Tag Archives: Deborah P. Miller

The Past Becomes a Present + Kitchen Shuffle

by Deborah Miller

I hit my early 30’s with a couple of significant, but soon to be important, strangers in my how-fast-can-I-run life. One was my second husband, who I hadn’t quite met yet, the second was my kitchen where I mostly kept beer or wine cold, the aluminum-drip-pot coffee hot, and take-out stashed as I hurried on the way to somewhere else. Please don’t judge my taste buds. They had no respectable influences back then … Mateus Rosé was my wine of choice because the man I shoulda married always came over with a bottle. You judged the night before by how many empty little Krystal Burger boxes were on the table when you woke up the next day. More than 5 … uh-oh.

Krystalboxes2

But I didn’t hate cooking. In fact, there was something calm and almost Zen-like there that was non-existent in my day-to-day, but I never stopped long enough to appreciate it. My candle stayed lit at both ends in those days. Plus at the time, my kitchen was a converted closet containing a baby 2- gas burner stovetop /oven and the sink was around the corner in my bedroom. Not terribly conducive to culinary expression … not that I’m making excuses because I was, after all, brought up by the “it’s a poor craftsman/woman who blames his/her tools” proverb.

When we (and by we, I mean me, my best friend and our running buddies, who were all either art students, musicians and/ or roadies) would end up in one place long enough, I’d often bake bread and cook a big pot of something. Soup. Stew. Spaghetti … because have you ever seen a boy (or a man) turn down a plate of spaghetti? Hasn’t happened in my life yet and I’m still waiting.

BreadPastaWine

Rarely did I write recipes down, because I was fearless and not afraid to add ingredients with abandon (whether they went together or not). Add enough wine to the pot and the guest(s), and who cares?

My recipes back then, if you can even call them that, were haphazard concoctions based on 1) how my mother made it, 2) how my grandmother made it, and 3) what I could afford. I’ve already proven in earlier blog posts that my siblings and I have varying colorful and wildly different memories of the exact same thing.

There was one family recipe I started doctoring just as soon as I was far enough away from home not to get caught. Bless her heart, my mother’s spaghetti sauce was just plain weird and not like anything I’d ever had before or since. She used to say that’s the way my Dad’s mother made it, that it was German-inspired. German spaghetti sauce? Really? They were from Yadkinville via the Alsace region, but that could hardly account for this particular and peculiar combination of ingredients. And there was nothing North Carolina about this sauce except for the woman opening the bottles. She’d saute onions and celery, maybe some dried garlic, brown some ground beef, then add a couple of bottles of Heinz Chili Sauce. I loved it until I tried “real red sauce” at a real Italian restaurant.

In an attempt to impress when I finally met the man I would marry, born story-embellisher that I am, my kitchen skills took on grand proportions as if I didn’t know, or care, that it would catch up with me sooner or later. We ate out a lot at first, and grilled almost every weekend, so coming up with sides for whatever hunk of meat was charring away outside was easy. There was foolhardiness as I threw elaborate dinner parties and tried out new dishes without even a rehearsal. One dinner, everything was held-up waiting for the rice to bake, a recipe my mother often made for fancy dinners. After 30 extra minutes and finally pulling the bubbling beef broth out of the oven, it was only to discover I’d never added the rice. Fortunately, there was wine a’plenty and if I know nothing else, it’s how to laugh long and hard at myself. For reasons that now escape me we ended up dancing around the dining room table singing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody at the top of our lungs. It became an after dinner tradition.

cooking

Still, the kitchen didn’t scare me. Our circle of friends became fooled into thinking I knew what I was doing back there in that room with the pots and pans. I’ve lost count of the times I’d just go back in there and rattle things around a little just for their benefit.

Once married, and without even consciously trying, we began to start our own food traditions. One that included having all our favorites on one plate for a birthday, which in my case meant lobster, crab cakes and ribeye’s all in one meal. The holidays would roll around and I’d find myself homesick for a specific dish from my own childhood – breakfast strata, Christmas pie, baked fruit compote, or Mud Hens.

