Category Archives: Music (re: the Food of Love)

Mythmusica Psychosonic Expedition + instrumental shuffle

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Mythmusica Pyschosonic Expedition
with Jennifer Curtis, violin, and her UNC Violin Studio
Sun. Mar 23, 8 – until – Free
Cat’s Cradle Back Room
Carrboro, NC

BrownSlashBar-white-spaceRemember that really beautiful Sunday a couple of weeks back that was sandwiched between two winter weather events? I was enjoying an afternoon of Bows & Brews at Steel String Brewery in Carrboro. In a light cotton shirt and flip flops. I wasn’t there for the brews. I was there for the bows.  The bows of Jennifer Curtis and friends. They were playing Schubert’s cello quintet. There were five of them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of Jennifer. Musical totality. A natural and intoxicating extension of whatever she’s playing is dead-ahead commitment to the music from head to toe, inside and out. Her body and mind in constant motion. Her feet leave the floor and almost dance in the air as if the music might walk (or run) away with her, or she with it.

During a break the opportunity to duet with Dex Romweber presented itself. She on her violin, Dex on his classic Silvertone. It was a moment. Unscripted. Satisfying.

Jennifer-Dex
She was still in motion as she talked about Mythmusica Psychosonic Expedition, an inter-disciplinary, multi-instrumental, and multi-cultural mythological/narrative performance based on “The Waste Land,” by T.S. Eliot produced and created by Jennifer and a handful of her UNC violin students.  “Come. Meet my students,” she invited as she pulled me over to introduce me to two of her students, Ledah Finck (composer/violin) and Avery McGuirt (violin/mandolin, loop pedals/vocals).

Ledah, from Boone, was five when she started violin lessons and now can’t imagine doing anything else. “Violin has always been a strong presence in my life, but I’ve wanted it to be my career as well as my hobby since I was 15 or 16.”

Growing up in Charlotte, Avery also started violin early. Currently a chemistry major at UNC, he stays very involved in the music program. “I was steeped in the eclectic musical tastes of my father, and was inspired to take up the violin when I was five. I started out studying classical music,but soon branched out into jazz and bluegrass. Here at UNC, I take lessons with Jennifer, as well as participate in the baroque ensemble and my quartet.”

In learning that Jennifer, who holds degrees from Mills College and Juilliard School, will not be returning to UNC to teach after this semester, I was curious what Ledah and Avery’s one take-away was from studyingwith Jennifer. They were clearly inspired by her.

“In my time studying with Jennifer, I have above all come away with her ever present sense of enjoyment and exploration in music,” said Ledah.  “Playing with her is never a job or work but an exercise in curiosity. She’s helped me integrate my more academic and worldly interests with my music playing-which is really what Mythmusica is about.”

Jennifer has been an amazing voice of artistic humility in an oftentimes very self-important academic culture,” commented Avery. “Her appreciation and use of a huge variety of musical styles and cultures continues to be an inspiration.”

Additional artistic guests who will be performing in the Mythmusica Psychosonic Expedition include Ina Liu (violin/dance/visual arts), Kaira Ba’s Diali Cissokhi and Will Ridenour (koras and percussion), Robbie Link (bass), Chris Johnson (tabla), Skye Mcloed (cajón and bodhrán), and  film makers Prashant Bhargava and Petna Ndaliko. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few more surprises.

JenniferCurtisViolin
Somehow these two lines from “The Waste Land” seem utterly appropriate:

“…A woman drew her long black hair out tight
and fiddled whisper music on those strings …”

-What the Thunder Said, from “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot

Click here to read the entire Q&A with Jennifer Curtis, Ledah Finck and Avery McGuirt online.

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ViolinNotesThe instrumental shuffle:

Jennifer Curtis & Dex Romweber: Minor Swing
Jennifer Curtis & Ledah Finck:  @ WCPE, the Classical station – performing a short excerpt from Mythmusica Psychosonic Expedition.

King Mackerel and the Blues are Running

KingMackerel1King Mackerel and the Blues are Running
The Coastal Cohorts in Concert
Thursday, Feb. 27 & 28, 8pm
$15/ Free for students
Playmakers Theatre, UNC Chapel Hill
https://memorialhall.unc.edu/

I tried living in the middle of the country. Didn’t work for me. Do you know how long it takes to drive to the coast from Memphis, TN?  Nine long hours. 491 excruciating miles. Today that would equal about 200 songs on your IPod. No amount of Drifters, or The Swinging Medallions, or even Jimmy Buffett can make that drive shorter or the sea closer.  I dreamed endlessly (and likely bored my landlocked friends) of living back in the middle of North Carolina, where in just a little over 2 hours, I could dig my sand-starved toes deep into the foaming surf. And eat seafood to my tummy’s content.

