your frustration level down as you learn to cook is important, which I would say is why Janet believes in good cookware from the get go.

Alton Brown of the Food Network has a rule I thought wise which is basically tools in the kitchen should have more than one function. So for instance a pan that folds in two can’t do much than make omelets then it’s his suggestion not to buy it. I second that recommendation.

#5

Herbs and spices.

Fresh herbs are always best. There is such a thing as fresh spices. Just the the other week I realized our house was out of cumin. The girls offered to run up to the IGA to fetch some which I vetoed. I don’t buy spices or herbs from the grocery store. I grow it myself and dry it. My daughter once referred to our house as what she pictured the house in I, Coriander would look like with herbs hung up to dry everywhere. Yes my house smells wonderful in the fall.

I do buy spices, and occasionally rarer herbs, from the local Oriental grocery. When I went to buy the cumin from my local Oriental grocery, the owner mentioned he had just put the 1/2 bag of cumin seed on the shelf. He said he was thinking of selling it by the gross like beans or rice. The point being it wasn’t an ounce can for $4 but 8oz for 4.39 and it is by far fresher than anything Kroger has to offer.

Did you know that it’s not just the silverware and tablecloth that determines fine dining but also the use of fresh herbs. The very best of restaurants have their own herb gardens. So Cheddar’s with its mega-sized jar of Sysco brand parsley is not fine dining.

So now that I’ve cleared the air about good cooks and what I feel are not, I hope you’ll look around your kitchen and add to my list. Please do.

Oh and Bradley says a microplaner, which he and his sister forced me to buy.

Bradley and a friend. He looks strikingly similar to my dad here. My dad also loved to cook.

Bradley and a friend. He looks strikingly similar to my dad here. My dad also loved to cook.

Posted in Culinary | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The yellow brick road is lined with French marigolds.

image

Tagetes Patula aka The French Marigold. Great for your garden and your dinner table.

I was raised in four kitchens. 

 

One kitchen was shared between our nanny, Wanda, and my mother. I don’t remember anything in particular that Wanda made that I coveted. I do remember she kept to the basics. Most likely they were things her mother and the other maternal members of her family had taught her. Her pancakes were perfect, her gravy smooth, and her biscuits simple. It was all matter of fact, wrapped in the comfort of seeming normalcy.

My mother, on the other hand, thought herself a terrible cook because she had to teach herself all these things. Her knowledge was acquired through cookbooks, magazines, cooking shows, and lots of trial and error. I, as a child, thought she was a wonderful cook. I never really noticed her failures. I just knew what I liked and what I didn’t. To this day there are dishes that she made that I still cannot copy to her results. The main thing with my mother was that she worked full time, so her cooking experiments were for the most part limited to weekend dinners and lunches. My sister and I were banished from the kitchen; we were banished from the usual comforts of Wanda’s kitchen.

The third kitchen was my aunt’s kitchen. It had twice the number of pots, pans, bowls, spatulas, spoons, and gadgets as any other kitchen I knew save the last kitchen, which was the main kitchen of the Indianapolis Hilton. My mother’s office was across the hall from the rear entrance of the kitchen which connected to the store room. Even then the staff wasn’t allowed to smoke in the kitchen or store room. They had to stand outside on the docks. My mother’s office was strategically placed so as to observe the food coming in, the trash going out, and the staff exiting the kitchen area to smoke. We heard everything about the going-ons in the kitchen. The hotel had two executive chefs. One for the big four star restaurant on the 20th floor of the hotel and one for three smaller restaurants off the lobby. Then there was a catering director and the room service director. Because my mother’s office was so close to the main kitchen, all four men would quite regularly stop in and complain about the others ridiculous demands and expectations. They often came baring food or drink. Her office was always filled with the smells of the kitchen. My sister and I were frequent visitors to my mother’s office. I loved roaming around the hotel. When it was permitted I would sit on a stool in the kitchen with some treat and just watch. My sister and I enjoyed the indulgences of the chefs and kitchen staff. My love for French onion soup made with dry sack sherry comes from many an afternoon on that stool. The oddity of a child liking that soup made me a welcomed audience. My passion for mint chocolate chip ice cream, which was mixed on site, also comes from this kitchen. Finding out as a small child that restaurant ice cream was made quite similar to my aunt’s front porch ice cream made the wonder of ice cream not so magical.

My aunt’s kitchen was a wonderful mixture of them all, from the huge pots and electric mixers to the hundreds of cookbooks, to the flawless basics she always pulled off. She was the one that eyeballed a cup or a tablespoon. She knew why you had to use shortening instead of vegetable oil. I never heard her say it was too much trouble to make it yourself. As a teenager I watched her start her own catering business that specialized in weddings, including both the wedding cake and groom’s cake. Her skill with a pastry bag to this day still awes me. I also had to help or work for her quite frequently. So like the chefs of the hotel kitchen, I quite often was working for a diva.