We honestly thought Mom created them until I pulled out my old dog-eared 2nd edition copy of Charleston Receipts to search for a dessert to take to a cookout and there big-as-life was her recipe. Exactly the same. They were such a hit, I promised myself I’d never forget about them again, though I’d smile coyly about our “secret family recipe” every time after.

WagonerFamilyCookbook1The Family Cookbook
Sometime during the summer of 1990, as I began to collect all those family recipes, including those that my brother and sisters had reworked and adapted to our adult tastes, it morphed into a family cookbook project. Everyone would send me their recipes, I’d re-type them all, make copies, and gather them in a ring binder. Sounded simple enough. I was either crazy or didn’t already have enough to do, so I also volunteered to design and cross stitch enough covers for each family to have their own book, plus an extra one each for the two 10-year old nieces who I named as my assistant editors. It became the big shared family Christmas gift that year and took its rightful place next to the old Joy of Cooking and Ladies Home Companion.

My copy is a treasure and is one of those things I’d grab if the house were on fire. It’s outgrown the binder in a good way, with other favorite recipes added through the years. Even after graduating from culinary school, I still go for the family cookbook nine times out of ten. Ever year, usually sometime in November and way too late to have it ready in time for Christmas, there are talks of doing a long overdue update. Bring it on, y’all. It’s about time.
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Kitchen Shuffle
Shuffle
RC Cola & a Moon Pie (NRBQ)
Maximum Consumption (the Kinks)
Alice’s Restaurant (Arlo)
Sweet Potato Pie (James Taylor)
Cheeseburger in Paradise (Jimmy Buffett)

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R.E.M. BY MTV at Cat’s Cradle a special film screening and PopUp Chorus benefiting the Public Justice Foundation

There’s this.  It’s important. It’s fun. And it’s a damn good cause.

August 23, 2016 update:  Our beautiful and remarkable Vivian left us yesterday – peacefully, quietly in the comfort of family and friends.  We knew this day would come. Lauren Bromley Hodge said it way better than I ever could:

Yesterday, Vivian Connell joined the man in the moon, went to Heaven, became part of the universal flow of all things, Honestly, I do not know where she has gone, but I do know that she has left a hole in our world, and that I have lost a friend. A mother supreme, a ferocious fighter for justice, an advocate for public education, a towering intellect and force of nature like no other, Vivian loved music right up there with all else that she loved with such passion. Just over a year ago, Bernard Downing, Conductor Seamus Kenney, David Klein, Deborah Pardee Miller, Frank Heath and her husband, Paul Connell, worked together with many others, on an event to honor her, that benefited Public Justice, a cause that she held so close to her heart. We sang R.E.M. songs, screened their documentary, and watched her son,Hagan Connell join this kick ass band with Alex Maiolo on stage. Of course, he held his own, because he is a Connell, and they always hold their own. Re-watching this video and seeing her sing, laugh and love R.E.M., her family, friends and her community reminds me that life is precious, fleeting and beautiful. She made more of it that most. RIP beautiful woman, and may the community that you served with such passion bring peace and comfort to your grieving family. So proud to have known you. -LBH

R.E.M. BY MTV at Cat’s Cradle
a special film screening and PopUp Chorus benefiting the Public Justice Foundation

REMbyMTV

Carrboro, NC – A special musical benefit featuring the music of R.E.M. takes place at Cat’s Cradle, Friday, April 10, 2015 beginning at 6:30 p.m. in support of the Public Justice Foundation. The evening includes a screening of the documentary R.E.M. by MTV, a film about the life and times of R.E.M., and a PopUp Chorus of the audience singing R.E.M. favorites, “Man in the Moon” and “Losing My Religion.” The event honors Chapel Hill teacher and policy advocate, Vivian Connell. Advance tickets for the seated show are $15 and are available online now at http://www.catscradle.com. All proceeds benefit the Public Justice Foundation.*

The event springs from years of shared friendships and shared passion for social justice. Vivian Connell, an undergraduate in Athens, Georgia in the early 80’s, grew up in the burgeoning local music scene with the young R.E.M. As an emerging band,, R.E.M. performed their first benefit in 1984 for the Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation (L.E.A.F.). The young Connell, then Vi Riner, photographed this 1984 performance for The Red & Black, the University of Georgia, Athens student newspaper.

