The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
The Death Whisperer Series available at

Monday, January 30, 2012

Daryl Kellie & Chad Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

If I had to describe Daryl Kellie in one word, it would be smooth. He is one of the finest acoustic guitarists around, and cites a diverse group of influences from Metallica to Coltrane, and his percussive style is very polished and unique.
He started playing the guitar at the age of 12 and was completely self-taught until, at the age of 15, his school music teacher arranged free guitar lessons for him. Through formal teaching, he learned music theory and proper guitar technique.
As any professional knows, nothing beats playing publically in jam sessions for honing your chops. Daryl seized every opportunity he could find and had the opportunity to jam or attend teaching sessions with several well known guitarists, including jazz great Martin Taylor.
Beginning in 2006, he worked as a session guitarist and bassist with a few different groups. Daryl’s experiments with percussive techniques began in 2008 and he is one of the most proficient guitar “drummers” I’ve heard. Many of the songs I’ve included below are unique. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a guitarist do a Beyonce number but Daryl performs “Put A Ring On It” admirably, although he can’t dance as well as Beyonce.  Then again, she can’t handle a guitar like Daryl.  Also, don’t miss his work on a unique 10-string guitar. One of my favorite numbers, however, is his smoky rendition of “Those Shoes.” Hope you enjoy his music.

Since I described Daryl’s style as smooth, it’s only fair that I pair him with a similar wine. So, I recommend a 2009 Chad Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. I’ve had his Cabernet before and loved it, so when I saw the reserve I figured I couldn’t go wrong. I was right. The wine is deep purple with a wonderful bouquet of raspberry and currents. Dark fruit and rich cassis dominate the palate with just the right amount of tannin. I recommend you let it air for about an hour before drinking, although once the aroma hits your nose, that may be difficult. If you can hold off, you’ll be sipping an incredibly smooth elixir that pairs perfectly with the music of Daryl Kellie.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Shaun Hopper and Santa Lucia Vineyards Pinot Noir

Shaun Hopper was born and raised in Adel, Georgia. He picked up the guitar at the age of 12 after hearing a street musician fingerpick a Nirvana song outside a local arcade. He studied with a series of excellent teachers, learning music theory and classical methods, but probably his most influential teacher was the great Sam Pachetti  (previously reviewed here)who taught him Celtic and fingerstyle arrangements.

Shaun started his professional career in 2002 playing bass and touring with several rock and country bands, but even after a late night gig, he’d return to his hotel room and pull out his acoustic guitar. Eventually the call to solo fingerstyle guitar was too strong and, after honing his craft, he competed in the 2007 Winfield National Fingerpicking Championships where he won “Best Instrumental song for his composition, “Autumn Of Any Year.” That same year he won 2nd place in the singer-songwriter competition in Eddie’s Attic’s Shootout held in Atlanta each year. The Atlanta Constitution awarded him the title of “Best Musician on the Rise (2007).

Since then he has opened for The John Jorgenson Quintet, Pierre Bensusan, The California guitar Trio, Muriel Anderson, and Switchfoot and has co-written songs with Tommy Emmanuel. Most recently, he signed with Steve Vai’s Most Favored Nations Label and produced his 2010 latest CD, “Lower Case Letters.”  So, “Come Together” and enjoy a master guitarist plying his craft.  

I’m going to pair Shaun with a 2009 Siduri Santa Lucia Vineyards Pinot Noir ($24.00). This is a big Pinot, dark ruby colored, with a bouquet of cherries and cinnamon. It’s full of the flavors of delicious tart cherry, vanilla, and allspice, sweetening a bit on the finish. It’s medium bodied, well balanced, and overall just stunning. So get a fire in the fireplace, pour yourself a glass of this wonderful Pinot Noir, and give a listen to the music of Shaun Hopper.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stevie Ray Vaughn & Domaine Saint-Amant Grangeneuve

I’ve been out of commission due to business travel and a death in my wife’s family. While in Chicago for the funeral, I saw a sign advertising skiing at Alpine Valley Wisconsin and at the same time a Stevie Ray Vaughn came on the radio. Since he died in a helicopter crash after a concert at Alpine Valley, I thought it only appropriate to do a tribute to him.

Vaughn was a driving musical force for the blues between 1980 and 1990, melding it with rock as no one else had ever done, nor has anyone approached his accomplishments since his death. He drew equally from bluesmen like Albert King, Buddy Guy, and Albert Collins, rock & roll players like Jimi Hendrix, and jazz guitarists like Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery, developing a uniquely eclectic and fiery style that sounded like no other guitarist, regardless of genre.

In 1977, Stevie formed the band Triple Threat Revue, featuring bassist W.C. Clark, and vocalist Lou Ann Barton. Barton left the band suddenly in 1979, leaving Stevie to take over the vocals and the group became Double Trouble, the name inspired by the Otis Rush song. Double Trouble initially featured Jack Newhouse on bass and Chris Layton on drums. Then in 1981 Tommy Shannon joined on bass and one of the greatest power trios ever was set.

The pressures of his soaring professional career took its toll and Vaughan and he sank deep into alcoholism and drug addiction to the point that he collapsed and cancelled three weeks of European concert dates in 1986.  He returned to the States and a successful recovery, becoming drug and alcohol free until he died. The band’s last recording, In Step, appeared in June of 1989, peaking at number 33 on the charts, earning a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Recording, and went gold just over six months after its release.

On August 26, 1990, their Alpine Valley gig concluded with an encore jam featuring guitarists Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Stevie, his brother Jimmie Vaughan, and Robert Cray (Sweet Home Chicago). After the concert, Stevie Ray boarded a helicopter bound for Chicago. Minutes after its 12:50 a.m. takeoff, the helicopter crashed, killing Vaughan and four other passengers. He was only 35 years old.

Sweet Home Chicago, Alpine Valley, 26th August 1990:

Stevie’s music calls for a simple, yet elegant wine, so I suggest a 2009 Domaine Saint-Amant Grangeneuve  (~$15.00) from the southern Rhone. If I had to pick only one extraordinary bottle of wine that really impressed me in the last year, it would be this one. This is a beautifully crafted blend of 60% Grenache, 35% Syrah and 5% Viognier.  It’s suitable for everyday drinking, yet could grace a white linen-covered table. 
The wine is a gorgeous purple with aromas of red raspberries and a touch of pepper. It’s rich and mouth-filling, yet smooth and not overly sweet. This one of the best wines I’ve tasted. So glad I have five more bottles to enjoy with the sophisticated blues of Stevie Ray Vaughn. Enjoy!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Peter Luha & Laurent Riverdy Sancerre

Peter Luha is a 37 year old guitarist from Slovakia with one of the most diverse styles I’ve ever heard. Of course that’s probably a product of his influences that  include Deep Purple, Van Halen, the Beatles, Queen, Guthrie Govan, Paco de Lucia, John McLaughlin, Tommy Emmanuel, and Victor Wooten. He plays play a number of instruments including bass guitar, which is apparent in the first song, Slap. But don’t miss the sweep picking workshop video. Malmsteen, move over! I’ve tried to give a representation of his range of styles below, including funk, jazz, and classical selections. Of course, as a former bassist, Slap and Jump to Spain are my favorites. Enjoy!

Sweep picking workshop ala Malmsteen:
Midnight Atelier in Paris:

I love Sauvignon Blancs, especially Sancerres. The latter can be a bit pricey, so imaging my surprise when perusing the wine offerings at Trader Joe’s, I found a Sancerre from Laurent Reverdy for $13.00. I figured at that price I couldn’t go wrong and I was pleasantly surprised. This is not a special occasion wine, rather it’s a Tuesday-night-quaffer. It’s light golden colored with aromas of lemon and fresh grass. The palate has more citrus with a bit of white pepper. It’s tart, but with a balanced finish. It isn't nearly as interesting as some of the higher priced Sancerres that I’ve had, lacking the subtlety and depth that this varietal is capable of showing, but still, given its price, it's hard not to appreciate it for what it is: Great mid-week sipping. Enjoy!