The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
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Friday, October 28, 2011

Gareth Pearson & Chateau Maine-Pascaud

For Gareth Pearson, it all started just before Christmas 2002, when, bored and sitting at home, he put on one of his Dad’s videos of Tommy Emmanuel performing Classical Gas. From that moment, he knew exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up. Tommy changed his life.

The first tune Gareth learned to play was Tommy’s version of Windy and Warm and in March 2004, Gareth finally got to meet Tommy and talk with him back stage before a concert. Tommy had him play for him then advised him on what he should do to be a better player. He’s stuck to his advice.

Gareth is now considered a virtuoso in the field of finger style guitar, even though he’s barely out of his teens. He has a distinctive style to his playing that has earned him accolades from world-renowned players. Jan Akkerman has called him a genius, and his idol, Tommy Emmanuel, was inspired to write a song about him, which he named The Welsh Tornado.

In less than five years, he has grown into a full-fledged professional who now performs in many parts of the World. With influences such as Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, and of course, Tommy Emmanuel, Gareth’s arsenal of styles runs a broad gamut, even if you can’t see his fingers move as they dance across the strings with amazing fluidity. Don’t miss his arrangement of “Billie Jean.” It’s the best I’ve ever heard. I think you’ll like him. Enjoy!

It’s a beautiful autumn day today. There’s crispness in the air and brilliantly colored leaves cover my deck, so I’m going to feature a European wine, more specifically one from France. The 2007 Chateau Maine-Pascaud ($16.00) is 50% Merlot 25%, Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Cabernet Franc. It’s very reasonably priced and a good value. Its color is deep ruby with a bouquet of blackberry, cherry, and wild flowers. Its palate is full of dark berry, cassis, and a touch of vanilla. It has a big mouth feel for a wine at this price. So, welcome fall with a bottle of Chateau Maine-Pascaud and the music of a phenomenal young guitarist. Enjoy!


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stefano Barbati & Verdemar Albarino

Stefano Barbati is an Italian guitarist with an eclectic repertoire that includes rock, Mediterranean, Brazilian, and blues with a touch of the classical thrown in for good measure. Rarely have I heard “Sunshine of Your Love”, the Rolling Stone’s “Miss You”, or multiple Jimi Hendrix tunes played back to back with selections like Isla Negra by a solo acoustic guitarist.  He was born in Lanciano in 1973 and initially started out as blues-rock guitarist. His switch to acoustic came after listening to Michael Hedges, Franco Morone, and Tuck Andress. He has played at a number of guitar festivals, including Healdsburg Guitar Festival in the U.S. Hope you like him.

Indian summer here in Nebraska with temperatures back in the 70s so I’m pairing Stefano with a Verdemar Albarino, from the Rias Biaxas in Spain. Albarino is a Spanish grape that yields wines with similarities to Sauvignon Blanc yet different. The Verdemar has similar citrus aromas and tastes to a Sauv, but not as strong. The finish is long, clean, and stony. It has a richer, fuller mouthfeel than most Sauvs. I’ve often heard Albarino’s described as having flavors of lychees, which I’ve now discovered taste like a cross between a grape and a pear. Good description. Enjoy a fine wine and a great guitarist as you while away the waning days of autumn. Enjoy!


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Stu Hamm & d'Arenberg Stump Jump Shiraz

Stu Hamm was born inNew Orleans, but spent his childhood and youth in Champaign, Illinois where he studied bass and piano, played in the stage band at Champaign High School, and was selected to the Illinois All-State Band. Following high school, he attended the Berklee School of Music in Boston, where he met guitarist Steve Vai and, through him, Joe Satriani. Hamm played bass on Vai's debut solo album, Flex-Able, which was released in 1984.
Stu has performed and recorded with Steve Vai, Frank Gambale, and Joe Satriani, with whom he is most frequently associated. It was playing on tour with Satriani that brought Hamm's skills to national attention. Subsequent recordings with Satriani and other rock/fusion artists, along with the release of his own solo recordings have solidified his reputation as a bassist, composer, and performer. He’s one of my favorites. Enjoy!

Stu deserves a powerhouse wine to match his music, so I suggest the 2008 version of  d’Arenberg’s Stump Jump Shiraz ($10.00). The name 'Stump Jump' relates to the South Australian Stump Jump plough. This plough became a popular piece of machinery for plowing fields because of its ability to ride over stumps, gnarled Eucalyptus roots, and snags, saving valuable time and resources by not stopping the draught horse.

The wine has abundant plum and raspberry aromas that leap out of the glass enveloping your nose in a heavenly pot-pourri. The palate is juicy with cherry, raspberry, and red currents along with the spice typical of Shiraz. There’s an underlying earthy complexity that’s evident throughout. This is an incredible wine for ten bucks and was rightly placed in Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines for 2010. So, kick off the week with the driving rock of Stu Hamm and open a bottle of Stump Jump to jumpstart the week. Enjoy!