The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
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Friday, October 29, 2010

Joe Robinson & Brachetto d'Aqui

I’m on a youth kick right now and tonight I want to introduce 18 year-old Joe Robinson, the winner of the 2008 “Australia’s Got Talent” show. He also won the 2009 World Championship of Performing Arts competition in Hollywood, CA in a field of over 75,000 participants. More recently he was voted “Best New Talent” by the readers of Guitar Player Magazine. When you hear him, you’ll know why. Note the similarities between his arrangement of Classical Gas and that of Calum Graham. Both guitarists got the arrangement from Tommy Emmanuel, whom both idolize. The same is true for Joe's medley of Daytripper and Lady Madonna. Ah, to be young again.

Struttin it:

The Chatterbox:

Daddy Longlicks:

Midnight in Nashville:



Daytripper/Lady Madonna:

Classical Gas:

Mr. Sandman:



Jiffy Jam:

Since I’m having a little fun featuring the youth of guitardom, I thought I’d do a “fun” wine, namely Rosa regale Brachetto d'Aqui 2008 ($18.00). this is a semi-dry, red sparkling wine that was once cherished by the courts of Europe two hundred years ago. Rosa Regale is created in one of Italy’s smallest production zones, the Brachetto d’Acqui Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, and is made from 100% Brachetto grapes grown exclusively at the La Rosa Vineyard in the town of Acqui Terme located in the Piedmont region of Italy. It’s aroma is like a spritzy cranberry cocktail with lots of red fruit on the palate. It’s a fun, not too serious wine that’s great for summer. Drink it chilled. Oh yeah, it also comes in a cool bottle and has an alcohol content of only 5.5%, similar to a beer. So put some fun in your week and enjoy a glass as you listen to rockin Joe Robinson and try not to feel too old. Have a great weekend!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Calum Graham & Lake Sonoma Cabernet

Calum Graham, an 18-year-old phenom, has exploded onto the guitar scene in the short five years he’s been playing. Watching and listening to him makes me wonder why I ever thought I could play. He has a beautiful sense of melody, his left and right hand technique is incredible, and his upbeat style gets my head to bobbin. He won First Place at the 2010 Canadian Guitar Festival with his original compositions. It’s the first time a teenager has ever won. The previous year, a First Place finish at the 2009 Calgary Stampede Talent Search qualified him to compete in Nationals at the C.Y.T.C where he also finished first. He just released his first CD entitled “Sunny Side Up.” Check out “Hella Good,” his arrangement of a Gwen Stefani tune and keep on dancing! I’m no prophet, but I see a long and fruitful career ahead for him. Enjoy!

Hella Good:

Sunny Side Up:

Tears On My Toes:

Thru The Photo Album:

Classical Gas:

Anybody Home:


1St Place song:

The Best Day Ever:



Since Calum is under 21, I suppose I should review a root beer…nah! He won’t be able to enjoy it for a few years, but you can. Tonight I’m featuring a smooth, elegant 2006 Lake Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley Wines ($18.00). Inky purple with a bouquet filled with red and dark fruit, it has flavors of red raspberry, cassis, currants, and cocoa. Great balance with solid tannins and a lengthy finish. Wine Enthusiast gave it a 91 & so do I. So, start the week off with a bit of guitar groove and a bottle of Lake Sonoma Cabernet. And if you’re underage, have your parents put a bottle away for your 21st birthday. It’ll age well. Enjoy!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Muris Varajic and Monthaven Cabernet from Octavin

Saturday nite and I’m gonna pep it up a bit with the music of a guitarist whose life story could be turned into a movie. Muris Varajic is a Bosnian born September 24th, 1979 in the town of Foca in Bosnia & Herzegovina. He was quite the student in his early childhood with a passion for math and science. But in 1992, war broke out and his family was forced to move to Sarajevo to avoid the ethnic cleansings carried out by the Serbs. Sarejevo, however, was a war zone without food, water, gas, or electricity. No place was safe and people were routinely killed in the streets. It forced Muris to stay inside where he taught himself to play the guitar by picking out the licks of Mark Knopfler, David Gilmour, Joe Satriani, Chet Atkins, and Steve Vai, sometimes practicing seven hours a day. In 1994 he enrolled the Music High School in Sarajevo and received his first formal music education.

Since then, he’s become a rock star in Bosnia, playing with some of their biggest groups and working additionally as a studio musician and hired gun. As you’ll see, he is a true virtuoso. Enjoy!