Thirty years later, after a two-decade teaching career, Connell graduated from UNC Law, passed the North Carolina Bar and was engaged in education policy advocacy, often working with long-time R.E.M. advisor Bertis Downs. But in March 2014, soon after embarking on her career in public interest law, Connell was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Following her diagnosis and despite physical limitations, Connell, a teacher, attorney, and policy advocate, continued to pursue public service, raising over $30,000 to lead a group of immigrant and marginalized students on a social justice trip to DC. On the importance of music, Connell observed, “Music has the power to unite people and to compel us toward a higher purpose,” adding, “R.E.M.’s music and politics have elevated our best ideals and inspired many, including me, to question the status quo and to pursue an authentic life of substance.”

Says Bertis Downs, R.E.M. advisor and co-producer of the documentary, “we are thrilled to have a screening of R.E.M. by MTV at Cat’s Cradle and to have it benefit The Public Justice Foundation, which does such vital work and is meaningful to our friend Vivian Connell. It is sort of a perfect circle; the Chapel Hill area has always been a special place for R.E.M. since their earliest days, and screening the film here gives us an opportunity to support and honor Vivian. The documentary has been well received by fans all over– and having PopUp Chorus join the event is a unique bonus.”

Click here to view Trailer for R.E.M. by MTV.

PopUp Chorus founder Lauren Bromley Hodge, a NC based arts entrepreneur, met Connell through Downs in 2011 after founding the Community Chorus Project, whose mission is to create community and positive social impact through music. In 2014, Hodge introduced PopUp Chorus, conducted by Seamus Kenney, as a program of Community Chorus Project, run in collaboration with the Department of Music at UNC, Chapel Hill. Hodge and Kenney are thrilled that PopUp Chorus can help celebrate Vivian Connell’s work and passion, while allowing them to turn the audience into a PopUp Chorus singing two iconic R.E.M. songs.

Like R.E.M.’s first benefit, this event will support public interest law. A perfect circle, indeed.

* Public Justice fights for consumer and victims’ rights, environmental protection and safety, civil rights and civil liberties, workers’ rights, America’s civil justice system, and the wronged, the poor and the powerless. The Public Justice Foundation is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) charitable membership organization that supports cutting-edge litigation, advocacy, and education around these issues.

Those unable to attend may make a tax deduction donation by clicking here! 

Learn more about Vivian Connell –read her story on her blog, finALS: My Closing Arguments.

Advance tickets – BUY NOW!

# # #

Contacts:
Vivian Connell, Advisory Board, Public Schools First, North Carolina Certified Teacher, English 6-12, ESL K-12, 704-995-2222,vivcon@gmail.com
Lauren B. Hodge, Community Chorus Project LLC, 919-428-1597, lauren.b.hodge@gmail.com

For more information or to arrange an interview:
Deborah Miller, 919.219.6877, dpmiller@bellsouth.net

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

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.)

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)

Little Feat + noise makers + plus music to conga by, with and to


Little Feat at the Cradle
 

Wowie zowie, what a show! It was a night full of signs and magic and meant-to-be’s.  Finney and I were running late and I wasn’t looking forward to driving all over Carrboro looking for parking. But we drove through the lot just in case and there was a spot right in front of the door, almost as if it had been waiting for us all night. 8:30 and the place was packed to the gills with expectant Feat fans as we elbowed our way toward the front to find a good vantage point. As we leaned against a wall stage right, a woman turned to me and offered us their seats when they decided to move closer to the stage. It only got better from there. Even down to Craig Fuller (former Pure Prairie League founder and one-time member of Little Feat) joining them on stage for a goose-bumpy “Amie” and then sticking around for a 10 minute version of “Dixie Chicken” … which is a perfect segue right into my recent column in The WEEKLY:

If you’ll be my Dixie Chicken …
by Deborah P. Miller

I’m confessing right here and now that I have my own personal rock anthem.  No, not exactly written for me, though if truth be told, I have inspired a song or two. I’ve actually had several anthems, each a punctuating high note for my life at the time.  My first was Brown Eyed Girl (still applicable today), followed by Steppenwolf’s Born to Be Wild, then The Stones Sweet Virginia, and Springsteen’s Born to Run. But, at the top of the list, pretty much since it came out in 1973, is Little Feat’s Dixie Chicken.  I can’t explain why except to say that the song moves me to get up and move. 
Little Feat always felt indefinable. Were they rock? Were they blues? Were they New Orleans funk? How about all the above. They sure can boogie and their energy level on stage is always on the upper range of smokin’.  They are the one band that’s as good live, if not better, than they are on album. No surprise, considering the serious pedigree of the band, various members of which came together by way of Frank Zappa’s Mother’s of Invention. 
Back in 1978 when I was living in Atlanta and working for the Warner Bros. Artist Development Director, he got sent in one direction and asked me to go the other direction for a few shows with Little Feat, who were touring in support of Waiting for Columbus. To say I was excited would be an understatement, but to discover that I’d actually be working with them in my own hometown of Chapel Hill was just a really fine bowl of sausage milk gravy. They stayed at the old Holiday Inn on the Boulevard, played Carmichael Auditorium, and when they asked if I could set up a golf game for them, I turned them over to my Dad, who took them out to Finley Golf Course, and even played 18 holes with them.  I ultimately received a gold album for my insignificant role in that tour.  Maybe it IS the little things. Except that little BIG thing got stolen along with my Cars platinum album.
I was just as excited recently for the opportunity to talk with Paul Barrere, guitarist/slide player/lead and background vocalist for Little Feat prior to their upcoming August 4th show at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro.
When I mentioned that former Chapel Hill visit to Paul, his memory pulled up one nugget.  “Wasn’t that the basketball arena?” he asked.  When I confirmed that it was, he said “I just remember that Dean Smith wasn’t pleased that we were playing on his court. Even though they covered it, he was still worried about the floor.”
Once he and I got past all the reminiscing, the so and so says “hey,” and I’m a friend of “what’s his name,” we got down to the business of talking about what’s new with Little Feat.
Rooster Rag, their 16th album, and the first with new material in almost 7 years, just gets more enjoyable with each listen. I was hooked from the first track, a jumpin’, jivin’Candyman Blues, an old Mississippi John Hurt classic.
Paul was as eager to talk about Little Feat and Rooster Rag as I was and our phone conversation was peppered with lots of teasing and laughter.  Does it get any better than this?
We got cowbell!
Finney happened upon Just Drums one day in his travels around his own neighborhood in South Richmond and he couldn’t wait to take me there.  Lordy, Lordy … it was better than shoe shopping. Too easily said by someone who primarily slips her “I’ve Got The Blues For Red” painted toesies into flip flops every day even in the winter, right?
When was the last time you tested tambourines?  Once the 2 row, 2 metal (brass and stainless steel) version hit my hands, it was all over.  Dual sounds … dry & bright … with more sustain.  I like staying power 🙂
You probably already know that about me though.
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The conga’s stare at me every day.  Sometimes they just taunt. My hands are sore. But I am determined.  I’m told that the way to learn the hand positions is to do 10 minutes of each on each hand.  I may never leave my living room again. Hell, as bad as my hands hurt, I might not be able to manipulate the door knob.  My knife skills in the kitchen are minimal at best for the time being as I pray to get past the initial knuckle shock.
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Music to conga by:
Evil Ways (Santana)
Can’t You Hear Me Knocking or Sympathy for the Devil (The Rolling Stones)
Udu Chant (Mickey Hart)

The Zombies + congas + hot food + hot music

Rod Argent / The Zombies

What’s Your Name? Who’s Your Daddy?
I fell for the British invasion hard. Like a rock. The Animals. The Yardbirds. Them. The Kinks. The Zombies. I couldn’t get enough and couldn’t spend my allowance fast enough on 45’s at The Record Bar on Henderson Street in Chapel Hill.

