Tag Archives: Deborah Miller

Gratefully Yours + anticipation + shuffling into 2014

One rainy October afternoon:
ExileMainStFeeling lucky to even be alive, which is another story altogether and for another day. Plugged 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!

penflourishleft

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 Jennifer 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!

penflourish

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 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. For all of you who just saw me through one of the scariest bits of my life, I love and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

penflourishleft
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

Advertisements

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.

_____________________________________________________

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.

_____________________________________________________

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
_________________________________________________________
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)

_________________________________________________________

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.

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.

Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees + the name game redux + shrimp & grits throwdown

We’re Too Busy Singing …
My friend Mississippi posted on Facebook this morning “Davey Jones has died. I thought the woman was joking when she told me, but then I saw her face and now I’m a bereaver.”   That made me smile so I’m stealing it.

Yesterday when I heard, I couldn’t ignore the ripple of sadness.

There goes yet another puzzle piece of my youth.  Got me puzzling about all the pieces. And how we often think they’re all in place, only to see them come undone.  Forcing new pieces in to the missing space just doesn’t work. What happens to us when we lose those pieces that have been so firmly in place for so long?

Misspent or not, my life was held in place by music.  Notice I didn’t say grounded … grounded was what happened when you got in trouble.  My parents, frequent grounders of me, did not like The Rolling Stones, but they loved the wholesome Monkees. Ha … little did they know.  They even took us  … well … I already wrote about this and couldn’t say it any better with new words, so I’m quoting/stealing from myself:

“But back to Dad … who Christmas of 1967 gave us four kids two tickets each, and piled eight kids in a car to see the Monkees in Winston-Salem, only to find me sitting out in the hall in a euphoric haze while the Monkees sugar-popped away inside. “You’re missing the Monkees,” he said. The opening act was Jimi Hendrix and I was now “experienced.” Had seen God. At seventeen, I was too young to recognize the gris-gris that Mitch Mitchell was throwing out there, but I caught it anyway. At the crossroads, I went left and never looked back.”
-excerpt from Come They Told Me. dpm 2011

My IPod carries a good portion of the soundtrack of my life – past and present. Most of it anyway … though there’s not a Monkee’s song to be found. Yet. But I still find myself singing along to “Daydream Believer,” and “I’m a Believer” whenever I hear them.  One of my favorites was the rarely, if ever heard, “I Wanna Be Free.”

Michael Nesmith

I was a Michael Nesmith fan. I don’t know why I liked that wool cap, but I did. He was my first “type” and would come to define the kinds of guys that made my knees weak and my resolve even weaker,  especially after he grew a moustache and beard.  Gotta love a man with a beautiful Gretsch guitar.

His mother invented Liquid Paper.

I even gave my virginity to a Michael Nesmith look-alike who worked at Harry’s on Franklin Street.  Whenever I saw a picture of Nesmith, it took me back to the note that Jim (the clone) wrote on an order pad sheet and handed to me when he came to take our order …  “coffee, tea, or me?”  I ordered and we went to his place.  I spent the whole time pretending it was Michael Nesmith. I still have that note.  No amount of White-Out will ever erase that.
_______________________________________________________

Long story short. AT&T accidentally cut my phone line doing an install. Almost 2 weeks to get them back.  Assigned repair tech calls this  morning to confirm that he’ll be here between 1 & 6pm.  What’s his name?  Robert.
________________________________________________________

Lordy, Lordy … another phenomTuesday night blues jam at The Blue Note Grill!  Trust me. Just go. Be amazed.


________________________________________________________

After putting on my best  Shrimp & Grits Throwdown face for this sold-out event at The Carolina Inn here in Chapel Hill, I was ready to mingle with  5 of my favorite celebrity judges, 7 of my favorite local chefs, and over 225 guests. Can you  imagine anything other than a mouthwatering afternoon? I was even considering taking my favorite spoon, but that would verge on tacky.

We judges, sequestered in the Sun Room with bottles of wine and plates of cheese, were warned that plates would come every 7 minutes. And come they did … each a unique interpretation.  Or course we tried to match each dish to the participating chefs.  And the winner was Trey Cleveland from Top of the Hill. Following close on his heels by only one point was Jimmy Reale, Carolina Crossroads/The Carolina Inn.  Fan favorite went to Vimala Rajendran/Vimala’s Curry Blossom Café whose version was full of palate-teasing Indian spiciness.