Final Dance:

Junk Medley:

Zajdi Zajdi:

Mojo Oro:



Flight of the bumblebee:

Django Rules:

Play For Me 2:


2008 Guitar Idol final:

Kalajdzisko oro:

Since it’s Saturday nite and we’ve got a true rocker on tap, let’s go with a wine tap, but not just any wine tap, Monhaven’s Cabernet Sauvignon in a box from Octavin. Cab’s often need to be exposed to air for a bit before drinking and while this one was good right from the box, decanting some into a pitcher and letting it air for 30 minutes really opens it up and softens it a bit. It’s deep purple with aromas of cherry and blackberry that follow in the mouth with a few hints of cassis and chocolate. By the way, it also goes great with dark chocolate. What could be better than dark chocolate, three liters of a very nice Cab, and the music of Muris Varajic? Can you say, “Party?” Enjoy!


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Masa Sumide & Michel Redd Sancerre

Tonight I’ve got a very special guitarist for you all the way from Japan. Masa Sumide is a groovemaster par excellence. He plays with finesse and flawless technique. He started out in the world of hard rock influenced by bands like Deep Purple, Led Zepplin, and Grand Funk Railroad. Later, he was influenced by jazz guitarist Joe Pass and acquired a jazz bent. He’s toured with Laurence Juber, Andy McKee, Don Alder, and Tommy Emmanuel. I think you’re going to like him. Enjoy!



Keep Rockin:

Hop, Step, & Funk:


If Dreams Had Wings:

Dancer’s Delight:


Soul Night:

When You Smile:

Say No More:

Between A Rock & A Hard Place:

I’m pairing Masa with my favorite class of white wine, namely a Sauvignon Blanc. The Michel Redde 2007 Sancerre is a clean, crisp bit of ambrosia with a bouquet full of Granny Smith apples and citrus and flavors of more apples, grapefruit, and lemon finishing with a tangy, balanced acidity. It’s an elegant wine for these days of Indian summer and the groove of Masa Sumide. Enjoy!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Allman Brothers & Saintsbury Pinot Noir

Tonight, I’m going to kick off the week with a bang. One of my all-time favorite groups was the Allman Brothers Band. I’ve seen them in concert three times, once with Duane on lead guitar, once with Warren Haynes and Dickey Betts, and finally with Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks. They’re southern rock style is timeless and as good today as it was back in their beginnings. I’ve got some rare footage of the band with Duane before his untimely death. I have a soft spot in my heart for Whipping Post. I used to play solo acoustic guitar in coffee houses back in the late sixties and early seventies and one night one of my best friends walked in with my ex-girlfriend who’d jilted me for him. I couldn’t help it but launch into an impromptu acoustic medley of Whipping Post and Feeling All right, by Steve Winwood. The audience apparently picked up on the vibe and cheered as the two stood and made a hasty exit. It was one of the sweetest moments of my musical career. But not as sweet as the music of the Allman Brothers. Two of my favorites are included below: Statesboro Blues and Southbound. Enjoy!

Whipping Post:

Don’t Keep Me Wondering:

In Memory of Elizabeth Reed:

Midnight Rider

Blue Sky:

Statesborough Blues:

Layla (with Eric Clapton):


Stormy Monday:

Ain’t Wastin Time No More:

Woman Across The River:

You Don’t Love Me:

End of The Line:


With a sweet band like the Allman Brothers, I suggest a honey of a Pinot Noir, namely Saintsbury Carneros, 2007 ($20.00). The vines that produce this lovely elixir are clones from Pommard giving the wine powerful and elegant notes of sour cherry, blackberry, and spice. The bouquet is loaded with cherry goodness. It’s a drier Pinot that gives it balance and a long, luscious finish. Try a bottle while you do a little southern boogie to the music of the Allman Brothers. Enjoy!


Friday, October 15, 2010

Kelly Joe Phelps and Monthaven Merlot from Octavin wines

Kelly Joe Phelps has established himself as a virtuoso guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He mixes folk, blues, and a little bit of jazz and has garnered accolades from the likes of Bill Frisell, Steve Earl, and Cameron Crowe. He’s been featured on NPR’s ‘All Things Considered’ and ‘Prairie Home Companion’ as well as numerous BBC and other national radio shows throughout Europe, Australia and Japan. Kelly Joe is a versatile improviser with the ability to put a new spin on a song every time he plays. His imaginative style merges multiple styles of music into his own unique blend. I hope you like him.