The things I learned from these experiences I still use today. My time in all those kitchens put me steps ahead when I took home-economics in junior high and high school. It gave me an interest in cooking myself. I in turn seemed have given that passion to at least two of my children. Robin Anne, was taught by a multitude of chefs including a graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu of Paris. My son, Bradley, has worked in quite few kitchens, including a few here in Bowling Green, though now works for Frank Stitt. Bradley has insisted on gathering his education instead of obtaining it. That is to say he calls himself a ‘basket chef’ having learned and apprenticed under several executive chefs— gathering it—instead of attending culinary school. My other two children simply demand good food.

Either way, good cooks and good food are high up on my family’s list of relevant things to know and discuss. So I asked several family members and several friends their standards for a home kitchen.

Wow!

Cooking isn’t hard. IT does take patience. It takes research. It requires practice. Know your grocery store and other suppliers. Ask questions. Admit your failures. Organize your kitchen. Consult other cooks. Ask questions. Above all be humble because you can always learn something new and you can also teach someone or rescue someone. I’ve been there.

Posted in Culinary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

https://www.facebook.com/groups/403653866123/

Bon Von Wheelie’s Facebook page dedicated to the fight against ‘PAY TO PLAY”

Link | Posted on by | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Is there a flower that is called ‘pizza’ ?

This isn’t a rant but more of a statement of, we’ll as Melissa says, “I’m tapping out”, of this never ending complaining and condemning of Country Pop. I believe I’ve stated before that I do not care for Pop music. I’m not genre bias either. I have made a commercial, terra radio induced, indictment of Country Pop, claiming it was killing the great American songwriter. I’m not sure if I hit the mark on that one. In all actuality I’m just not a pop culture fan period. However, this I know, as with anything there is quality and then there is fodder for the masses.

Look around your house. Do you have hand crafted solid wood pieces of furniture or do you have pressed wood, plastic veneer, bought from Wal-Mart furniture?

Now for a dramatic pause as you think about this.

Yes it is the same. There are people who growl, grumble, and snarl over massed produced furniture. They hate furniture that’s bolted together instead say dovetailed at the joints. They despise veneer, but most especially plastic veneer. They know instantly upon a glance if a table top is made of a solid piece wood or planed and glued together. If YOU don’t know the difference or even worse, don’t care, then generally these people have no use of your opinion on anything. That’s right over furniture. You’ll say you can’t afford high end furniture. They’ll retort with quality furniture is an investment and that for every 4 pressed wood, plastic veneer pieces you buy you’ll only have to buy one quality piece. Then they pull out that ‘it’s art’ card on you.

It is. We call it functional art.

I say “WE” because I am amongst those who pick and choose how and when they intermingle with the collective.

>>>side bar: If you are wondering now about your furniture the first basic rule is will it last long enough to hand to your children and for the most part look as good as the day you bought it. Here’s a good website that expands the parameters of what quality is. Really these guidelines could be translated to apply to music, visual art, and literature. http://www.wsidesignermarketplace.com/content/designer/Design_Blog/2012/07/how_to_find_well-mad.html

Also there is that term ‘pulp fiction’ . Do you know what that means? Harlequin Romances are “pulp fiction”. Those science fiction fantasy, never ending serial books are, in fact, pulp fiction.

Zombies and love lorn vampires are among the current pop culture trends.

Do you aspire for quality in all things?

Marilyn by Andy Warhol (1962)

“Marilyn” Andy Warhol 1962

However, there is always something in all of it which becomes redeemable. Pop culture has given us so many things that are now permanent components in our culture. In music I’d put forth Elvis and The Beatles. In art the obvious is Andy Warhol, but I’d say Roy Lichtenstein , as well.

"Crying

“Crying Girl” Roy Lichtenstein 1963

In literature it’s harder, but folks Lord of the Rings was on the shelves a long time ago. Officially it was 1954. We haven’t always had bean bag chairs or glass top tables. Modernism brought these which when translated to furniture brought the use of highly polished metal and simplicity of design.

The Tardis of Dr. Who

The Tardis of Dr. Who

Once upon a time being a Whovian (the beginning was 1963 Earth time) or a Trekkie (Star Trek first aired in 1966) marked you as a nerd. Now not to be a fan of one of these  makes you as a complete square. Then again now that everyone is a fan and is not as cool to be a fan but not to know the references can leave you on the outside of the circle.

The iconic Vulcan salute--Live Long and Prosper--from the original Star Trek

The iconic Vulcan salute–Live Long and Prosper–from the original Star Trek

All that is just stand and deliver testimony to the ‘catch 22 ‘ of pop culture. Well, it can seem to be if you’re the person doing the creating of whatever. Like if you create a piece of visual art, which the critics snub, but the collective scene latches on to. Soon enough it’s turned into the backdrop of nearly everything. Are you successful? You don’t have the respect of the fine art world but your bank account is sitting pretty. There’s also that everybody knows your name thing, though most of them call you a sell out. Just sort of makes you want to cry or turn into a raging asshole. If that story sounds familiar to you it should. It happens just like that time and time and time again.

