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

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.

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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. Town Hall regulars and favorites, though not local, were Blackhawk/Hi Ho Silver and Flood. 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.)

I wish my camera and I had done a better job of documenting those days.

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, 2013 – $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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X and X and X Marks the spot

9am. Pick triplexa 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)

Roger McGuinn

RogerMcGuinn1Roger McGuinn
Friday, May 3, 2013 $33/$37
ArtsCenter
300 E. Main St.
Carrboro, NC, 27510

http://www.artscenterlive.org/
http://www.ibiblio.org/jimmy/mcguinn/

I was half kidding when I asked if Roger McGuinn was up for interviews before his show on May 3rd and next thing I knew I was emailing with Camilla, his lovely bride of 35 years (AKA Roger’s manager, road manager, stage manager, roadie, etc.) That was last fall so I had months in which to imagine a conversation AND get really nervous about it. I was in the music business for years and met hundreds of well-known people, but Roger McGuinn was a Byrd, for cryin’ out loud! If there was a soundtrack to my life, it came from the Byrds.

Aside from defining and inspiring an era while embracing sounds that would become instantly recognizable and positively American, Roger McGuinn was the connector between folk, rock and country. He was also a constant at the center of one of the most seminal bands of the 60’s and 70’s that would include a revolving door of equally influential cohorts – David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Gram Parsons, Clarence White, Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, Gene Parsons, and more. I’m not sure I want to even imagine where music would be today without him, but I’m dead certain that man has some amazing stories to tell.

Camilla directed me to the FAQ’s on Roger’s website and while she didn’t exactly say it, what she meant was – asked and answered thousands of times, find some new questions.

But I was going for a local angle. Roger’s favorite project, The Folk Den is hosted here at UNC –Chapel Hill on Ibibilio.org, a contributor-run, digital library that is a collaborative project of the School of Information and Library Science and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Paul Jones is director of this home to one of the largest “collections of collections” on the Internet.

“I think that the McGuinn’s are a couple that have made some very smart choices doing what they love and sharing that love,” said Jones. “He loves playing but hated the hassles of managing a group as time went on. Now he gives away a song a month, right on time where ever he may be, and plays the shows he cares about going where he and Camilla like to go. He once told me that “touring with Camilla is like a kind of honeymoon at every show” They keep it simple but very high quality. I’m a great fan of both of them. Even someone completely incapable of playing guitar or singing on key (I’m saying me here) can appreciate Roger’s commitment to musicianship and his generous spirit.”

Having heard that Roger had made a guest appearance in his History of Rock class, I reached out to John Covach, rock historian and former Professor of Music Theory at UNC (now Chair of the College of Music at Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester).

“Yes, Roger McGuinn visited my History of Rock at UNC about ten years ago,” said Covach. “There were 300 or so students in the class at the time and it seemed like they all showed up that day, along with many faculty and staff–the room was filled to capacity. Roger had two guitars with him; I asked questions, he answered, and then would perform a song or two. It was a fantastic session and the students demonstrated their appreciation by giving him a standing ovation. He was overwhelmed by this and I might have even seen a tear in his eye. It was one of those rare moments in education where everything works out perfectly. Somebody told me later that he really enjoyed the experience–I know I did!”

Roger and I talked about that visit, along with his collection of transistor radios, visiting the Beatles in LA, folk song collecting, technology, and music. Then he put Camilla on the phone. If you’re still dying to know the answers to all those asked and answered questions like “why did he change his name from Jim to Roger” go to his website. It’s all there, plus some.

Go here to read our interview!

 

 

What’s New? Spring? Speakers? Sofas? Shuffle?

Where is spring? My toes are cold.  I can hear my flip-flops whimpering from behind the closet door.
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BNG1One Saturday in March

Morning at my favorite table at the Blue Note Grill talking to Bill.

No, I’m not here watching live music or drinking before noon, I say, because I can hear you wondering.  Over the last two years, I’ve been hearing the speakers in my car snap-crackle-pop. Enough to drive a music lover bonkers. So I started a stash – $5 here, $10 there. Good thing too, because then the CD player started skipping. Uh-oh. Not good, and likely not cheap.  $10 here, $20 there.  Then I discovered Auto Acoustics lives right behind BNG. And who am I to ignore a sign when I see – or hear – one?

Speaker inauguration song:  Midnight in Harlem (Tedeschi Trucks Band)
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sofa2One Saturday in April

Riding in a red truck with Keith.  Looking at sofas at consignment stores since there is not a real furniture store between here and Raleigh.