Sunset Beach, NC Photo by: Deborah Pardee Miller, 2004

Sunset Beach, NC 2004
Photo by: Deborah Pardee Miller

Once I moved back to Chapel Hill in 1998, I near ‘bout burnt the road up between here and the beach. My younger sister, Kate, who somehow ended up in Vermont, and I share the need for warm sun, sand, and sea. On one of our long weekend trips to Beaufort, we wandered into the North Carolina Maritime Museum. Thumbing through CD’s, I laughed as I randomly pulled out “King Mackerel and The Blues Are Running” by the Coastal Cohorts (Don Dixon, Bland Simpson & Jim Wann.)  I mused out loud that I had gone to high school with Bland Simpson, though he was a couple years older than me. The CD came home with me.

With an impressive performance history from its first run at Rhythm Alley in Chapel Hill in 1985 through its most recent at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh in 2012, “King Mackerel and the Blues are Running” has been performed at venues up and down the coastline from Virginia to Georgia. And then there are those other venues like the West Bank Theater (NYC) and the Terrace Theatre at the Kennedy Center (Washington, DC).

Bland was old-classmate good enough to spend a few minutes with me talking about the history of the musical, how their fundraising performances have contributed to the environmental health of our coast, and the two upcoming shows at the historic Playmakers Theatre.

“We’re doing two nights; Friday is sold out, Thursday night has seats available,” said Bland. “It was a fun alliance to make to put it into context to the water in our world.  The history of the show is a very stout-hearted, light-hearted evening.”

The CD went to A rotation on first listen.  It’s one of the playlists I put on when I’m about 50 miles from the shore. It lures me on in to the beach like a rising wave, beckoning me to stay a while.  In fact, I’m listening to it now as I write, wishing that print media had a “push play” button so you could listen in.  If you love the North Carolina beaches, and I know you do, you’ll be instantly smelling salt air. You just might shag dance a little (or a lot.) Slurp an oyster (or two or three.)  Peel some shrimp (a couple or a pound). You might even be singing along as if you’d known the songs forever.  Holler if you want company.

Read the rest of the interview HERE.

Listen to some King Mackerel … go on. You know you want to.

 

Old-Time Jam + Pete Seeger + Shufflin’ and Jammin’

BanjoViolinOpen Old-Time Jam
First Wednesday of every month,
7 pm – Free

Nightlight
405 1/2 W Rosemary St
Chapel Hill
919-960-6101
http://www.nightlightclub.com

Let’s start with asking an age-old music question. No, not “when will <insert-name-here-of-your-favorite-band-who-broke-up> get back together?”  You were really going to ask the “what exactly is old-time music and why should I listen?” question, right?  In the encyclopedia that is my imagination, old-time music is what folks listened to before there was radio. It was the nightly after-supper, before-bedtime entertainment.  Typically played on stringed instruments, a fiddle and/or a banjo, it’s a folk genre steeped in tradition, to be sure, but whose tradition?  There are too many to count. Regional styles, from Appalachia to Texas, are as varied as the songs and players themselves.  Whatever you do, don’t confuse it with bluegrass. It’s not the same thing AT ALL!

Just ask the banjo. In old-time, the instrument is open-backed. In bluegrass, there’s a resonator on the back.  And let’s get picky. Old-time picking is clawhammer style. Bluegrass is finger-picking in a three-fingered style. Old-time music was going on before bluegrass and is often fiddle dominant. In bluegrass, vocals more often take the lead. And that’s a way over-simplified answer if I ever gave one.

Old-Time Jam at Nightlight, Chapel Hill, NC.  Photo credit: Emily Hilliard

Old-Time Jam at Nightlight, Chapel Hill, NC.
Photo credit: Emily Hilliard

Emily Hilliard had a fiddle when she came to Chapel Hill from Vermont.  She didn’t have to look much further than her own folklore graduate program at UNC to connect with the cream of the traditional musical crop, Steve Kruger and Joseph Decosimo, two banjo/fiddle players also in search of a venue. Hilliard approached Nightlight to gauge interest in hosting, they said “yes,” and there began the old-time monthly jam.

Old Time Jam @ Nightlight, 2.5.14

Old Time Jam @ Nightlight, 2.5.14

I asked Emily to go back to the very first jam back in Feb. 2010 …  what was that night like?  How many people showed up?

“The first jam in 2010 had a great turn-out,” said Emily, “with a fairly diverse crowd, from older musicians to Nightlight regulars who maybe had never really heard or played old-time before. There was also a pretty good range of skill levels–some seasoned musicians who knew a lot of tunes and could keep things going to folks who maybe played guitar or banjo or fiddle, but weren’t as familiar with the old-time canon of tunes to beginners. There were also a significant group of people who just came to listen and drink a beer and socialize, which I was hoping for–at its core, old-time is a social and community-based musical form, and you can participate by playing, dancing, or just being present, enjoying the tunes.”

