The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
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Friday, August 10, 2012

Nostalgia, Anniversaries, and Shramsburg Blanc de Noir

Feeling nostalgic this week as my wife and I celebrated our 36th anniversary. In honor of that, I’m revisiting some of the guitar greats of the past. The 60s, 70s, and 80s saw some great guitarists hit the stage. Those were boom years when guitar technique blossomed from hard driving rock to shredder to more melodic forms. While everybody has their own opinions, the guitarists listed below can be found on many of the “top 100” lists, including mine. There are some great songs here, too. So, to end your week on a high note, I give you some of the greatest guitarists to ever pick up the instrument.

Celebrated our anniversary with a great champagne. Well, actually it’s classified as a sparkling wine since it didn’t come from the Champagne region of France, but I’m not a snob.  The wine is a Blanc de Noir from California’s Shramsburg Estate. Shramsburg has a long, very interesting history detailed on it’s website, and the estate is actually a state historical landmark. They pioneered Blanc de Noir (“white of black”) made primarily from Pinot Noir, in the U.S. with the first release in 1967. The wine is pale gold colored with aromas of toasted almonds, peaches, and orange peel. It has a creamy texture and subtle flavors of red fruit, orange, and almonds with a citrus finish and perfectly balanced acidity. It’s about $32.00 a bottle, a little above my usual $25.00 limit, but hey, it’s our anniversary, and we’re worth it. So enjoy a blast from the past and try a wonderful sparkling wine to go with it.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Jimi Hendrix & Eroica Riesling

A couple of days ago, I was listening to Jimi Hendrix playing “Who Knows” and realized I’ve never done a full review of him and his music, so tonight, I’m rectifying that omission. He was born Johnny Allen Hendrix (later changed to James Marshall) on November 27, 1942, in Seattle, Washington. He learned to play guitar as a teenager and grew up to become a rock guitar legend.
Hendrix had a difficult childhood, sometimes living in the care of relatives and family friends. 

His mother, Lucille, was only 17 years old when Jimi was born. She had a stormy relationship with his father, Al, and eventually left the family after the couple had two more children together, sons Leon and Joseph. Hendrix would only see his mother sporadically before her death in 1958.
Music was a sanctuary for him. He was a fan of the blues and taught himself to play guitar. He got his first electric guitar at the age of 15 and eventually played with two bands - the Rocking Kings and the Tomcats. Struggling in school, but excelling in music, Hendrix dropped out of high school in 1959. He worked odd jobs while continuing to follow his musical aspirations.

 In1961 he enlisted in the army and trained at Fort Ord in California to become a paratrooper. Even as a soldier, he found time for music, creating a band named The King Casuals. Hendrix served in the army until 1962 when he was discharged due to an injury. 

After leaving the military, Hendrix pursued his music, working as a session musician and playing backup for such performers as Little Richard, Sam Cooke, and the Isley Brothers. He also formed a group of his own called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, which played gigs around New York City's Greenwich Village neighborhood.
In mid-1966, Hendrix was discovered by Chas Chandler, a former member of the Animals, who became his manager. Chandler convinced Hendrix to go to London where he joined forces with musicians Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell to create The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The band continued to tour until it split up in 1969.
 That same year, Hendrix performed at the Woodstock Festival where his rock rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" was one of the high points of the festival.
After disbanding the Experience, Hendrix tried his luck with another group, forming Band of Gypsys in late 1969 with his army buddy Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles. The band never really took off, and Hendrix began working on a new album tentatively named First Rays of the New Rising Sun, with Cox and Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Unfortunately Hendrix didn’t live to complete the project. He died on September 18th, 1970, from drug-related complications. He was only 27 years old at the time of his passing, but left his mark on the music world as his songs are considered required material for any guitarist worth his salt.

Actually had some decent weather this weekend with temps in the 80’s during the day and 60s at night. Great weather for a summer wine like an Eroica Riesling ($18.00 at Costco) that originates from a partnership between Dr. Loosen of Mosel, Germany and Chateau Ste. Michelle of Washington State. It’s one of my favorites. Light straw-colored, with a beautiful floral and honeysuckle bouquet, followed by crisp flavors of melon, peach, and pineapple. It has excellent balance, and a long, pure, refreshing finish. Not too sweet, but rather semi-dry and it’s a wonderful accompaniment to the music of Jimi Hendrix. Enjoy!


Friday, August 3, 2012

Eric Gales & Starmont Rose

Born October 29, 1974, and originally from Memphis, TN, Eric Gales is a kickass blues-rock guitarist. Gales picked up the guitar at age four and was hailed as a child prodigy. His first teachers were his older brothers Eugene and Manuel who taught him licks from Hendrix, Albert King, B.B. King, and a host of others. One oddity about his style is that although he is not left handed, he plays a right-handed guitar "upside-down" (with the E-bass string on the bottom), due to the fact that his left-handed brother taught him much of his technique and it was easier to copy his style than transpose it to a right hand version.

Guitar World magazine's Reader's Poll named Eric as "Best New Talent", in 1991. In addition to his own band, he’s performed with guitarists Carlos Santana, Eric Johnson, Doyle Bramhall II as well as drummers Mitch Mitchell (Hendrix) and Chris Layton (Stevie Ray Vaughn). He’s been hailed as the second coming of Jimi Hendrix and like Hendrix, his singing is marginal, but his guitar playing is phenomenal.

I’m really sick of 100 degree weather, but at least it gives me an excuse to drink lots of one of my favorite summer wines, namely Rosés and tonight’s Starmont 2011 Rosé ($15.00) should hit the spot as I sit on my deck and offer a sacrifice to the sun gods in order to get them to back off.  Vibrant ruby in color, this varietal blend starts with a nose of fresh strawberries, pink grapefruit, and vanilla. The palate offers up flavors of ripe cherry, strawberry, red raspberries, and tart rhubarb balanced with crisp acidity. For a Rosé, it has an unusually long finish. Hot music with a cool wine. Enjoy!