Country Blues:

Beggar’s oil:

Tight to the jar:

Window Grin:

Big Shakey:

Handfull of arrows:

Hellhound on my trail:

I been converted:

River Rat Jimmy:

I’d be a rich man:

Plumb line:

With Corrine West, River’s Fool:

With Corrine West, Whiskey Poet:

I used to keep the fact that I drink wine from a box a family secret. That was before I discovered Octavin wines. I reviewed their Silver Birch New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc back on July 27th, 2010 and was blown away at the incredible quality and value in this box of wine. Well, I’ve got two more to review and tonight, we’re pairing Kelly Joe with their Monthaven Merlot. It’s a well-balanced Merlot with aromas of cherry, plum, and dark berries that follow on the palate. It’s more on the dry side than jammy, which for me is just how I like my Merlot. Nice long finish. I’m astounded by the quality of these wines-in-a-box. They’re enough to make me give up glass—then again, maybe not. So tell Paul Giamatti and the movie Sideways to take a long walk off a short pier, get your self a box of Octavin’s Monthaven Merlot, and relax to the soulful sounds of kelly Joe Phelps. Enjoy!


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Acoustic Covers Vol. 2 & Mount Langi Ghiran “Billi Billi” Shiraz

Volume two of acoustic guitarists doing covers of well known songs and I have to admit I went a little crazy. I couldn’t decide who to include…so I included all of my favorites. Jacques Stotzem is a contrast in styles. He plays some of the most lyrical and beautiful compositions, but underneath that sensitive exterior lies the heart of a rocker. I never imagined hearing Purple Haze on an acoustic guitar. And just in time for Halloween, check out the California Guitar Trio’s version of Tubular bells. Play that in the background as the kids come for trick or treat. Adam Rafferty is one of my all time favorite guitarists. He’s got a new YouTube channel that doesn’t seem to play anything, so I put the old videos on tonight’s blog. Just listen and disregard the notice that may show up on some of them. Last, but certainly not least, Tommy Emmanuel is as close as one gets to an acoustic shredder. He is amazing and if you want to hear more, check out my 6/28/09 blog. Enjoy!

Jacques Stotzem: (Reviewed 1/30/10)

With or Without You:

Fields of Gold:

Purple Haze:

Voodoo Child/Moonchild:

Shape of my Heart:

Heart of Gold:

California Guitar Trio (Reviewed 1/1/10)

Bohemian Rhapsody:

Tubular Bells:

Classical Gas:

Adam Rafferty (Reviewed 11/12/09)

Rock with you:

I wish:


Off the wall:

Billie Jean:

With Tommy Emmanuel; Superstition:

Tommy Emmanuel (Reviewed 6/28/09)

Day Tripper/Lady Madonna:

Here comes the sun:

House of the rising sun:

Heartbreak Hotel:

To accompany this round of cover experts, I recommend a 2008 Mount Langi Ghiran “Billi Billi” Shiraz ($15.00). It’s dark red in color with aromas of plum, cherry and chocolate. The wine feels full in the mouth. Flavors of blackberry, chocolate, and coffee spiced with pepper linger through a long finish. It’s not jammy, but rather dry, a good thing in my book. As the wine sat exposed to air for about an hour, it really opened up and showed good balance of fruit and spice. Enjoy!


Friday, October 8, 2010

Acoustic Covers vol. I and Domaine Fournier Les Belle Vignes Sancerre

I’m back from a vacation that included stops in Boston and Kansas City as well as a drive up the coast of Maine. Tasted lots of new wines and had a couple of memorable dinners that I will describe and recommend in the coming week.

I’m always amazed at how some of the acoustic guitarists I’ve reviewed over the past two years can take a song performed by an entire band and reduce it to an incredible solo song for guitar. I’m going to do a two-part special on these guys and their creative guitar work. Tonight, I’m featuring the work of three of my favorites: Andy McKee, the late Eric Roche, and Kelly Valleau. Andy is an incredible picker with a tone that is rich. Check out his work on the harp guitar on “Into the Ocean.” Eric has always been one of my favorites. His percussive style is often imitated, never duplicated. You can hear it on “She Drives Me Crazy” and “Teen Spirit.” Kelly Valleau is an outstanding classical guitarist with a twist as you’ll see when you listen to his renditions of covers of songs by Metallica, Pink Floyd, and Kansas. Quite a far cry from a traditional classical musician. Hope you enjoy Acoustic Covers Volume I.

