The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
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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.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Matt Schofield & Les Vignes de l'Aire Effet Papillon Cotes du Roussillon Rouge

Born in Manchester UK on August 21, 1977, Matt Schofield is the third in my series of “Blues Phenoms Born in the 70s”. As I said when I reviewed him in my August 29, 2011 blog, his earliest influence was his father’s blues record collection. He started out at the age of 18 as a sideman for harp player Lee Sankey then spent four years touring with David Bowie prodigy Dana Gillespie.

Guitar & Bass Magazine rates him in the top ten British blues guitarists of all time putting him in the company of Eric Clapton and Pete Green. Along the way, he’s played with Buddy Guy, Robben Ford, and several other blues guitar icons. His awards include British Blues Awards Guitarist of the year for 2010 and 2011, Mojo Magazine’s 2011 Blues Album of the Year, and British Blues Awards 2010 Album of the Year. As a matter of fact, his melodic, fluid style and voice remind me of Robben Ford, one of my favorites. Maybe that’s why I like his so much. I think you will too.

Tonight I’m recommending a wine from one of my absolute favorite winerys. Marjorie Gallet and her enologist husband, Stephane, the owners of Le Roc des Anges in France, make superb wines. In fact, I have cases of three of their wines in my cellar and tonight I’m reviewing their 2011 Les Vignes de l'Aire Effet Papillon Cotes du Roussillon Rouge. It’s deep red with aromas of raspberries and herbs. The palate is full of juicy dark fruit accented by crème de cassis and vanilla with mild tannins. And at $13.00 a bottle, it’s one of the best deals on the market. You can order it from Moore Brothers. Get a case and groove to the blues of Matt Schofield. It makes for a fine evening.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Aynsley Lister & Chateau Turcaud Bordeaux Clairet

Born in November 14, 1976, Leicester England, Aynsley Lister is next on my list of “1970’s Blues Guitar Phenoms." He grew up in a house full of music and started playing the guitar at the age of eight, copying licks from his dad’s records of Freddie King, John Mayall, and Eric Clapton. After his first album, he caught the attention of the blues community and he began opening for artist like Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, and John Mayall. Lister was the only British artist to be featured in Classic Rock’s 2007 "Top 10 Contemporary Blues Artists." Now, with an established reputation as a premier guitarist, he headlines blues festivals across Europe. He’s got a soulful style that’s great for kicking back and realizing you’re more than halfway through the week. Enjoy!

I have a different sort of wine to go with Aynsley’s guitar work, namely a 2011 Chateau Trucaud Bordeaux Clairet ($10.00). This is the first time I’ve tasted a Bordeaux Clairet, which is a title given to light red wines that reflect the style of red Bordeaux as it was centuries ago when they began to be exported to England.  The main difference is the amount of time that that the wine spends in contact with the skins during fermentation. It’s days for a Clairet as opposed to weeks for a classic red Bordeaux. The result is a marvelous wine that’s midway between a rosé and a red wine. The Chateau Turcaud is 50% Cabernet Franc and 50% Merlot and is a brilliant cherry red and crimson in color. The nose is full of freshly sliced strawberries and herbs with a palate full of red raspberries and more strawberry. It’s a dry wine with a long smooth finish. I love lighter reds for summer and this is a perfect fit. Unfortunately, I’ll leave the rest of my half case for next year as the temperature is plunging tomorrow. But for now, I’ll remember a warm summer night with a bottle of Clairet and the music of Aynsley Lister’s mournful blues.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Philip Sayce & Corte Gardoni "Becco" Corvina

I think there must have been something in the water during the 70’s because as I was perusing a book on blues guitarists recently, I noticed an awful lot of super talents were born during that decade. So, I thought I’d run through a few. Tonight, I’m featuring Philip Sayce. Sayce (1976) was born in Aberystwyth, England, but his family moved to Canada when he was two years old, and he grew up in Toronto. He began playing in Toronto clubs at the age of sixteen and quickly became a regular fixture on Toronto’s bar-scene.

In 1997, he joined Jeff Healey’s band and toured the world for three and a half years, playing such places as Germany, Brazil, Finland, and the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. In December 2003, Sayce joined Melissa Etheridge and her band for The Lucky Tour and has subsequently played on several of her CDs.

As you listen to him you find his style is strongly influenced by Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. His powerful technique fuses both styles into a soulful, driving example of virtuoso blues playing.

You can run but you can’t hide:
Put the shoe on the other foot (with Jeff Healey):

Had a little bit of Indian Summer this past week, so I thought I’d recommend a lighter wine, perfect for an evening under the stars. The wine is a 2010 Corte Gardoni "Becco" Corvina Veronese (~$15.00). Its color is cherry red with a bouquet similar to Pinot Noir with subtle cherry strawberry, and herbs. It’s an easy drinking wine with a nice balance between fruit and dryness. It reminds me of a light Beaujolais. A good start for the week.