Old Time Jam, Nightlight, 2.5.14

Old Time Jam, Nightlight, 2.5.14

“Overall I was excited and encouraged by the response and am glad it’s still happening, particularly in the Triangle, an area that played an important role in the history of American traditional (and independent) music,” she added. “I still maintain many of the musical connections I made there–I always love running into some of the regular jam attendees like Dwight Rogers and Gail Gillespie, Mike Sollins, etc. at fiddler’s conventions in the summertime.”

Hilliard passed the jam on to Zeke Graves and Steve Kruger when she moved to DC in June of 2011, and Steve then handed down his role to James Finnegan. Zeke and James keep the circle unbroken, even as it keeps changing.

Old Time Jam @ Nightlight, 2.5.14

Old Time Jam @ Nightlight, 2.5.14

Read the rest of my conversation with Emily Hilliard, James Finnegan and Zeke Graves for Chapel Hill Magazine’s The WEEKLY online here.
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Since we’re talking music, it just wouldn’t do to bypass a chance to Pete Seeger.  I’ve ready many columns and tributes over the last couple of days, but none more moving than the one by Arlo Guthrie.   When he was a teenage, Seeger first heard Bascom Lamar Lunsford play banjo at the Mountain Dance & Folk Festival held in 1936 near Asheville, NC.  Lunsford taught him the basics and the rest is folk music history.

 Folk music icon Pete Seeger plays the banjo and sings with Arlo Guthrie (back left) at the Woody Guthrie Tribute Concert at Severance Hall in Cleveland, September 1996.  Credit: Neal Preston/Corbis


Folk music icon Pete Seeger plays the banjo and sings with Arlo Guthrie (back left) at the Woody Guthrie Tribute Concert at Severance Hall in Cleveland, September 1996.
Credit: Neal Preston/Corbis

Music on ShuffleShufflin’ and jammin’ the old time way:

Polly Put the Kettle On
Cripple CreekWildwood Flower
Sourwood Mountain
Will the Circle be Unbroken

Amy Ray (solo, sort of) + shufflin’ off near Buffalo

Amy-RayCat’s Cradle Presents:
Amy Ray
with Heather McEntire
Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, 9:00pm – $15
Motorco
723 Rigsbee Ave
Durham, NC 27701

The two coldest and loneliest winters I ever spent were in Rochester, NY in the early 90’s. I looked for warmth anywhere and everywhere while my summer clothes never saw the light of day. In defiance, I taught myself to ice skate, drive in the snow, stack the perfect fireplace, and made achingly lonely mix tapes for all my friends back home in Tennessee. My job at the University of Rochester came complete with two interns, Melissa and Colleen, both from Buffalo. Their sure-fire tonic for the chill was the Indigo Girls “Southland in the Springtime” (Nomads Indians Saints, 1990). I was 42, they were 20. It blew me away and after I stopped crying, I went out into the frozen north and bought Rites of Passage, Indigo Girls, and Strange Fire.  Melissa Muenzner Dolan (who now lives in Cary and gets to experience true springtime in the South) and I have stayed in touch all these years. Coincidentally, she was on my holiday thank you project for this very reason.  When I told Indigo Girl Amy Ray that story, she double blessed it with a throaty laugh and a “that’s cool, that’s cool!”

Amy Ray has carved out a respectable and meaningful solo career on her own. (And, yes, the Indigo Girls are still together and touring this year.) For her new album Goodnight Tender (Daemon Records) recorded at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville (due out 1/28/14) she cherry-picked a band that includes some locally familiar players: Phil and Brad Cook (Megafaun), Heather McEntire (Mount Moriah), Terry Lonergan (Hiss Golden Messenger  and MC Taylor), and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver). Then just for measure, and because she could, invited Susan Tedeschi, Kelly Hogan (Neko Case), and Hannah Thomas to add some harmonies. With another handful of musicians from Asheville and Charlotte, the result is rooted in old-time country, while lyrically new all at the same time. And it’s definitely Southern.  I haven’t stopped listening to Goodnight Tender since Thursday. It’s that good. There’s just something about melodic banjo and mournful fiddle that gets me right where I live. Not to mention lyrics like “Give me a moon to keep my fears at bay. Give me a dog that don’t run away. Give me a love that don’t fade. Oh, let me walk in decency.” – “Hunters Prayer”

Cat’s Cradle owner Frank Heath has long been a part of Amy’s life in music.  “I love Amy!” says Frank.  “Glenn Boothe (Local 506) and I were just talking about how we wished all performers were as on top of their shows and careers as Amy.  Even from the first time the Indigo Girls played at the Cradle back in the 80′s, Amy and Emily’s involvement in the preparation for their shows had a huge effect on the promotions and turnouts. And they’ve always played benefits, been involved in helping out younger artists, etc. on and on — more than just about anybody out there.“

Without Frank, I would not have just spent a Wednesday night talking with Amy Ray about playing in Chapel Hill and Durham back in the beginning, her very first song, writing melodies, who she kissed on New Year’s Eve, her new album, and her brand new daughter.