Keith: You know you can buy sofas online, right?
Me:  Are you crazy? I’m not buying a sofa online.  <— I say to the guy I met online.
Keith:  (silence for about 20 seconds too long)
Me:  (silence followed by)  wow … I’d get a man online, but not a sofa.
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Guitars_McGuinn1One Friday in May

I’ve talked about interviewing Roger McGuinn so much, even I’m sick of hearing me go on and on about it.  Just go read the interview, ya’ hear?
Here’s what ran in Chapel Hill Magazine’s The WEEKLY:  http://www.chapelhillmagazine.com/blogs/chapel-hill-magazine-blog/byrd-call/

Here’s what ran in my head before an editor got to it:
https://sites.google.com/site/sizzle2simmer/chapel-hill-magazine-s-the-weekly-columns/04-25-13—roger-mcguinn

The show was amazing. I can’t remember the last time I had goosebumps at a music show.  Oh, wait, it was Itzak Perlman and Pinkus Zukerman.
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ShuffleSofa Shopping Shuffle:
Down on Me (Janis Joplin)
Torn & Frayed (Stones)
Red House (Jimi Hendrix)
Please Call Home (Allman Bros.)

Missing in Action + Max + ENFP + Music

Lord, have mercy!  If you were in a romantic relationship with me, you’d have broken up with me by now, I imagine.  Please to forgive.  I don’t even know where to start with the last couple of months, much less if I actually should.  I have been d.i.s.t.r.a.c.t.e.d. Even as I start to beg for forgiveness, I let myself get diverted by some packages being delivered by UPS. Let no box go unopened, I say.  It might be a puppy.
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Max1 Pup would be a good place to start here. A friend who was watching me grieve for my beautiful Remy sent me a link on Petfinder. Even while protesting that I wasn’t ready for another dog, I was a goner before you could say “roll over,”  and was driving the back roads to Monroe one beautiful October day.  Max (a four-year-old mix of bearded collie and PBGV = Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen) was rescued and came to live in the little red house.  He’s a nut ball and he makes me laugh every time I look at his furry face.
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As the leaves were turning and I was falling in love with Max, I was trying to find my wobbly footing in another love that was going off-track faster than I could correct the steering, or apply the brakes. It was bad NASCAR slipperywithout a pit stop, or even a wall to stop the motion. When love is new everything in your field of      (and peripheral) vision is stunningly clear. Sharp. Gleaming. And achingly fragile … like an expensive Riedel wine glass. You’ve never been surer about anything in your entire life.  But when, and if, the shiny wears off and the cracks spider off into everywhere and nowhere, suddenly everything is muffled, dull, pillowed. And achingly fragile. When someone’s talking, you nod like you’re listening, but you’re not really. Suddenly you’re trying to walk through pudding or Jello® wearing 6” spike heels. Which in my case meant my flip-flops were skidding on every surface, every step I took. Downright treacherous, but that’s the thing about trying to make long distance love work. There’s all this empty space between in which to get trapped.

But ENFP says it best … me in love.  I kinda think they nailed it.

“Puppy love” is a good term for describing your take on romance: fun, frisky, playful, cuddly, and young at heart. No matter what your age or how many times your heart has been broken, you are an eternal optimist when it comes to love. You are not someone who proceeds cautiously when you meet someone you find attractive. You are likely to fall passionately in love – or at least lust – quickly, spontaneously, and with total abandon. Holding something back for later is a concept you can’t quite grasp, especially when it comes to the joy of creating a new and exciting relationship. Yes, COMMITMENT can scare you. That one word may explain why you are still single at thirty, forty, fifty, or beyond. But you love, absolutely love, the concept of intimacy, sharing, and relationships. If only you could find that special one, you would be set for life.
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And then there’s that new job thing. Should have led with that, right?  Landed upright and happy at what’s turning out to be the job that’s been looking for me, and I for it, complete with a dynamic and creative director. I can’t wait to get there every day. So all in all, life’s pretty good.

Diversions aplenty though!

Carrboro Music Fest – September, 2012
Another year, another success. And a day spent with my sister from Vermont and two old guy friends I hadn’t seen since the mid-80’s.  Kate, Ted, and Clay, thank you for such a day!  Loved hearing Saints Apollo!

Chatham County Line @ YR15YR15! Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro – October, 2012.  Wow! YepRoc Records throws a memorable party to celebrate 15 years.

Finally seeing Nick Lowe after all these years … delicious!  Seeing Chatham County Line again … sweet!  Discovering Jukebox the Ghost … exhilarating!  Experiencing Los Straitjackets … perfectly fright’nin’!

Thank you, Glenn Dicker, for taking time to talk with me for Chapel Hill Magazine’s The WEEKLY!   Read our Q&A here.

Now get outta here … I’ve got a Twelfth Night/Epiphany party to go to and then Downton Abbey!   It’s all good in my world.  _________________________________________________________

ShuffleMusic for cooking a pot of Irish Beef Stew:
Creatures of Love (Talking Heads)
And it Spread (Avett Bros.)
Tears Dry on Their Own (Amy Winehouse)
Keys to Paradise (Trampled by Turtles)
Are we in Trouble Now (Mark Knopfler)
I Wish I Was Your Mother (Alejandro Escovedo)
Home (Phillip Phillips)
Schizophrenia (Jukebox the Ghost)