Just look around you. Take note of all the skulls around you. I blame Wes Freed for all those skulls, but really it was the collective that plastered all those skulls everywhere. The imagery that Freed created for the Drive-By-Truckers‘ posters and album art seems

Just one of many of the playbills Wes Freed has created for the Drive-By-Truckers.

Just one of many of the playbills Wes Freed has created for the Drive-By-Truckers.

to me to have been hijacked and exploited. Others would cite Damien Hirst as the source for the skull spores. I loathe the skulls. I love, adore, worship, and fantasize over Wes Freed. Think I’m the only one that thinks that skulls are a current pop culture trend? Stephen Marche wrote in the July 3rd 2008 issue of Esquire Magazine:

The skull, the most ancient of symbols, has suddenly become hypermodern, totally in and of the moment.

My theory as to all the uproar over Country Pop is the paradox of how something becomes part of pop culture. In an era that has dubbed a subculture ‘hipsters’, I see sooooo many people trying to be as eclectic as to be ridiculous. Also it isn’t envy amongst all the other writers and performers of Country music, it’s way something else. It’s confusion of sorts over the why a song becomes popular and then the over spilling trend that leads to more of the same kind of songs. I have no idea myself what that component is that launches any art form into the stratosphere of a pop culture trend. Singing about pick-up trucks, back country roads, girls that can shoot, and grandma’s sweet tea seems to be a trend in Country Pop right now. GOOD GOLLY MISS MOLLY how ever did rock n roll get the tag line: sex, drugs, and rock n roll ? What does Rap music discuss? Hip Hop music?

So it’s true that everything old is new again.

Meanwhile please stop constantly condemning it all. There is comfort in the flock. There is strength in the crowd. Friends and neighbors they call that a market. No matter who you are or what you do YOU are in a market.

George Orwell and Harlan Ellison had it right.

In an interview with Ellison I found this statement. I rolled laughing on the floor with wicked cynicism—IRLOTFWWC. I don’t completely agree but if you use that belief to examine modern society and consequently pop culture it sure explains a whole lot of behavior.

One of your books, The Glass Teat, had on its back cover the words AMERICA: CHANGE IT…OR LOSE IT! Do you think we’re losing it?
We lost it long ago. Look at our country, for Chrissake. We’re nothing but purchasing machines for giant conglomerates. We’re ruled by the tyranny of the stupid.

You can read the rest of the interview here. My earlier comment, “Just sort of makes you want to cry or turn into a raging asshole”, is verified here. http://harlanellison.com/text/detailsqa.htm

George Orwell wrote a book titled 1984. From that book the descriptive phrase, “Big Brother” was born. Those of us who were born prior to that year lived with that indictment of our future. Having a parent who worked in the intelligence business, none of it has really phased me. The bean counters have been in control a long time. Or have they? The number of times someone has tried to manipulate the market is equal to the number of times they have lost control.

We will stop again for a dramatic pause and a silent prayer as we give thanks to the wisdom of Gene Roddenberry when he said:

“It isn’t all over; everything has not been invented; the human adventure is just beginning.”

>>>sidebar: Gene Roddenberry is not ‘hot’ or ‘clink able’ because this is where I am part of the collective. If you don’t know who that is I just can’t even communicate with you other than to say get your damn head out of the sand.

My editor recently said, “I joined the collective.” We laughed as we both are a bit on the bohemian side of society. I had a friend who said once, “I try to live off the grid.” I laughed so hard I choked on my tea. There is no more living off the grid unless the grid collapses.

The thing that separates us is this: you knowingly participate in the collective. The scary thing are those people who aren’t aware.

So all this came from the argument over Country Pop. Hopefully you will look around and examine your consumership.

Art is supposed to provoke an emotion in you, be it visual, music, literature, movies, or whatever. So if Pop music provokes disgust in you perhaps it is art.

Remember the opposite of love isn’t really hate. It’s indifference. So maybe if you apply that other philosophy…..reality is what you make it….if you stop acknowledging it all perhaps it will all go away and the Matrix will glitch.

..

Posted in pop country, Pop Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Champagne Cocktails or Open Bar?

Every once in a while you catch a song, maybe it’s the beginning or the bridge or maybe it’s a line, but the song ends up catching you. A great song can do that. Really it’s just poetry and it is meant to be shared or quoted. I love a good song line. Ask anybody who knows me. The best ones I quote a lot. Here’s one:

Seems like everyone here’s got a plan 

It’s kind of like Nashville with a tan,

“Lullaby” by Shawn Mullins caught me, but not with that line. It was this one:

The children of the stars 
In the Hollywood hills and the boulevard 
Her parents threw big parties 
Everyone was there

I was very young when we lived in LA. We stayed with my grandparents in a flat in San Bernardino, but quite frequently we stayed with my Aunt Mary and Uncle Charlie who lived in the Hollywood Hills. My uncle was a talent manager. They had big parties and everyone was there. I didn’t meet big movie stars as we were never invited. We got to go to the stores for the party supplies, be awed over the flowers, and enjoy the pool as preparations went on around us. My memories of my Aunt Mary being irrationally spastic  the day of one of their parties often reminds of my oldest child having a conniption when she’s planning an event. Things like that make me suppress giggles when I need to be stern to keep the ball rolling.