Read the entire Q&A with Amy Ray …

…and then check out this YouTube trailer for Goodnight Tender

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Writing about Rochester and remembering all those mix tapes sent me on a revisit of what I was listening to back in 1992 … freezing cold … knee deep in snow fall … happy ears :

Out of the Cradle (Lindsay Buckingham)
Automatic for the People (R.E.M.)
Unplugged (Eric Clapton)
Harvest Moon (Neil Young)
Blind Melon (Blind Melon)
Kiko (Los Lobos)
Ingenue (k.d. Lang)
New Miserable Experience (The Gin Blossoms)
The Extremist (Joe Satriani)
#1 Record/Radio City (Big Star)
Rites of Passage (Indigo Girls)
Doo Bop (Miles Davis)
Television (Television)

Gratefully Yours + anticipation + shuffling into 2014

One rainy October afternoon:
ExileMainStPlugged in to my IPod, “Sweet Virginia” from The Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street cycled up.  The opening guitar riffs, soon joined by harmonica, are unmistakable and instantly recognizable and suddenly there I was … back there … the day in Spring ’72  it came out … in Richmond’s  Fan district with friends sitting on their front porch which just happened to face Main Street … speakers balanced precariously in the windows blasting into the city street through a haze of smoke.  And us, balanced just as precariously on porch railings or steps or leaned back on two-chair legs in our Landlubber-with-the-3″-zipper- bellbotttoms.  Oh, we were exiled, alright. I will forever associate that song, that album with that time, that place, and that handful of people.

As I reflected on music shared with me through the years, I spent the next few weeks listening to my collection differently … with the idea that I’d actually stop and make the time to offer thanks for 1) either introducing me to something new – or – 2) encouraging me to go back and listen more carefully to an artist I hadn’t given much time to – or – 3) simply creating a new and indelible memory through the power of music. Much to my surprise, it became an over-arcing and joyful project as I began to write notes of “Thanks Givings” for gifting a particular piece of music, art, book, recipe or favorite restaurant. If part of this reads familiar, you’ve already heard from me … if you haven’t received yours yet, stay tuned, this is a long-range project!

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2014 Hi-Ho’s
All that I got to experience this past year just to make a new column for Chapel Hill Magazine’s The WEEKLY happen was an extra-large goodie bag overflowing with the stuff that make life shiny and bright – music, art, wine, food, and books.

In all, an embarrassment of riches that included interviews and small intimate concerts with long-time heroes Roger McGuinn, Bill Payne and Chris Hillman. An afternoon hearing Peter Ostroushko and our very own Danny Gotham. Talking Lovesick Blues with Chris Stamey via email. Musical evenings spent with my Cat’s Cradle co-conspirator, Liz Holm, both of us blissfully unaware that we didn’t have that much time left together. Watching Tess Mangum Ocaña rise up and conquer with Sonic Pie Productions. Another honey-we-got-the-band-back-together high school reunion. And, maybe best of all, meeting you all who came up to me at various events and places introducing yourselves (Mike and Ron, you know who you are), then making my day by telling me you came out to this or that because I told you to (Leah, Henry, Carol, Peter, et al).

FBYear2013
Liz
I liked Liz immediately the first time we met, which, of course, was at a Cradle show – Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers. I introduced her to drummer Jody Stephens, and we were off and running. We quickly discovered all the things and people we had in common (I grew up in CH and went to CHHS with her sister, music groups & artists we shared a love for, small bars like the OC Social Club and the Dead Mule, etc. the list went on and on.) She was instrumental in my first real “big get” interview with the Zombies, followed by Little Feat.  And she humored me by coming to see groups she at first really had no big interest in hearing just so we could hang out … thanking me afterward for dragging her to Mickey Hart and Trampled by Turtles :) And with colorful scarves and wraps, she always saved us the best seats in the house – stage right 2-3 stools back.

Her love and her pride for her incredibly talented virtuoso concert violinist daughter, Jennifer, was so bright and intense that she was the light in the room when talking about her.  Every show we attended, or every time we were together, we’d sit side by side and she’d update me on her successes, showing me picture after picture on her phone.  It was easy to feel I knew her already, even though we had never met.  My sadness at her loss was/is acute, made worse by having to miss her beautiful memory day out at the Haw River Ballroom. I miss you everyday, babe!

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Anticipation-junkie that you know that I am means I can’t wait to see what’s coming in 2014. Already penciled in are King Mackerel & the Blues are Running (Feb. 27 & 28/Playmakers Theatre), a South Wing show (Feb./TBA), Crosby, Stills & Nash (Mar. 24/DPAC), and Desert Rose Band (Aug./The ArtsCenter).