And while I’m discussing this wine, let me give a shout out to Moore Brother’s Wine Company located in Delaware, New York, and New Jersey. The stores opened in 1996 as a partnership between Greg Moore (sommelier at Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia for twenty years), David Moore, and wine importer Frank Splane. It is a unique establishment that offers carefully selected estate bottled wines from around the world. I really appreciate Greg’s reviews along with the fact that he chooses sensibly priced wines, almost all under $25.00. I have ordered wine from them for two years now and I have never had a bad recommendation yet. So, if you want to begin learning more about wines from an expert, follow the link ( and sign up for Greg’s tasting notes. Enjoy! 


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Kirby Kelly and 2010 Beckman Vineyards Le Bec

Tonight, I want to introduce you to an incredible man, a fantastic musician, and a great “feel good” story. Kirby Kelly grew up in St. Louis Missouri and began playing guitar in his early teens. He started by listening to Jimi Hendrix records over and over, picking up licks and chord progressions, but it was the sounds of blues legend Son House that turned his focus toward the blues. The raw power and emotion that the music of the old blues masters evoked really stirred his soul unlike any other musical genre.

When he got out of high school, he began a journey that bounced him between Missouri and Texas until 1980 when he moved to Texas to help run an ostrich farm. Although he could entertain his family and friends with his guitar genius, severe stage fright kept him from performing publically until he was in his thirties. But an Ibanez guitar artist-relations rep heard him at a guitar show testing a new amp and hooked him up with Mike “Junior” Clark who eventually forced him out of his shell to face his stage fears. Now over fifty years old, Kelley has his own Delta blues show.

But it hasn’t been easy. At one point in 2009, burned out and tired of bad deals with promoters and club owners, economics forced him to sell or pawn his collection of twenty-eight lap steel, acoustic or electric guitars to pay bills. His wife, Peg, remembers, “Every month he would ask how much we needed and then he’d come in with the money.” Finally, as a last resort, he showed up at North Dallas Guitar Center store planning to sell his last guitar, a custom-made Paul Reed Smith. But his friend and guitar shop owner Robbie Gustin knew about living on the edge of life and salvation. His fight with drugs and depression brought him to his knees, and he believes he was saved to be placed in the right place at the right time to help Kelly. He refused to take the guitar, and instead informed Kelly that he’d entered him in Guitar Center’s national “King of the Blues” contest. When Kelly objected, Gustin told him to shut up because it was a God thing.
Kelly bested more than four thousand other guitarists, who competed at local Guitar Center stores across the country and in district and regional rounds to make the finals. At the finals, he was the oldest one in the final five to play in front of a capacity crowd at the House of Blues on Sunset Strip in Hollywood. Sitting in the front row as judges were many of Kelley’s guitar heroes, including Steve Lukather and Hubert Sumlin, who played with the legendary Howlin’ Wolf. For his first song on the electric guitar, he performed a blues tune off a list given to the contestants, but to show guitar mastery, contestants had to perform a second song on an acoustic guitar. Kelley played his version of the Robert Johnson blues classic Cross Road Blues. He is a master at the Delta Blues style, sometimes employing two slides at once, a feat that blew the judges away and Kelly Kirby was crowned the 2009 King of the Blues.
When the announcer called his name as the winner, Kirby made his way to the mike and read a note from his daughter written twenty years ago that said, “To POP, you are a good guitar player.” Needless to say, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Through it all, his wife Peg says their faith in God kept them going through the many bad times that probably outnumbered the good. But she realized her husband was gifted. “I’ve always known that he was one of the best and had faith that someday somebody would see that. I prayed that others would see what I saw.” Now they have. Kelly Kirby considers himself thrice blessed with his faith, his marriage to an incredible woman, and his ability on the guitar. Hope you enjoy this amazing man and musician.
See that my grave is kept clean:
King of the blues competition:
Sun gonna shine on my back door someday:
Last fair deal going down:
Hair parted in the middle:
Tell me where you stayed last night:

For a special man like Kirby, I’ve got to pair him with a super special wine, the 2010 Beckman Vineyards Cuvee Le Bec Santa Ynez Valley ($18.00). It’s an American version of a classic Cote du Rhone with a luscious mixture of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre. The aromas of this wine explode with dark berries and herbs. The taste is slightly sweet with red raspberries, juicy tart cherries, and cassis. Fine tannins lead to a long sweet finish. This wine paired with Kirby Kelly is a can’t miss for a crisp autumn evening. Enjoy!