So when I heard that line it got my attention.

We didn’t stay in LA. We came tumbling back to Indianapolis and to a life without glitter and cheek kisses. It really wasn’t a normal life, yet the rest of the lyrics of song chime something for me.

Decades later, my husband and I tripped across a movie called ‘Wavelength’. The back line sets the story of a musician of former glory who obviously had made it big but had since stopped hitting the charts. The lead in to the ‘current’ plot is that he’s trying to weave himself back in but on his own terms. A plan not always going well. One night at a bar he trips across a girl that gets him. This fall from glory musician has a house up in one of the canyons that surround LA–kind of like the physical geography of the Hollywood Hills. There’s more to the movie of course. I can’t spoil the story. I still like the movie because it’s actually a good one though it’s among the first movement of the independent films.

Robert Carradine is the romantic lead. That’s right the king of the nerds and America’s coolest dad. By the way he plays pretty good cowboy. Yes he’s one of those Carradines. What most don’t know is that Robert is also a musician. It shows in hands when he plays the guitar. I appreciate the casting director appreciating that skill set.

I’m not sure just how many people believe that ‘rock stars’ all go on to lead beautiful, financially secure lives after the hits are gone. Some may live well on the mailbox paychecks, but most don’t. This film captured, with reality, that actuality.

One of the things that always makes me chuckle when I meet and talk to fledgling ‘rock stars’ is the belief that sustainable careers in music are like sea monkeys. You know just add water, wait for a very short time, and presto magic.

If you look at Shawn Mullins discography you can pretty much surmise that his career has not always been filled with glamorous pool parties. It’s been more like a wooden roller coaster–classy and still capable of a great thrill. I’ve interviewed enough seasoned musicians to know there’s a good chance that Mullins has more than likely hid out somewhere just like Robert Carradine’s character in the movie, working on his next break through.

Some make it back to the top of fighting, snarling, dog-eat-dog, world of  music. Some say ‘Freock it’. Some are happy with life between the cold waters of obscurity and the warm waters of fame.

So the next time you quote a song ask yourself who the songwriter is, but then you might Google them. What are they doing now?

Shawn Mullins keeps writing songs that hit buttons for me. As to if he  lives in a canyon house in LA, or Georgian revival in Atlanta, or condo on West End in Nashville I have no idea. I do think he’s still on that roller coaster. It makes him real. It gives him the skill to write great lines like:

There’s a tavern on the corner called the Milky Way 
And you look so at home there it makes me afraid

That line makes me think of the Magnolia Bar, aka the Mag Bar, in Louisville. The line speaks of any dive bar really. Who hangs out in dive bars? Yeah. So to me it means he and his writing buddies are still out mixing it up with all us peasants, not just counting gold coins poolside.

Art is about connecting. The message, whatever it is, has to mean something to the viewer. So think about why that line sticks with you. Then embrace it.

Oh and

RAVE ON….

Posted in Music | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Choosing a Party Favor….

I’ve long held a disdain for commercial terrestrial radio with very few exceptions. Commercial radio has it’s purposes. As I mentioned before it’s a good general tool to examine demographics. Sometimes, in my more socially paranoid moments, I completely freak out and will not listen to any form of broadcast music. Read the link below and you too will have doubts.

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110916/03140815978/how-payola-works-today-why-you-only-hear-major-label-songs-radio.shtml

I can think of about a half a dozen or so stations that don’t provoke regularly the sensation of nausea. You know the spinning of the same stuff over and over and over and over again, which can suck me into the vortex of madness of wanting to plan a revolution.

First and foremost would be Lighting 100 out of Nashville. It’s a great station that Nashville can be proud of at the end of any broadcast day.

http://lightning100.com/

Of course Nashville’s shinning star for nearly almost a hundred years is WSM. One day when you’re bored Google WSM. It deserves it’s now ‘branded’ status of  “The Legend”. To me, the fact that’s it’s one of the few  ‘clear channels’ that has music as it’s format makes it a national treasure. Seriously I believe there are only three in North America.

http://www.wsmonline.com/

Others that I will tune in to are Bowling Green locals D93 and 105.3 The Point. Both stations seem, to me anyway, to have station managers and /or music directors that have some imagination along with a sense of what a transition is. Most of the time I have complete faith that they aren’t musical fascists. Not that the others are but like I said those paranoid moments do happen.

So what’s my compliant? Why am I on a rant about radio stations? It’s very simple. Recently I was out and about doing errands for roughly 2- 3 hours. It was a long list. The car that I was using–yes my jalopy is currently down–has only a radio. Somehow I got caught out with a phone on a low charge so it could not save me from the terrestrial air waves. D93 and 105.3 are my first choices, but me being picky I do scan for other tunes. It’s not that we have bad country music stations, they just seem to be stuck between the rotation of the current Country Top 40 and past Country pop tunes. Meaning that again, to me, they seem to have no original thought and absolutely no loyalty or sense of support for our locals. It’s a common crime being commented by thousands of stations, regardless of musical format, across the US.