A while back as I was walking in my usual hurry-up with an old friend, he (being about 10 steps behind me) whoa’d me me down and seriously wounded my strong sense of Southern-inity by saying that I had clearly lost my mosey.  Glory be, he was right. All too aware that life is full of every day gifts that fly right past unopened, my plan for 2014 is to take back my mosey. And, oh yeah, I’m counting on your help with that.

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ShuffleShufflin’ in to 2014
Home on the River (King Mackerel & the Blues are Running)
Story of Love (Desert Rose Band)
Marrakesh Express (CSN)
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Simon & Garfunkel)
One Short Night (Grace Potter & the Nocturnals)
Everything by Mandolin Orange

Behind the Scenes + Muscle Shoals + Shuffling with the Swampers

CarrboroMusicFest20138th Annual Carrboro Film Festival
Sat & Sun, Nov. 23-24
Single Day – $10/ Two Day Pass – $15
Carrboro Century Center/The ArtsCenter
Carrboro, NC
info@carrborofilmfestival.com
carrborofilmfestival.com

Just watch what happens when Nic Beery and Jackie Helvey get a handful of people in the same room at the same time. Especially when those people – Chris Beacham, Scott Conary, Tremayne Cryer, Catherine Devine, Pat Dillon, Mike Harris, Tim Scales, Rah Trost and Alison Weiner – make up the 2013 Carrboro Film Festival Committee. Some of them even sit on the Carrboro Music Festival Committee. I want a playdate with this group and I’ll bring the wine and beer.

The 2013 festival features 73 short and feature-length films from across North Carolina, including some international submissions. If you’re looking to brush up on your visual effects, screenwriting, or story creation skills, you’ll find a handful of workshops and panels tucked into the screening schedule. Unlike previous years, the committee decided to honor all the selected films so there will not be filmmaker awards handed out this year. Nic and Jackie graciously fielded my questions, and as a more-than-willing-to-suspend-disbelief movie lover, I had aplenty.

dpm:  Since its inception in 2006, what are some of the more memorable moments of the festival?

Nic:  Some of the more memorable moments have been the first festival when more people came to the fest than we ever imagined. In fact we filled the theater and have every single year. That’s a true statement to the quality of independent films made in this region. The other memorable moment is frankly the films. They move us, make us laugh, cry and cheer.

Jackie:  Of course, my proposing a film festival to the Arts Committee in April of 2006, and seeing everyone’s eyes light up as they said “YES! What a great idea!” That was the absolute best! My favorite moment at the actual festival was when the Carrboro High Marching Band came marching into the Century Center, exactly in synch with the entry film. Perfect timing; that was SO great! My photo of Barbara Trent that first year, with her Kay Kyser Award on one shoulder and her Oscar on the other, that was way cool too!

dpm:  How many people review the submissions, how many were submitted this year and how has that changed since 2006? Does each year bring a new sense of validation for the festival?

Nic: We have a committee of 10-15 people and we all review the films. This year we had hundreds of films to watch and review. We will be screening a whopping 73 films this year. Each year makes us acutely aware of how starved area residents are for great art in all forms, and The Carrboro Film Festival is honored to present such a wide variety of art on screen each year.

dpm: What are you most excited about for this festival? Any big surprises?
Nic: The committee is most excited about our expansion to two days. This is a big step, feature films and short films from around the world and around the corner.   We also introduced online ticket sales, festival passes, two venues, The Century Center and The ArtsCenter. On top of that we have three great free workshops and an after party open to all at the Open Eye.

Jackie: Expanding to two days and adding the ArtsCenter as a venue, and adding feature films, longer than 20 minutes. I’ll be running the ArtsCenter venue on Saturday and the Century Center venue on Sunday, so this will be new adventure for me.

* * *

Get out there and support these guys, I say. There is nothing like that moment when the lights dim and you never know what’s going to happen next.
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muscleshoalsSince we’re talking movies … I liked, no, loved Muscle Shoals so much, I watched it twice.  Almost back-to-back if you don’t count running out to pick up Thai for supper.

If you have not seen Muscle Shoals, go now!

Now.

Don’t make me come out there.

There’s a sense of mystery and magic almost from the get-go.  The Tennessee River that runs right up against Muscle Shoals, AL was known by the Native American Yuchi Tribe as “the river that sings.”  Lore had it that the flowing waters sounded like a woman singing, sweetly most times, loud and angry when in a rage.  It’s just proper mojo, as they call it, that the music would make its way landward.  Right into a cinderblock building that would become FAME studios and later into Muscle Shoals Sound Studios where in 1969  Boz Scaggs would record a 12 minute/30 second version of Fenton Robinson’s  “Loan Me a Dime” with Duane Allman sitting in on guitar.

