The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
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Monday, December 24, 2012

James Taylor & Horse Hills Heaven Le Chevaux

Back in 1970, I went to a concert with a new guitarist/songwriter and his pianist, both of whom were soon to be come a giants in the music world. The guitarist was James Taylor and his pianist was Carol King. Although I was a professional bassist at the time, I taught myself to play the guitar by buying a book entitled “The Finger Picking Style of James Taylor.” Songs like Fire & Rain, Blossom, Something in the Way She Moves, Machinegun Kelly, and You Can Close Your Eyes were regulars on my song list when I played the coffeehouses of Indiana during my college years. So tonight, I’ve listed some of my favorites as well as a 1970 BBC concert that really shows James’ guitar virtuosity as well as a concert by the original band with Carol King, Leeland Sklar, Danny Korchmar, and Russ Kunkel. Hope you enjoy the selections as much as I do.

Something in the way she moves:
2011 Concert with Carol King:

The easy listening style of JT calls for an easy drinking wine, so I suggest a 2010 Les Chevaux Red from Columbia Crest’s Horse Heaven Hills (~$10.00). It’s a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah with lots of spicy blackberry and chocolate on the palate. It has a bit of mocha on the finish. It goes well with food or just sitting in your favorite chair in front of the Christmas tree, reading a book and enjoying Christmas. Happy Holiday’s and a safe New Year.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Jon Gomm & Waterbrook Reserve Merlot

Jon Gomm is an English singer-songwriter with a style reminiscent of Michael Hedges. Like Hedges, he uses his guitar to create drum sounds, bass lines and melodies simultaneously. His songs draw on a range of influences and styles, including blues and soul.

Jon started playing ukulele at the age of two and began classical guitar lessons at the age of six. At twelve he was accompanying his father, a music critic, to blues gigs in his hometown of Blackpool and played electric guitar in the style of the rock greats as a teenager.
Jon turned down a place at Oxford University to study English and instead attended The Guitar Institute. While there, he paid his way through college playing jazz in café-bars and recording as a session guitarist. Later, he moved to Leeds to study in the jazz degree course at the Leeds College of Music. He started soloing while in Leeds and developed is current percussive style.
The tattoo on his arm is from the cover of the Michael Hedges album “Oracle.” His version of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” is one of my favorites. Enjoy!

I’m featuring a real steal tonight. Waterbrook’s Reserve Merlot was ranked #71 in Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2012, especially at $18.00/bottle. It opens with a nosefull of black raspberries, plums, spice, which follow on the palate adding cherries, currents and chocolate. Really soft tannins and a very nice finish. It pairs nicely with the music of Jon Gomms.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Carolyn Wonderful & Quinta do Portal Colheita Douro Red

Been out of commission for the past month or so starting a consulting business that I’m happy to say is going quite well. When I last posted, I was doing a special on guitarists born during the seventies and tonight I want to finish it up with an exceptional guitarist and vocalist, Carolyn Wonderland. While she is a dynamite blues guitarist, it’s her vocals that kick butt. The combination of the two is incredible. She reminds me a little of Bonnie Raitt’s early years before she went pop.

She was born in 1972 and is originally from Houston. Started writing and playing the guitar at the age of eight and really owned the Houston blues awards during the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Most recently, she garnered the title of Best Female Vocalist at the 2012 Austin Music Awards. She may be a high school dropout, but she’s got a Ph.D. in blues. Enjoy!

What good can drinkin do:

I was cruising the wine racks at Costco and stumbled on tonight’s wine, the 2009 Quinta do Portal Colheita Douro Red. The wine is from Portugal (Douro is the home of Port) and is a mix of 60%Tinta Roriz, 25% Touriga Nacional, and 15% Touriga Franca. It was rated a 93 by Wine Enthusiast and at $12.00, I figured it was worth exploring. Glad I did. Its bouquet is full of dark fruit and spice that follows on the palate with touches of chocolate and coffee. It has a rich mouth feel with soft tannins and a long finish. I highly recommend it, especially on a cold winter night with a fire going while you listen to the music of Carolyn Wonderful.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Kenny Wayne Shepherd & Le Roc des Anges Les Vignes Metissees