But that’s not what irked me or got my wheels turning. It was the programming of another station.

Years ago Jarrod England locked me down as a fan by playing as a choice of a cover The Hollies “Long Cool Woman”. Love the song. Love it every time I hear it. Makes my day to hear it.

My dad was a Neil Diamond fan, so I am familiar with most of his early tunes. I respect Diamond as top shelf song writer. What I don’t see is why The Hollies are in the same listening stream as Neil Diamond.

To be honest I’m not really sure which Neil Diamond song it was. I think it was “Sweet Caroline”. Regardless I caught both during my hours of rushing around town doing my errands.

Now put your mind back to where the country was politically, socially, but more relevant, musically when these two artists were on the air waves. That would be the early ’70s. No way was the target market for The Hollies the same as Neil Diamond. Granted Neil was a little hipper than say Engelbert Humperdinck, but still Diamond is a Tin Pan Alley talent. The Hollies were the tail-end of the British Invasion.

Tin Pan Alley was New York City’s equivalent to what Nashville’s Music Row is now. Except it was truly more of a crank it out machine than Music Row is, though some of us are starting to wonder. 

Wait….unless that stream is marked as music over 40 years old. So does that mean it’s okay to play say Black Sabbath then follow it up with a Four Seasons song?

Yes friends and neighbors Black Sabbath has been rocking the free world since the late 60’s.

The Four Seasons just a little longer…

Kinda of scary isn’t it?

Most of us don’t mind be reminded of what our true age is. We know and feel it every morning. However, I’d venture to say that very few of us want it smeared in our aging faces as to how old we are. So why would this station program this way? My theory is a double whammy of laziness and cheapness. They have very good on air talent but I’d venture to say these people have very little wiggle room. Like millimeters by what I’m hearing. I completely understand about keeping sponsors happy, but as the very theme of this blog is ‘you can’t please everyone, you’ve got to please yourself’, you understand why I have no  apathy.  Perhaps it’s time formulate a new model. Age may put all us 40+ folks into a certain marketing group for over the counter pain pills or vitamin supplements, but when it comes to those things that spark up our memories I don’t think we should be all grouped together. Especially considering the social upheaval we are the children of and give testimony. How did these people forget this blaring fact of history?

I may have James Taylor and AC/DC in my music files but I’ve my music programmed so they don’t play back to back. I mean that would be having a shot of aged tequila followed by a Jager Bomb. Jeez fellas way to make be sick at me stomach.

This is a weird little town with an absolutely amazing musical heritage. I have heard my two local favorites play locals when they were still locals. Then they continue to endorse that pride when they’ve gone national. When is the last time you heard a New Grass Revival song on any other station other than D93 or WKU’s public stations? Who’s playing the new Kentucky Headhunter album? When Chris Carmichael is one of the sideman on a tune does the DJ tell you? I could go and on.

Most recently I’ve started listening to on-line radio. My favorite so far hands down is Birmingham Mountain Radio.

http://bhammountainradio.com/

There are still commercials, but I also know what the song is and the corresponding CD. Even further occasionally the DJ will throw a little something in there about the artist or song or CD. Often I’ve heard them play a tune and then promote a show coming up soon–wait and it’s not just the locals they promote. They promote the music scene of their whole region. Not just the big places but the dives too. It’s really cool.

Think about when is the last time one of our Country stations played say Kenton Bryant, mentioned he had a show say the Spillway, and mentioned his CD is on sale The Great Escape.

Or do you not know if they’ve ever said anything like that because they rarely announce the artist and material anymore. They play so many commercials you’re falling asleep at the wheel or at your desk?

Or would this happen?

“Wow that kid is from here Bowling Green? Man the Spillway has got stellar wings. Yeah that’s what I’m doing for lunch. The Great Escape? That’s over there near K-Mart isn’t it? Yeah maybe I can find something cool as gift for my 14 year’s birthday. ”

Wanna know why WSM has been on the air for almost 100 years? Listen. Wonder why Lightening 100 is coveted by so many artists of a huge array of genres? Listen.

You could play Deep Purple followed by the Bee Gees if you have a voice that was adding a little dialogue that made you chuckle at the years gone by. They could mention the anthem some of us recited “Disco Sucks!” and we would be back in that moment. It’s called a transition tool.

A few weeks back Emma and I were doing some late night running around due to insomnia on both our parts. The song “Don’t Fear the Reeper” came on the radio. She listened and seemed to like it. I said that’s one of the most quoted songs from the ’70s. She asked why. I said the lyrics are pretty intense. She listened a little more carefully. Would she had if I hadn’t said something?

Music has become a huge component of modern cultural. I made some reference at work the other day to The Kinks and the famous kicking in of the amplifier for the distortion. One of my assistants, a musician, looked at me completely blank. That crap happens way to often. I’m going to blame it on those radio stations that have social zombies in charge.