Andy McKee

Everybody wants to rule the world:

Into the Ocean:

Stairway to Heaven:


With Jacques Stotzen: Come together:

Eric Roche:


She Drives Me Crazy:

Teen Spirit:

Kelly Valleau:

Another brick in the wall:

The Unforgiven:

Mad World:

Dust in the Wind:

The Scientist:


As readers of this blog may know, I love Sauvignon Blanc, and while some of my favorites hail from New Zealand, the French versions, known as Sancerre, are just as delicious. So tonight I’m featuring a 2008 Sancerre from Domaine Fournier Les Belle Vignes. It’s a lively, pale gold that opens with a floral aroma laced with citrus and develops on the palate with the tastes of grapefruit and lemon laced with an undertone of green apples. It has a dry, clean finish that lingers nicely. At $20.00 a bottle, it’s in the range of the New Zealand SB’s and a much better value (and tasting experience) than many of the overpriced and overrated California versions. Autumn is upon us, (but you’d never know it here in Nebraska where we had a record high of 91 today) so grab a bottle of Sancerre and kick back to some great acoustic guitar. Enjoy!


Friday, October 1, 2010

John Hammond & Storybook Mountain Zinfandel

I'm taking a week off from blogging after tonight. Going on vacation so I'll see ya when I return, but I'll leave off with a real treasure. John Hammond is a force of nature. He is the quintessential acoustic blues troubour, playing his guitar, with a rack harmonica around his neck, and an intensely expressive voice. He was instrumental in the blues renaissance that began in the late 50’s and early 60’s and, as a passionate ambassador of the genre, is responsible for keeping alive many of the classics by Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt, Rev. Gary Davis, and Skip James. He began playing guitar while attending a private high school, and he was particularly fascinated with slide guitar technique. Once he saw his idol Jimmy Reed perform, he was never the same. He attended Antioch College in Ohio on a scholarship for a year, but left to pursue a career as a blues musician. By 1962, with the folk revival starting to heat up, Hammond had attracted a following in the coffeehouse circuit, performing in the tradition of the classic country blues singers.

Later, in 1966, while he was living in New York’s Greenwich Village, Hammond was approached by a young Jimi Hendrix, looking for work. Hammond put a band together, and got the group work at the Cafe Au Go Go. By that point, the coffeehouses were falling out of favor, and instead the bars and electric guitars were coming in with folk-rock. Some time later, Hendrix was approached by Chas Chandler, the bassist with the animals, who took him to England to record. Hedrix is dead but John still plays on.

Hammond has played with Eric Clapton, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Duane Allman, Mike Bloomfield, JJ Cale, Tom Waits, The Band, John Lee Hooker, and many, many more. He’s won several Grammy’s and had a ton of Grammy nominations. He’s a classic and if you like Delta Blues, you’re gonna love him. Enjoy!

Mother-in-Law blues:

Kind Hearted Woman:

I got rambling on my mind:

Drop down Mama/Come on in my kitchen:

Foolin around:

Sail on:

Slick Crown Vic:

Found True Love:

Who do you Love:

She’s tough:

Up the line: 

Fattening Frogs:

Heartache blues:

Lightening Slim cover:

Jitterbug Swing:

Come find out:

Get behind the mule:

One classic deserve another so I’m recommending a 2006 Storybook Mountain Macayamas Range Zinfandel to enjoy with his music. Just over my usual price limit at $26.00 on sale, but it’s worth the extra buck. Macayamas Range Zinfandel is Storybook Mountain's signature estate wine. It's a classic, beautiful, wildly fruited Zin. You don’t usually use the word “elegant” for a Zin, but in this case, it’s appropriate. Deep red in color and packed with varietal character without being jammy, the wine’s bouquet is filled with raspberry and blackberry aromas. On the palate, it starts with bright, fresh boysenberry flavors with wild fruit overtones that transition to black raspberry as it airs. It’s got some serious structure and length of finish, almost Bordeaux-like. But it’s still a Zin, friendly, fun, and sure to brighten anyone’s mood in the dead of winter as it summery character recalls better weather. So get yourself two bottles of this classic wine. Drink one now as you listen to the classic blues of John Hammond and lay the other away for one of those cold nights in January when summer seems so far away. Enjoy!