The shoals are gone today, thanks to the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) and their dam work and residents claim they can not longer hear the singing river. But the music that was born from Muscle Shoals lives on, deep and abiding.
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ShuffleShufflin’ with Muscle Shoals
I’ll Take You There (Mavis Staples)
Loan Me A Dime (Boz Scaggs)
Brown Sugar (Rolling Stones)
When a Man Loves a Woman (Percy Sledge)
I Never Loved A Man the Way That I Loved You (Aretha Franklin)
Kodachrome (Paul Simon)
Freebird (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
+ Land of a 1000 Dances and a thousand more songs!

Break an Egg + Shufflin’ wit da Chefs

At some point in the mid-’80s, my rock stars went from cutting records to cutting onions. I was star chef-struck and proud of it. My sister lived in New York City, so instead of theater tickets, we’d plan and save in order to lunch at one of the top-rated restaurants. First was La Côte Basque, followed by the original Bouley, and then La Grenouille, where I had a coq au vin that near ’bout made me cry outloud. While living in London and attending culinary school,  (yeah, yeah, yeah, I can already hear you commenting on the irony of a cooking school in England) several of my classmates and I pinched enough pence to eat at Aubergine, newly opened by the temperamental Gordon Ramsey, yet unknown outside of London. The food was exquisite, but the screaming from the kitchen all but ruined the experience.

Chefs were just on the verge of becoming celebrities, and my list of memorable meals and chef meetings is long and satisfying. My first real high-profile face-to-face encounter with a chef was at the Fancy Food Show in Chicago in 2001 at a seminar by Charlie Trotter. I waited two hours in line to talk to him and get a book signed. I never got to eat there before they closed and sadly, Trotter died on Nov. 5 at age 54. At another food show in NYC, I finagled my way into the bathroom line behind Sara Moulton. Damn near dogged Rick Bayless until he knew my name.  I was a mostly rambling mess while Anthony Bourdain signed Kitchen Confidential, until we started talking about The Ramones and agreed that any day you woke up and Keith Richards was still alive was a good day. Lesson learned after I nursed a rather pitiful years-long crush on David Rosengarten imagining “if he only knew me ….” and “if I could only have dinner with …” then when I got to spend an entire day with him, which included taking him to Allen & Sons (lunch) and Lantern (dinner),  could barely put one intelligent word in front of the other.  Picking up the dinner check, I realized that I was signing off on my “if only” fantasy and went into brief mourning as the perfect crush melted faster than chocolate in a hot car.

It almost goes without saying at this point: the food scene in Chapel Hill/Durham/Raleigh is becoming legendary. That’s evidenced not just by our own extraordinary rock star chef talent in the Triangle, but by the growing handful of high-profile chefs and restaurant owners who now stop here on book tours or to give cooking lessons where once we were in the flyover zone between Atlanta and NYC. I actually felt heat rise when I heard about these upcoming book signings and chef appearances.

LionelVatinetIf you’re unfamiliar with La Farm Bakery in Cary, well, shame on you. Lionel Vatinet is a master, and La Farm products are available at all area Whole Foods. Get thee toward a croissant.

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JohnBesh

New Orleans Chef John Besh, owner of nine restaurants, has won so many awards it’s hard to keep track of them, from being named one of the 10 Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine in 1999 to claiming the 2006 James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southeast. Besh is all over Food Network, competing on Iron Chef America and Top Chef Masters, and even appearing in a season one episode of HBO’s Treme.

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JohnCurrenceCity Grocery owner and chef John Currence, while maybe less well-known except among rabid foodies, actually began his food career as a student at UNC, washing dishes at Crook’s Corner when the man in charge was Bill Neal. He returned to New Orleans, working for the Brennan family of restaurants before opening City Grocery in Oxford, Miss., in 1992. Also multi-award winning (2009 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in the South, e.g.), Currency is contributing editor for Garden and Gun.

A Passion for Bread with Lionel Vatinet
Mon. Nov. 18, 7pm, Free
The Regulator Bookshop, 720 Ninth St., Durham
919-286-2700 | http://www.regulatorbookshop.com

Cooking from the Heart with John Besh
Mon. Nov. 18, 6:30-8:30pm, $59
Sur La Table at The Streets at Southpoint, Durham
919-248-4705 | http://www.surlatable.com

Cooks & Books Lunch Reception with John Currence, Author of Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey
Sun. Nov. 24, 3pm, $85 (includes autographed book)
The Fearrington Granery, Pittsboro
919-542-2121 | http://www.fearrington.com
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ShuffleShufflin’ wit da Chefs

Mississippi, You’re on My Mind (Jerry Jeff Walker/Jesse Winchester)
Congo Square (Sonny Landreth/Mel Melton)
Mr. Bojangles (Jerry Jeff Walker)
Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (Edith Piaf)
It Don’t Matter to Me (Bread)

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muscleshoalsJust in case you were wondering, and I know you are … I plan on spending the weekend watching the next 3 episodes of Treme and the documentary Muscle Shoals. Maybe even the new Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me if it arrives. I predict happiness.  Not just because it’s my birthday, but because I’m going to do exactly what I want. Nothing more, nothing less.