Kenny Wayne Shepherd (born Kenny Wayne Brobst, June 12, 1977) is the fourth member of my 1970s-born blues guitar phenoms. He grew up in Shreveport Louisiana and is completely self-taught. Apparently he doesn’t read music. His first guitars were plastic, purchased by his grandmother with S&H Green Stamps. How many of you remember those? I can identify with his learning method. He picked up his licks a note at a time by listening to them on a cassette player and rewinding them over and over again, much the way I learned to play Jack Bruce’s improvisations note for note from the live Cream albums. His early influences were Muddy Waters, Albert Lee, and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

At the age of fifteen, Irving Azoff, the president of Giant Records signed him to a multi-album deal. He was one of those young guns who hit the blues scene hard at the age of seventeen and made old guys like me decide to hang up the guitar. Shepherd holds the record for the longest running album on the Billboard Blues Charts with “Trouble is.” He’s been nominated for five Grammy Awards and has received two Billboard Music Awards, Two Blues Music Awards, and two Orville H. Gibson Awards.

He’s grown into quite a musician and family man. In September of 2006, he married Mel Gibson’s eldest daughter, Hannah and they have three children, a daughter and two sons. Maybe the sons will grow up and form a power trio with Dad with daughter doing the vocals.

Born with a broken heart:

I have a truly unique wine for tonight, the third from Le Roc des Anges. Their Les Vignes Metissees is a blend of different grape varieties, principally Grenache Gris, Carignan Blanc, and Macabeu aged in oak barrels. It’s a delicate rosé color, almost like pale copper with a subtle floral bouquet accented by hints of pear. The taste is fresh with pear, lemon, and herbs that leads into a creamy, long finish. It’s not really a white or a rose, but quite unique.  A great wine and a great guitarist.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

John Mayer & Le Roc des Anges Segna Cor

John Mayer, born October 15, 1977, is the fourth in my series on “Blue Phenoms Born in the 70s.” He was raised in Fairfield Connecticut with an English teacher for a mother and a high school principal for a father. When he saw Marty McFly play the guitar in the movie Back to the Future, he became fascinated with the instrument and ended up taking lessons from a local guitar shop owner. It didn’t take long before the instrument consumed him.

After two years of practice, while still in high school, he started playing at blues bars and other venues in the area. But when he was seventeen, he was stricken with a cardiac arrhythmia and was hospitalized briefly. The tense situation birthed the songwriter in him and he penned his first song when he was discharged. Unfortunately, the realization of his mortality led to his suffering from panic attacks and he lived in fear of being committed to a mental institution. To this day, he has to carefully manage his phobias.

He considered skipping high school to pursue music, but the flak from his parents stopped him from doing so and he entered Berklee College of Music in Boston at the age of 19. But at the urging of Clay Cook, a friend, classmate, and Atlanta native, he left Berklee after two semesters and moved to Atlanta where he honed his skills as a guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter.  He rose to fame as a pop star, but in 2005, his first love, the blues, took hold and Mayer formed the John Mayer Trio with bassist Pino Palladino, one of the greatest session bassists in the business, and drummer Steve Jordan, a man with one of the most incredible senses of rhythm in the musical world. The trio played a combination of blues and rock music and in October 2005, opened for the Rolling Stones during a sold-out club tour of their own. That November, they released the Grammy nominated live album Try.

He’s a young kid who’s had a bit of growing up to do before he could become a man.
His controversial interviews to Playboy and Rolling Stone about Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Aniston brought considerable condemnation about an immature boy who was nothing short of a stereotypical frat guy bragging about his conquests. As a result, Mayer withdrew from public life. He later explained on the Ellen Degeneres show "I lost my head for a little while and I did a couple of dumb interviews and it kind of woke me up. It was a very strange time and it sort of rocketed me into adulthood. It was a violent crash into being an adult. For a couple of years, it was just figuring it all out, and I'm glad I actually stayed out of the spotlight.” The jury’s still out on whether or not he’s figured it out, but one thing is for sure: he’s a heck of a guitarist.

Saturday I mentioned that one of my favorite wineries was Le Roc des Anges, owned by Marjorie Gallet. Her husband Stephane is a wizard of enology and is the one who has concocted tonight’s ambrosia, namely their 2011 Segna Cor, a blend of Grenache, Carignan, and Syrah. Its color is dark ruby red with an aroma of black raspberry and wild flowers while the palate is loaded with dark berries, spices, and dark chocolate. It’s a rich, sweet wine with fine-grained tannins and a lingering finish. I must confess, this is my favorite wine in the world and at $25.00 a bottle, it’s spectacular, perfect for the music of one of today’s great blues guitarists.