There’s an app on my phone named Live 365. It’s slogan is “Rediscover Radio”. It’s wonderful.

http://www.live365.com/new/index.live

So I guess I am trying to start a revolution of sorts. I want hometown pride to be more than a grocery store slogan. I’m willing to fight to save the memory that twice this region gave rise to a new genre of music. I’d like to see our streets renamed with the bounty of famous songwriters that have the lines of their songs incorporated into marriage ceremonies. I want the banners along our streets to reflect occasionally that the young rockers in this town aren’t ashamed of where they’re from at all. They’re proud.  Mostly I want our more lame radio station to examine themselves and reflect this awesome, crazy, beautiful little city we live in. You know program an hour everyday of country artists that are from Kentucky and in that hour ring the bell for the one from say Russellville. Anonymity on radio station is so stupid in today’s market of global enterprise. Who are you trying to impress?

Help me keep the zombies at bay. Think about what radio station you give patronage to and give them feedback–always.

Posted in Music, Pop Culture | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Don’t Recognize Those Magenta Flowers….

Part of my elementary education was the repeated listening to and lectures of and about classical music. My classmates and I were tested on the individual sounds of the most common instruments in a symphonic or orchestral setting, pieces of music, and historical genres. Decades later, I still catch myself analyzing the layers of instruments, contemplating the arrangement, and speculating on the intent of the producer, when I listen to more modern music.

The consequences–and there are consequences–are being way more critical of what I listen to and the like. I am constantly reprimanded by my 15 year old that I shouldn’t say, “That sucks” or “That’s awful” because as I am often preaching, Art is subjective. Last summer as we hung posters for the upcoming Bowling Green International Festival, Emma and crossed paths with a well known neo-punk grunge revival rock star who completely backed her up by further adding that ‘music is personal’ there by being an individual choice. Emma and I decided the correct way for either of us to respond to music that one of us didn’t care for was to say, “It’s not my thing.”

Pop music is not my thing. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate a good solid pop song for what it is, but given the power I will listen to something with some subsistence.

On a recent visit with my 2 oldest and dearest friends, Robin and Todd Glessner, we took a day trip to Jekyll Island on the South Georgia coast.  Robin is the usual family chauffeur. Todd, for health related reasons, doesn’t drive right now, so I was commanded to drive to give Robin a break from the co-pilot, now Todd, because he gets a weeee bit antsy. Somewhere close to Jasper, Georgia a string of Journey songs came on the radio. By the time ‘Open Arms’ came on I was wretched. I gave Todd a stern grimace and he knew that meant to change the station. Robin was confused and piped up from her book,”You used to like that song?” I answered, “Yes when I was 17 and power ballads did what they were supposed to do to hormone infested teenagers–make you buy the record.” Todd snorted with laughter and found something else on the radio.

Why were we listening to the radio–demographics baby…demographics. Understanding a market is still the key to selling anything. So to know your market you have look at what they read, watch, play, talk, joke, and listen to.  From there you can figure out the why and then you can pursue how to sell what you have. I spent 6 days listening and watching a group of young people–20 somethings- that are culturally absorbed in things I know next to nothing about other than what I glean from the media. Musically I was submitted to an endless array of what I’d call ‘house’ music, Hip-Hop, and the Top 40 which included way too much Pink, Maroon 5, and Rhianna.

Having to think ‘marketing strategies’ about art in any of it forms does taint the soul.  I escape like anyone else. That polluted patina that can be seen in my eyes I see in others I know. Trying to hold on to the reins of two sets of wild horses–going in opposite directions–can make you weary. You know ‘Art for Art’s sake’ and ‘Sell. Sell. Sell’ being the 2 sets of wild horses. So when a fellow artist hands you something they ‘believe you enjoy’, and they have that same polished hue to them, I pay attention. I especially pay attention when it’s JMT.

So I got an e-mail from JMT in the middle of my subculture submersion. His suggestion of the Reneaus’ new CD  The Season pretty much restored my sanity. I listened to on the way back home from Warner Robins, GA. This time Robin was co-pilot, still with her nose buried in a book. When I got to the third track I must have said out loud, “Thank you JMT!” because I felt her staring at me like I was an escaped monster. I pointed to my ears buds and my phone and then smiled like I had just enjoyed a fine piece of chocolate. The Season has substance….layers and layers of substance.

JMT asked me to feature his review of this record on my blogs. It is my honor to do so. I just had to add the story of how I became a fan.

This is his review of The Reneaus’ new CD  The Season.

It was about two years ago that the debut album by The Reneaus’, “Room For Roses”, landed itself on my desk. My desk, for one reason or another, has established itself as a destination for any and all audio recordings of both the solicited and unsolicited varieties…and I make a point to listen to everything at least once. “Room For Roses” left the studio with me that night and enjoyed a two week stint in my truck’s CD player. This is somewhat exceptional in that Americana music is one of my least favorite genres (I’ll explain myself here a little later in the body of the review at hand). I don’t know if it was because two of the band members were remote acquaintances through our respective musical paths or whether it was that the entire album had this dreamy vibe to it of getting behind the wheel and driving nowhere, out west maybe, for no reason…I didn’t understand the lyrics, but something about their prosaic flow, coupled with the audio dream scape of the compositions, compelled me to let this work play and replay itself en route during this period.