Brice Street Band = Good Vibrations + Life on Shuffle

I love fall. Maybe because it’s the season of my birth. My energy level crackles and I get incredibly nostalgic. Something uncontainable gets let loose at exactly the same time as I’m craving familiarity.

When I heard that Brice Street Band was playing in Durham, it was as if the 70’s snuck right up and tapped me on the shoulder. If I close my eyes just right, I can almost conjure up the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s in Chapel Hill. Like when Halloween meant families and their children came to Fowler’s parking lot at the foot of Mallette Street to ride on the back of a fire truck. Orchestrating ways to sneak on to campus every fall to hear Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts play at Granville Towers or some frat party. All those years of UNC’s Jubilee music festival that everyone still talks about with reverent pride. Cat’s Cradle opened and Robbin’s Department Store became Town Hall offering perfect venues for local area bands like Arrogance, Southwing, Heartwood, Bro T. Holla, and Brice Street Band, who trucked over regularly from Greensboro. Seeing several of these bands reunite is a real treat, especially to watch the fun they are clearly having. Hearing them is even better. So what if they aren’t all intact with exactly the same members? (Aside: stay tuned for a possible Southwing gig, along with a column, in February.)

Brice Street Band

Brice Street Band

But back to Brice Street Band. Throughout the 70′s, In hopes of a record deal, they focused on the studio, playing out only a couple of times a week. But a record deal doesn’t come without a following, which they built by hitting the predictable college circuit which included Greensboro, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Greenville, plus every beach joint between Wrightsville and Virginia Beach. Before long, they were filling clubs everywhere they went becoming known for their Beach Boys covers.

When I asked Jack Atchison (drums and lead vocals) if there was a single most memorable night playing in Chapel Hill in the 70′s, he laughed and reminded me of their very first booking at Town Hall. The place was fairly new and the entrance still had the left over department store glassed-in window displays. While playing “Gimme Shelter,” a handful of bikers got in a fight out front and someone got thrown through the windows. “We evoked the spirit of Altamont,” said Jack, laughing at the memory. I was there. Town Hall owner Michael Strong ultimately got them their album deal with the Record Bar’s fledgling label, Dolphin Records and they would record two albums Rise up in the Night (1980) and Imagination (1983).

Though the original band was all but disbanded by 1986, Atchison would keep Brice Street alive and well with varying members, most recently with another original member, Doug Dennis (bass and vocals), and newest addition Jack King (guitar and vocals). But don’t for a second discount the power of a trio. Just like back then, they rock the house and pack them in still performing all those songs that make you get up out of your chair and dance like no one is watching – Van Morrison, ZZ Top, Hendrix, Cream, The Police, and, yes, they still do the Beach Boys. Get out there this weekend and revisit. As Van would so eloquently say “my, how you have grown.”

BNG1Sat. Nov. 9
Brice Street Band
8pm – $8
The Blue Note Grill
4125 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd
Durham, NC 27707
(919) 401-1979

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We are not even going to talk about those 18 days in the hospital. Not yet anyway.
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Music on ShuffleLife on shuffle
No Woman, No Cry (Bob Marley & the Wailers)
Right as Rain (Adele)
It Ain’t Right (John Mayall & the Blues Breakers)
Gravity/Falling Down Again (Alejandro Escovedo)
November Blue (The Avett Bros.)

Chris Hillman + Herb Pedersen = Soon!

chris_herb_lrg2010Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen
Sunday, August 18, 7pm – $20 (Friends), $24, $28 (DOS)
The ArtsCenter
Carrboro, NC

Pages of Life

He might have been just as happy as a cowboy.  Or a surfer. I, for one, am glad Chris Hillman discovered music and listened carefully to that sound in his head that would connect a musically curious generation to country rock back in the late 60’s.

Without Chris Hillman’s influence (The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas, Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, McGuinn Clark & Hillman, McGuinn & Hillman, Desert Rose Band), I’m not sure we’d be listening to the same Avett Brothers or Mumford and Sons we hear today. In the playlist of my life, rock (The Rolling Stones, The Who, etc.) instantly conjures memories of parties, concerts, and good times, man. Country rock (The Byrds, FBB, Poco, Pure Prairie League, etc.) will forever be connected to falling in (and out) of love.

The hardest part of interviewing, IMHO, is trying not to bore the interviewee, especially when they fall into legendary status. Rock and roll history is right there on the line and you’d rather chew pencils than pitch out the same old questions they’ve heard over and over and over, ad nauseam. I decided that if he wanted to talk about The Byrds and Gram Parsons that he was going to have to bring them up. It was a good call on my part.

He started right off by saying “They say some of the best banjo players come out of North Carolina.” Ok, I’m good with where this is going so far.

I knew I wanted to talk about the new crop of young bands joyfully incorporating traditional string music into their current sound. Alt-country, I think they call it. Whatever.