The event raised it’s goal of $2,000 for TABLE, Inc., serving Chapel Hill and Carrboro children at risk for hunger.
_______________________________________________________

Music on Shuffle

Do you believe in magic? + the name game + Sunday supper + music on shuffle

Will McFarlane & Band at The Blue Note Grill

Holy rock and roller! 
Where there’s a Will there’s a way …  a Will McFarlane, that is.  Way is for his playing … as in way great … as in the way that everyone playing with him just automatically amps way up a couple of notches … as in the way all of us witnessing said playing at the Blue Note Grill last night are jaw-droppingly mesmerized … as in the way it turned into a family affair with Will’s wife, Janet, sharing vocals and son, Jamie, on bass.  Well, you get most of the picture … the rest of which includes Clark Stern on keyboards and Justin Holder on drums.  If you don’t believe me, go google these players.

Three sets, three handsome men sharing my table (Robert, David & Mike), and three glasses of Matchbook Cab later and I still wasn’t ready to go home and break the spell.  The band brought their A-game with Standy By Me, Bring it on Home, Do Right Woman,  Nadine, My Little Runaway, Dixie Chicken … it was pure magic. I could go on and on, but then I’d just be rubbing it in.
_______________________________________________________
Robert \r(o)-be-rt\ a boy’s name pronounced RAH-bert is of Old German origin and means  “bright fame.” A favorite name for boys since the Middle Ages. Especially favored by the Scots due to 14th-century king Robert the Bruce and to poet Robert Burns. (Credit: www.thinkbabynames.com)

I know how many of you are laughing already. I’d laugh too if it wasn’t just so damn weird … and a little creepy, if I think about it long and hard enough. If you’ve heard, or read, about my boomerang drummer phenomenon, then you shouldn’t be surprised here … this is just one further example of my inescapable universal loop.  (Jump over here to peek behind the cymbals if you have no clue what I’m talking about.)

Somewhere early in the Life of Me, “it” was written. Or maybe the “Bob” fairy waved a magic wand over my bald baby head or cut my baby powder with something dark and twisty assuring that I would forever have some sort of Robert in my life. What Dr. Seuss character was let loose in my life story, I wanna know?  Bob, I am?  And why a Robert, fer cryin’ out loud?  Why not a Willie or a Sam? What possible lesson could I learn by having a Robert … or a Bob … or a Bobby … or a Rob?  None, I tell you … none.

But have them I do. It’s not even something you can take precautions against.  About a year and a half ago I was actually seeing two Roberts’ at the same time … and I admit right here and now that I got a bit of a cheap thrill out of it. At least I didn’t have to ever worry about calling one of them the wrong name during an intimate moment.

When I meet a man and he tells me his name is Robert/Bob/Bobby, I just smile knowingly and say “of course, it is” … much the same way I respond  “of course, you are”  if they tell me they are a drummer.

Far be it from me to try to make sense of this cosmic name game.
Robert, Robert, bo-bobert,
banana-fana-fo-fobert,
fee-fi-m0-mobert. Robert!

I don’t make this stuff up.  Cross my heart. Hope to ….
________________________________________________________
Sunday just squawks for roast chicken and biscuits.  And this Sunday it’s supposed to be cold and rainy, with even a slight chance of snow in the mix … so there you go.

Just slide some garlic herb butter up underneath the skin, nestle that bird in a big old Le Creuset pot with some white wine, garlic, potatoes, carrots, onions, fennel, mushrooms, peas and some tarragon tucked in around it … pop that baby in the oven for a couple of hours.

Serve it with a salad, biscuits, and a bottle of pinot noir.   And for those of you who only drink white wine with chicken … yes, it’s ok to drink white wine before Labor Day.

Is this a good time to mention that my friend Robert is coming over for supper?
_________________________________________________________
Music on ShuffleMusic to shuffle through while roasting a bird:
The Funky Chicken (Rufus Thomas)
Fire (Bruce Springsteen)
Wasn’t Born to Follow (The Byrds)
I’ll Fly Away (Gillian Welch/Alison Krauss)
How Long (The Eagles)
Fly Like an Eagle (Steve Miller Band)
Free Bird (Lynyrd Skynyrd)