        Fast-forward two years later and a video titled “The Reneaus – “Fools” (Live at the A-Frame)” caught my eye as it floated by on the Facebook news feed. Daniel Peach’s lens-work and video production is a perfect companion to the continuing dreamlike writing of the first song I heard off their sophomore release, “The Season”…or so I thought; the audio is an unbelievably sound live performance of the album version. Upon noticing the very subtle differences in the two versions I reached out to the band for clarification, as I couldn’t wrap my head around so pristine a sound and performance of this complex and unconventional composition…Yep, it’s live.

        The following week I ran into the Reneaus’ Layne Guyer (Viola, Fiddle, Banjo, assorted strings) backstage at Van Meter Auditorium during intermission of the “Bon Voyage” performance of the Symphony @ WKU before their historic tour of China, and immediately asked when the album was available…”It’s out…you can get it on iTunes and Amazon…” I asked where I could locally get a hold of a hard copy (looking to put it to the drive test, I reckon) and was informed that I could find it at The Great Escape Records and Comics. The following Monday, I made the trip, scored a copy, returned to the studio, and began my first week of listening to it exclusively at my desk during the evenings’ paperwork/correspondences. Fifteen or so listens into it, I contacted the band and asked if they would give me their blessing to review “The Season”.

        From opening to close, again and again, this album plays…like a dream [I will try not to use the word ‘dream’ again for the remainder of this review…er uh, paragraph…er uh, sentence];a DREAM, I tell you!

        *To explain my earlier statement regarding Americana music, (and for those of you unclear as to what exactly constitutes Americana music, I would paraphrase its definition as modern folk) so much of it that I have heard has been simple and repetitive. As one who is up to their eyeballs in music, as one whose job description includes daily ear training and teaching people through a very wide variety of songs of their choosing, I bore easily. When I begin playing along with a song I have never heard or am unfamiliar with, I am often asked “How?” and I invariably reply to myself that I’ve heard it before…thousands and thousands of times…I know what’s next.

        The element of familiarity is formulaic to the success of the interaction between artist and listener. We unconsciously want to “get” music and part of that which enables us to nod our heads, tap our feet, and dance even is the subconscious deja vu of having heard a song before. All music utilizes this to varying degrees. No artist can escape their influences and varying degrees of these will resurface in some shape or form in the artists’ music, regardless of creativity levels.

        “The Season”, I dare say, has the perfect level of this distant familiarity; a product that successfully blurs the lines between country, rock, classical, psychedelic, pop, blues, and jazz…an Americana album…and in spite of this, is laden with countless twists and turns that one simply does not hear/see coming.

        Throughout this album are the songs of singer/songwriter/guitarist Ashley Winn; songs brought to life by her talented company of musical collaborators – Steven Page continues with tasteful electric guitar tones and barbed hook riffs as unconventional as they are traditional…his brother David Page keeps a solid driving beat on drums and percussion that can stop and start on a dime during the songs’ many starts, dramatic pauses, restarts, crescendos, and decrescendos; a compliment to album’s ebb and flow…Warren Guyer weaves the low frequency of to-the-point bass lines…his daughter Layne Guyer contributing vocals, banjo, and some over-the-top string work on surprise bridges on “Without A View”, “Fools”, and “What You Said”, gorgeous viola/string swells on arrangements assisted by the band and others peripheral to the project…and flowing though the album’s entirety, a vast river of murky to crystalline keys and organs driven by husband Jon Winn…one of the big facets that knocks “The Season” out of the ball park.

        This listener caught audio glimpses akin to (but unsubstantiated in my influence guesswork) Beatlesque guitar tones, walls of major seventh/minor seventh Meddle-era Pink Floyd keyboard fugues, the pop precision of The Cardigans or maybe Komeda or Stereolab…all housed within the framework of an “acoustic” album.

        As far as the lyrics go, I still have no idea what Ashley’s meanings are…one gets short scenes of literal interpretation before the music re-envelopes it and off it goes. A bit like listening to music whose voice is in a foreign language, allowing one to appreciate the voice as an instrument with no regard to the words/message/meaning it imparts…art for art’s sake with a great poetic flair to it. I would guess much, if not all, of the lyrics are personal and spun in metaphor. I seriously doubt that anyone could sing random lyrics with such emotion and conviction.

        In essence, this adventure in listening is the result of some extraordinary writing, exacting yet tasteful performances/guest performances, and excellent production/engineering by the band and Jeremiah Nave…and I would be remiss in my duties as an album reviewer to overlook the mastering touch courtesy of Doug Van Sloun. It’s not a regional masterpiece, it’s a masterpiece, period.