 I first saw The Zombies in the cult classic film Bunny Lake is Missing (1965). Filmed in black and white AND in widescreen, it was gritty film noir at its most psychologically thrilling. There’s a scene in a London pub, all of about 1 minute long, where The Zombies are playing Just Out of Reach in the background. I walked out of the Varsity Theater and went straight to The Record Bar. Time of the Season and House of the Rising Sun were two of the first songs I loaded on my IPOD. I still crank them up a little louder when they shuffle past and am instantly transported back in time.

Breathe In/Breathe Out, released in 2011, is a beautiful collaboration musically and vocally. No, these are not the raw, spare Zombies songs of the 60’s that made dramatic use of today’s equivalent of “white space” … pauses full of meaning and longing followed by the almost religious chording from a Hammond B3. Instead it’s like a long visit with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while. Their musical talent is maybe even more impressive; the vocals fluid and touching. In an era where too many of my favorite singers on this side of sixty have started to deliver barely recognizable vocals, Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent still have it, and then some. A Moment in Time and I Do Believe are my favorites …but then I have a weakness for soaring piano. Each listen I hear something new and wonderful. Playing with them on this tour are bassist Jim Rodford (Argent and the Kinks), Rodford’s son Steve play on drums and guitarist Tom Toomey.

Given the chance to interview one of the original members, keyboard player Rod Argent (also front man for Argent 1968-1976), made me giddy like a little school girl. He was open, amusing, and charming, and it took little to send him off in various directions with a true story about this or that. Whether it was the visit the band made to Graceland to find Elvis, working with Director Otto Preminger on Bunny Lake is Missing, or the 2008 live London performance of their classic Odessey & Oracle when it was performed in it’s entirety for the very first time.
CLICK TO READ THE ENTIRE Q&A WITH ROD ARGENT
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Uh-oh … shame on me … I forgot all about you.   Well, not really, but I’ve been what you might call a little distracted. Who knew that falling in love would both give clarity and focus to some things and turn right around and take it away from others?  Apparently I’d forgotten about all the fall out when you fall in.  Even Remy is feeling slighted.  Please to forgive!

And, oh yeah … Dear October, Hurry up and get here already.  It’s just too hot for comfort.
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The day the Tycoon’s came to stay

The conga drums came to live on my street. In my living room. They promptly made themselves at home.

My neighbors have not complained yet, which I’m taking as a good sign that I can continue my thrumming and thumping to my hearts content.

Now I just need to find a good teacher.

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Define busy.  Some days  I’m not sure there are enough hours to go along with all the things I honestly intend to do.

Crossed off the list since May 23, the last time I was here =  a treasured evening with two dear friends at Magnolia Grill before they closed + ten days at Sunset Beach with the wacky Williams cousins + a book reading by Robert Goolrick (one of my favorite authors) at Flyleaf Books + Stray Dogs Howlin’ jammin’ at The Blue Note Grill + Johnny Winter at The ArtsCenter + a biker bar adventure in Richmond + Bro’ T. Holla at The ArtsCenter + SideDish interviews with Mel Melton & Joe Taylor (Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse), Mickey Maloney & Marshall Smith (Glasshalfull), Jimmy Crippen (Fire in the Triangle), Susanna Reich (Minette’s Feast), and Dick Barrows (Kitchen) + The WEEKLY interviews with Rod Argent (The Zombies & Argent) and Paul Barrere (Little Feat) + make that two biker bar adventures in Richmond = me worn out just typing all that.

More to come. SunJam 2012 is this weekend and I’ve got resting up to do.