The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
The Death Whisperer Series available at

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Preston Reed & Siduri Pinot Noir

I first heard Preston Reed about 15 years ago and almost fell out my chair as I listened to his flamboyant self-invented style, characterized by rhythmic thumping, slapping, and tapping accompanied by simultaneous melody lines that dance around the fretboard. His music and style impart a level of excitement to the listener that is unparalleled among today's guitarists.
He’s been an inspiration to many of guitarists I review here. People like Kaki King began their careers by listening to and learning his techniques. When I first heard him I had a hard time believing I was hearing just the one guitarist, in real time. At full tilt, his fingers, thumbs, fists and hands suggest a drummer, bassist and several guitarists playing simultaneously.

Reed's entry into the world of the guitar really began at the age of 16, when he heard the rootsy blues of Jorma Kaukonen and Hot Tuna. He studied the music of his acoustic guitar heroes John Fahey and Leo Kottke, picking up technique and played his first live gig at the age of 17, supporting beat poet Allen Ginsberg at the Smithsonian Institute. Reed pushed himself to go beyond the standard fingerpicking styles resulting in his now startlingly innovative approach with its percussive, two-handed fretboard attack that had guitar luminaries such as Al DiMeola and the late Michael Hedges describing Reed as "phenomenal" and "inspiring". If you like innovative guitar, you'll like Reed. Happy Thanksgiving!

Siduri Santa Lucia Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir ($22.00) is a big pinot with lush, delicious fruit. It's dark ruby colored with a nose filled with tart cherries and  cinnamon. The flavor really comes alive with spicy black raspberry, sour cherry, vanilla, and allspice flavors. The finish is complex and persistent with elements of sweet cherries.  Wine Spectator rated this wine 92 points and I agree. It’s definitely a 90+ point wine. Enjoy and happy Thanksgiving!


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, & Victor Wooten and Duck Pond Pinot Noir

It’s Saturday night, so I though it was time to roll out this blog episode that I’ve been saving for a while. Three of my favorite bassists, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, and Victor Wooten make for superstar lineup like I’ve never seen. Wish I could have been at the concert, but I’ll settle for the CD entitled Thunder. I would suggest you plug into a giant subwoofer and crank it to get the feel of the bass. The second tune, Thunder is a killer. Marcus Miller is the master of funk slap bass. And catch Victor with the wah wah pedal. I smile when I see six foot-five Stanley Clark playing a short 30-inch scale Alembic bass with his monster hands. All of them are incredible. Time to party!

I have to confess I bought this wine because the label was cute, but the 2009 Duck Pond Pinot Noir Willamette Valley ($22.00) is a great match for groovin to tonight’s artists. The nose is full of red fruit with plenty of floral notes. It’s soft and smooth on entry with flavors of cherry, cherry pit, and a touch of my grandmother’s lingonberry jam accompanied by a vein of vanilla. It finishes with cherry pie and mulled spices that seem to go on forever. It’s a very nice wine to go with three of my favorite bassists. Feel the funk and enjoy!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Andrew Winton & Colome Torrontes

I’ve been on vacation this past week. Took my wife and daughter to Boston to visit my youngest son and revisit some of our old haunts from when we lived there. Tuesday would have been my daughter’s third wedding anniversary had her husband Matt survived the cancer. But we had a great time in spite of it being a date that could’ve conjured up the blues. But speaking of the blues, I recommend we slide into the weekend with one of my favorite lap-steel slide guitarists. Andrew Winton is a twenty-nine year old blues playing and singing Australian demon. He grew up listening to Deep Purple, Frank Zappa, and Johnny Cash, quite the eclectic mix. He started out as a drummer, but moved to electric guitar in his late teens and completed a degree in jazz at the Conservatorium of Music in Perth, Australia. In 2002, he began playing dobro and other lap style guitars and started a solo song writing and performing career. Mostly self taught, he is now recognized as one of Australia’s and dare I say the world’s, most talented slide guitar players.

In 2006, he took first place in the Folk/Acoustic category of the Australian Songwriters Association awards for his song, Lucky Boy. He also got an award for best live performance of the night. He’s been a featured artist on several Australian radio shows and has collected nominations for best Blues/Roots Artist (2008/2009) and best guitarist (2008/2009) in the West Australian Music Industry Awards.

His stage style mixes humor, storytelling, and a dynamic voice with virtuoso slide guitar. He reminds me a little of Kelly Joe Phelps or Ben Harper. He currently lives in Perth with his wife Karen, who also serves as his manager and percussionist, and their three children. I hope you like him.

Nobody’s fault but mine:

While visiting the Museum of Fine Arts to view a spectacular exhibit of Degas’s pastels, we stopped in the wine bar for a breather and I discovered a marvelous white wine. The 2010 Colome Torrontes is an incredible white from Argentina and may become my favorite wine for just sipping while I work. I did a bit of research on it and found that the Torrontes grape is unique to Argentina and expresses itself to the fullest in the Calchaqui Valley in the province of Salta, near the Northern Argentinian Andes. This particular wine was made from Torrontes grapes selected from vineyards that are 50 to 120 years old and grew at an altitude between 1600 and 2300 meters (5250 to 7546 feet) above sea level.

The wine is a brilliant, pale-gold in color, with aromas of roses, apricots, and peaches. The flavors are rich with peach, lime, guava, papaya, hints of honey, and orange peel followed by a fresh, crisp, and long finish. The wine costs about $12.00 so it’s a tremendous value. Even more important is the fact that it’s a white and won’t stain the carpet as you groove around the room to the music of Andrew Winton. Have a great weekend. Enjoy!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Stephen Stills and Three Zinfandel Evangelho Contra Costa County

Today is veteran’s day, and I got to thinking about my Dad who fought in World War Two, liberating the concentration camps of Buchenwald and Dachau. I have a photo album from his wartime experiences and the pictures of the concentration camps are truly memorable. After viewing them, I will never forget man’s capability for evil. I wasn’t quite the “good soldier” when the draft came to go off to Viet Nam. Fortunately, I have a severe case of asthma that kept me stateside. But as I drove to work today, I heard Stephen Stills song Treetop Flyer, and thought of my Dad, one of the “Greatest Generation” whereas I was one of the draft dodging generation. So, tonight, I’m featuring Stephen Stills in honor of all those veterans who’ve fought whether they wanted to or not.

Stills was born on January 3, 1945 and is an incredible musician best known for his work with Buffalo Springfield (Something’s Happening Here), and Crosby, Stills, & Nash (and later, Young). He’s maintained a solo career of late, although there have been several CS&N reunions. Stills was ranked #28 in rolling Stone’s 2003 list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". In spite of that, I think he’s underrated. His use of altered tunings and a fabulous fingerstyle made him one of my favorites back in my college days. Stills became the first person to be inducted twice on the same night into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his work with CSN and Buffalo Springfield.

His raspy voice lends itself well to his acoustic folk/blues style and matches perfectly with his guitar. Make sure you check out Treetop Flyer and Crossroads. But if you’re my age (59 tomorrow) and care for a bit of nostalgia, go straight to his compositions with CS&N and listen to Carry On, Long Time Coming, Woodstock, and, of course, Suite Judy Blue eyes.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy him.

Crossroads/You can’t catch me:
Daylight again/Find the cost of freedom:

Stephen’s music pairs well with a 2009 Three Zinfandel Evangelho Contra Costa County ($18.00). This Zin is sourced from ancient vineyards in Contra Costa County and is a blend of 76% Zinfandel, 12% Petite Sirah, 6% Carignane, 4% Mataro, and 2% Alicante Bouschet.

The wine is purple-black in color with explosive aromas of blackberry, plum, coffee and a touch of chocolate. It’s a mouth filling wine with a sleek and refined texture. Soft tannins lead to a very long berry and coffee finish. A very nice wine to go with the music of Stephen Stills. Enjoy!


Monday, November 7, 2011

Michael Hedges & Mount Ecken Saratoga Cuvee Pinot Noir

Michael Hedges was perhaps one of the most innovative acoustic guitarists in the history of the instrument. He described his style in phrases like “violent acoustic”, “heavy mental”, “acoustic thrash”, “wacka-wacka”, “new edge”, “edgy pastoral”, “savage myth”,  and “deep-tissue gladiator guitar”, but when you listen to him, I think you’ll agree that he defies classification.
Hedges began studying classical guitar at Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma. From there he moved to Baltimore to study at the Peabody Conservatory where he combined his classical training with various innovative techniques to the steel-string guitar. As he said in an interview,  “I went to the school of modern 20th century composition. I listened to Leo Kottke, Martin Carthy, and John Martyn, but my head was headed more towards Stravinsky, Varese, Webern, and a lot of experimental composers like Morton Feldman.”
After leaving the Peabody, Michael’s compositional and performance skills exploded in sophistication, resulting in his dynamic “one-man-band” performances. Guitarist Will Ackerman, the founder of Windham Hill Records, heard him while he was playing in Palo Alto, CA and later recalled, “Michael tore my head off. It was like watching the guitar being reinvented.” Michael’s genius was first recognized in his 1984 Grammy-nominated recording, Aerial Boundaries.

But not only was he a great musician, he was a great performer as well. For my money, if you want a true taste of his music, pick up a copy of the 1987 live recording, Live On The Double Planet. It captures some of the intensity of his concerts and includes his ferocious version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower,” one of my all time favorite songs.

Michael Hedges won Guitar Player’s readers’ poll award for “best acoustic guitarist” five years running—and was subsequently named by the magazine as one of the “25 Guitarists Who Shook the World.”  Sadly, he died in a one-car crash on State Route 128 in rural Mendocino County, about 100 miles northwest of San Francisco. On December 2, 1997, the 43-year-old Grammy nominee was found dead down a steep embankment. He apparently had died several days earlier while driving home from San Francisco International Airport after a Thanksgiving visit to his girlfriend in Long Island, N.Y. He and his music are sorely missed.

With Michael Hedges, I suggest a Mount Ecken Saratoga Cuvee Pinot Noir ($22.00). Bright ruby color with a bouquet of cherries, plums, and vanilla. The taste is full of sour cherry preserves, red raspberry, and cookie spices. It’s a medium bodied wine with a silky texture that ends with a complex mixture of red fruit. It’s an elegant wine to drink remembering the loss of a great musician.