        I got schooled on this bit of Americana; reminded of something I constantly say, but all too often forget…In every genre/style/type of music/art there is well written original works performed with a depth and conveyance of the soul behind it…there is poorly written, unoriginal and soulless tripe…and between the two, a vast median of multiple shades of mediocre.

        I trust that I have left no question as from which end of the spectrum “The Season” is radiating.

 About the critique’s author: John M. (Johnny) Thompson is the director of the Arts On Main summer concert series in Scottsville KY, the proprietor of Scottsville Conservatory, CEO of Farm-Out! Records, and a proponent of “good music” of all kinds.

 And one of our regions most beloved rock stars. To this day the ‘Bootleg’ Double CD Haunted/Hexsignia/Live at Picasso’s by the Park Avenue Dregs, of which he is one,  continues to inspire the next generation of musicians.

Posted in Music, Pop Culture, Pop rock, Pop Rock | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

They played at Louie Dupree’s too!

So I posed the question to some other people. Most notably great American songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard.

 The love child of Country and Rock is not Alternative Country; it is Americana. To me as I watched from my seat in the amphitheater, the singer songwriter movement of the 70’s set the stage. Among the first artists to really roll the styles of Folk, Country, Blues, Rock, and Bluegrass into something with a zing and a snap was Ray Wylie Hubbard. His injection of  western cowboy redneck hell-raiser into Country has led to what some call ‘red dirt’ Country. I don’t know about all that as I saw red dirt in Georgia not Texas. Then again I spent my time in Texas either down on the Rio Grande or on Galveston Bay. Jerry Jeff Walker and Ray Wylie Hubbard were musician’s names I  heard while in Texas not in Nashville. Though relatively recent they’ve become more and more appreciated in Music City. I’m telling you it’s that songwriting thing and they call it Americana there across the Cumberland. Nashville, much to her country legions dismay, is becoming known for the Americana artists that are hiding in her petticoats.
Speaking of great American songwriters…here’s one by Guy Clark sung by Jerry Jeff Walker.
 
Why?  It’s true that video killed the radio star.  Pop country is trying to destroy great songwriting.
Pop anything is fine in it’s place. I have a 15 year old that has recently discovered the Jackson 5 and loves to sing their songs. However, ‘ABC its as easy as 1 2 3′ is not as powerful or as well constructed as “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain’. Both are simple but one invokes so much more. “And all you’re ever gonna be is mean” doesn’t come anywhere close to “R-E-S-P-E-C-T find out what it means to me”.  So “Baby. baby , baby , baby” or how ever many times Justin Beiber sings it in a row does not compare in any way shape or form to the line:
” The woman’s got a walk to make a man cry, throw back his head and howl

Ruby red lips, liquid hips, more than the law will allow”

That’s how Ray Wylie Hubbard writes a line. Here’s Cross Canadian Ragweed covering Ray Wylie Hubbard. And for the record this is Rock n Roll.  Miss Scarlet I don’t know nothing ’bout no red dirt……
 
As woman when you hear that you think ‘Damn!’ and you want to be that woman. A man, I’m guessing, wants to ‘hit that’. Right?
So all this is to justify that Wylie’s opinion has both weight and merit in this discussion. He said:
“i actually don’t have a copy of that songbook so i don’t know whats in it. i would hope ‘smokestack lightning’ would be in it. “
It’s not.
AND MAN is he right..it should be.
You can follow Ray Wylie Hubbard on Twitter, which is the platform I used to ask him.
So here’s this list of songs, gathered to together, and given the prestigious  title of Great American Songbook. I’m not saying the songs aren’t great that are on the list now, I’m stating the authors have missed so many great American songs. I’d venture to say that they’ve slighted so many great writers that it’s a crime.
Rock n Roll has been around a long time now. Bluegrass even longer. Country beyond Bluegrass. Folk is the corner stone of them all. There is no Woody Guthrie on this list. There is no Dylan.
Descriptions of this list include statements like:
 “a list of the best, most important and most influential American popular songs of the 20th century”
“to be the greatest music ever recorded”   remember Howlin’ Wolf from before….
“The songwriters of the Great American Songbook translated positive values and an optimistic spirit into the soundtrack of American life. These values are as true and applicable today as they ever have been.”
So the lines
 “Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus
You’ve got to help me make a stand

You’ve just got to see me through another day” 

Those don’t emit a positive value? Brothers and Sisters they sure have helped me hold my head above water once or twice. The same songwriter wrote many a moon later these lines:
“Day breaks and the boy wakes up

And the dog barks and the birds sing
And the sap rises and the angels sigh, yeah “

Again those seem pretty positive and very optimistic. James Taylor wrote both of those songs. He also wrote the song ‘Sweet Baby James” and it became the lullaby for my youngest child, Emma. So I take exception to phrase of ‘the soundtrack of American life.’
Really? There’s a song called ‘Whipping Post’ that the creators of that list need to hear. I mean really isn’t that closer to the truth ?
Brother and Sisters can I get an Amen?
Posted in Music, Pop Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment