The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
The Death Whisperer Series available at

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bruce Cockburn & Château Cadillac Cuvée du Pin Franc

Bruce Cockburn, born May 27, 1945, is one of the finest folk singer/guitarists of the modern day. His style ranges from jazz to rock to folk and is infused with poignant lyrics that harken back to the days of protests against the Viet Nam war. But he pushes the concept farther to protest the stupidity of any war.   

Raised as an agnostic, Bruce became a devout Christian early in his career and many of his recordings from the 70s refer to his Christian beliefs, which forms the core of his concerns for human rights and environmentalism expressed in his later works. Through the 1980s Cockburn's songwriting became more urban, more global, and then more political; he became heavily involved with progressive causes. These concerns became more evident in 1984, with Cockburn's US radio hit, “If I Had a Rocket Launcher.” He wrote the song a year earlier following a visit to Guatemalan refugee camps in Mexico that were attacked by Guatemalan Helicopter gunships.

More recently, Bruce added two more awards, contemporary album of the year and solo artist of the year, to his long list of honors. And lastly, for you guitar buffs, Bruce plays acoustic guitars custom made by fellow Canadian Linda Manzer.

The last night of the world:
Wondering where the lions are:

Château Cadillac has become one of my favorite Bordeaux Supérieur producers. The estate crafts excellent-quality wines for the price, but its 2009 vintage stands out as one of its recent best. This wine has an abundance of fruit and spice and the perfect balance of concentration and complexity. Unfortunately, it’s not often found in the U.S., but check on line as I did/do.

Cadillac's wines are Merlot driven, 70 percent in this case, with smaller portions of Cabernet Sauvignon (28 percent) and Cabernet Franc (2 percent) rounding out the blend. Given the spectacular 2009 vintage, the fruit was more complex and intense than usual, allowing winemaker Patrick Soye to use a higher percentage of new oak barrels for this wine, providing great spice and long, gorgeous length.

While its price ($16.00) may imply that it's a Tuesday-evening sipper, this Bordeaux is really much more. Pair this at your next dinner party with steak or duck, gift it to a good friend and certainly park a few bottles in your cellar for savoring later.

The 2009 Château Cadillac Cuvée du Pin Franc is a dark brick-red, with an intense, spicy nose of plum, cherry, boysenberry, anise and earth. It’s a medium-bodied wine, soft on the palate, with round, berry-fruit flavors complemented by vanilla, cocoa and a touch of oak. Soft, silky tannins lead to a smooth, round finish on black cherry flavors. It’s a great choice for kicking back on the weekend with the music of Bruce Cockburn.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Joe Bonamassa & Storybrook Mountain Zinfandel

It’s been a loooonnnngggg week and nothing helps me unwind better than some driving blues guitar, and Joe Bonamassa is one of the premier blues guitarists around. He was born and raised in New Hartford, NY, where his parents owned and ran a guitar shop. With a great-grandfather and grandfather who both played trumpet, and a father who plays guitar, Bonamassa credits his parents with fostering an appreciation of music in his life as early as he can remember. When he was a young child, he would listen to his parents' record collection, and recalls sitting with his parents on Saturdays, listening to Guitar Slim, Bonnie Rait, Jethro Tull, Eric Clapton, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

He received his first guitar from his father at the age of 4, and by age 7 he was playing Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix. He cites three recordings as his biggest influences: John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher’s Irish Tour, and Cream’s Goodbye. As he says in the interview in the second to last link below, one day his father brought home a tape of Cream’s Goodbye concert at the Royal Albert Hall. He watched everything Clapton did and later learned the licks by heart. Life in the blues lane took off after that.

The last two links will take you to Joe’s entire 2011 two hour concert at the Royal Albert Hall. If you like the blues, you’re gonna like Joe.

I’m pairing Joe with a 2008 Storybrook Mountain Mayacamas Range Zinfandel ($24.00). This wine is normally about $34.00, but my wine shop had a sale, so it qualifies for my review. It’s also one of my favorite Zins. The wine is deep purple with a bouquet of fresh picked blackberries tinged with exotic spices. The flavor is full of sweet blackberries, tart raspberries, and vibrant strawberries with black pepper accents. After a long week, this is the perfect wine for unwinding with some of the best blues guitar you’ll ever hear. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Alain Caron & Chad Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

I feels like this week just keeps dragging on and on, so who better to kick us through the last two days of the week than one of my favorite bassists, namely the Canadian Alain Caron. Alain’s career took off when he won an amateur music contest at the age of 11. At the age of 14 he discovered jazz, the musical style that became his passion in life.

In 1977, he began playing with a group of musicians who eventually formed the super fusion band UZEB. The group called Montreal its home and Alain began doing side work as a studio musician and jamming in jazz clubs when the group was idle. Eventually, this self-taught musician found his way to Boston’s Berklee School of Music where he performed nightly with the likes of David Kikovsky, Tom Harrell, Sal Nestico, Frank Tiberi, Jerry Bergonzi, and Bob Moses.

He returned to Montreal to focus mainly on UZEB as the group gradually evolved into a more mature band, playing sophisticated fusion. Between 1981 and 1990 UZEB recorded ten albums and sold over 400,000 copies, performing concerts in more than 20 countries.

Caron has toured with Mike Stern, Frank Gambale, Biréli Lagrène, Didier Lockwood, Tiger Okoshi, Billy Cobham, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Dennis Chambers, Alex Acuna, Don Alias and Gino Vannelli performing concerts in more than 30 countries

In 2007 The University of Quebec, awarded him an honorary doctorate and he is the only musician to have ever received this honor. As of today, Alain has released more than 20 records, solo or with the group UZEB as well as 25 recordings with collaborators or as a guest artist. He was ranked Best Bass player for 10 years in the row by magazine The Jazz Report. I could go on and on, but I think his music says it all. Enjoy!

I’m pairing Alain with a 2009 Chad Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from Napa Valley. Chad makes spectacular Cab’s and this one is especially good. The deep purple wine explodes with a bouquet of raspberry and boysenberry. It’s dense on the attack with lots of purple fruit, cassis, and supple tannins.  I bought a case of it thinking it would last through the winter. It won’t. It’s a wonderful pick-me-up for a dreary week, especially paired with the music of Alain Caron. Enjoy!


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Davy Graham & Sergio Aligheri Poderi Del Bello Ovile

We got a foot of snow last night and expect 6-8 more inches during the day, so it’s a good day to sit by a fire with a glass of excellent wine and listen to one of the most influential figures in folk guitar music, none other than the great Davy Graham. Graham was born in Hinckley, Leicestershire, England to a Guyanese mother and a Scottish father. He never studied music theory, but self taught himself to play the piano and harmonica. Then, at the age of 12, he took up the classical guitar. As a teenager, he was greatly influenced by a folk guitar player named Steve Benbow, who had traveled widely with the British army and whose guitar style was influenced by Moroccan music.

Davy is best known for his pioneering use of the DADGAD tuning, which is widely used by fingerstyle guitarists today. Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Martin McCarthy, Paul Simon, and Jimmy Page were strongly influenced by his style and music. At the age of 19, Graham wrote what is probably his most famous composition, the acoustic guitar solo “Anji”, named after his then girlfriend. The tune spread through generations and has become a rite of passage for acoustic guitarists. It has a quirky rhythm with a haunting, beautiful melody. The hardest part in playing it is that there are two beats to every bass note instead of the usual one. It’s one of my favorite acoustic tunes.

Graham was never interested in fame and fortune but had a childlike, obsessive enthusiasm for music that never left him until his death in 2008. He would give a free private concert just for the asking. His spontaneity made him unpredictable. In the late 1960s, he was booked for a tour of Australia, but when his plane stopped in Bombay for an hour, he changed plans and spent the next six months wandering around India. Through his wanderings, he picked up musical styles from around the world and is often credited with founding world music. You can hear the influence of the Oud on the song “Fakir.” 

He retired in obscurity, engaging in charity work and teaching as well as suffering through periods of drug use. In 2008, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and died on December 15th of that year. So, while those of you on the coasts go about your usual Saturday tasks, we, in the Midwest will be enjoying a day of rest. Can’t go anywhere, so I intend to listen to Davy’s music with a cup of coffee (the wine will come later), and work on my newest thriller novel. Join me, and enjoy Davy Graham.

Since Davy Graham is a world musician, I’m pairing him with a 2009 Sergio Aligheri Poderi Del Bello Ovile from Tuscany. Toscana is perhaps the most famous of all Italian wine regions and is home to some of the world’s most prestigious wines. The Poderi Del Bello Ovile is a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo and 5% Ciliegiolo. It’s deep ruby red with ripe berry and herb aromas with notes of spice, coffee, and vanilla. It’s medium dry with good baked fruit flavors of raspberry, cherry, and pepper with fine tannins and a fruity finish. It reminds me of a summer day, which, when one is in the middle of a blizzard, isn’t a bad thing. For those of you in the Midwest, listen to Davy’s music, and if you can’t get to a wine shop because of the snow, grab whatever you’ve got and file this for future reference. Enjoy!