We went in a dozen directions – R&B songs to religion, songwriting to great American novels, heroin to herding cattle – none of them predictable, but all of them connected by a common thread – Chris Hillman himself. After five minutes I felt like I’d been talking with him for hours and he comes across as one of the nicest guys you ever want to meet. Plus he even broke into song several times. I mean, you have to be respectful of a man who can casually mention David (Crosby) without it seeming the least little bit pretentious or bragging.  It actually didn’t even take long before we were talking about Gram. But you have to read the entire Q&A for the whole story.

Chris and Herb Pedersen have known one another for 50 years, but didn’t play together in a group until the Desert Rose Band. With all those years, talent, and multi-stringed instruments between them, it’s a given that they’d make beautiful music together and that they’d share that with the appreciative audience that would be us.

Bill Payne + Outpatience + Triple X + Shufflin’

Chapel Hill Magazine’s The WEEKLY column, June 20, 2013
Bill Payne
Tracing Footsteps – A Journal of Music, Photography and Tales from the Road
Monday, June 24 – $25-$28
Cat’s Cradle
Carrboro, NC
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Tracing-Footsteps-general-banner-499x208

It’s hard to imagine that first pre-Little Feat meeting between Bill Payne and Lowell George. The one in 1969 that would start with trading “musical quotes,” Lowell on acoustic guitar and Bill on a spinet belonging to Lowell’s mother.  A meeting that fell into place by Bill Payne’s own desire and drive, literally south from Santa Barbara to LA several times, hoping to find a musical home with Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. But it didn’t happen quite like that. Instead Little Feat was born and Zappa helped them get their first record contract with Warner Bros. When not playing with the current incarnation of Little Feat, keyboardist Payne, the only surviving original member, is so respected in the music world that he’s in heavy request as a session player performing on albums with Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, The Doobie Brothers, Bob Seger, J.J. Cale, Jimmy Buffet, and so on.

BillPayne1Payne is one of those rare individuals blessed with natural talents that go beyond keyboards and songwriting. Picking up a camera from his son Evan only a few years ago, his immediate kinship with the lens exposed an eye that is a natural extension of his belief in discovering the connections between things.  In his own words:  “I don’t separate myself from my art. It is a revolving summation and continuance of what I am, what I was, and what I hope to be.”  And he’s also laid-back, extraordinarily collaborative, and intensely passionate about whatever he happens to be doing at the moment.  Which in this case is one of his most recent projects – Tracing Footsteps: A Journal of Home and the Road that combines stories, with multi-media showcasing his own photography, along with an audience Q&A.  Accompanying Payne to flesh out this powerful duo is Gabe Ford, current Little Feat drummer.
  “Tracing Footsteps,” according to Payne, “is the way I describe my journey in photography. It houses my philosophy of combining a host of influences: black & white, color, textured themes, landscape, people, photojournalism — my time travel, literally–all under one roof.”The primary architect behind the Little Feat “Grassroots” movement, Payne instinctively recognized the synergistic benefit of personally involving the band’s massive and hugely dedicated fan base in the job of promoting the band, upcoming shows, recordings, merchandise, etc as well as populating the online music communities … there are about a half dozen “working fans”  in NC alone. They’re like Deadheads, only with Feat. What stands out above all else is the connection (there’s that word again), fierce loyalty, and admiration between the band and their fans who would do anything, including buying groceries, gassing up the truck, or simply running a not-so-glamorous errand. Just ask one of those NC-based fans – Gene Morgan, who lives in Clayton – if you can find him when he’s not busy running around putting up posters as I suspect he’s doing right now in advance of this show.Good man that he is, Bill Payne took time out to talk with me about Little Feat, cameras, Inara George (Lowell’s daughter), movements (both musical and grassroots) and to answer a handful of crowd-sourced questions from fans.  Read the rest of the Q&A online HERE.
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HeartbreakAn outpatient of love
Still a work in progress.  Tender days. Weepy nights. Chocolate does NOT cure everything. Neither does bacon.  Not even chocolate-dipped bacon.
Where’s Mr. Right Now when you need him?
Now interviewing for diversions.
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triplexX and X and X Marks the spot
9am. Pick a weekday. Any day. Let’s just say Tuesday. It’s not unusual for me to run by the post office on my way to work. My route takes me by an adult emporium. And not just one X. Not XX. But XXX.  Sometimes I slow down to count the cars in the parking lot.  At 9am on a Tuesday.  What ARE they doing in there???  Merely rhetorical. Smell the glove.
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ShuffleShufflin’ Hither & Yon (mostly hither)
Born Under a Bad Sign (Albert King)
You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go (Bob Dylan)
Midnight Blues (Gary Moore)
Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You (Led Zeppelin)
It’s All Over Now (Rolling Stones)I Think I’ll Just Sit Here and Drink (Merle Haggard)