The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
The Death Whisperer Series available at

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Eric Mongrain & Volver Tempranillo

Erik Mongrain (born April 1980 in Montreal, Québec, Canada) is one of my favorite acoustic guitar innovators. He grew up in Canada and began teaching himself how to play guitar at the age of 14. His early influences were Michael Hedges and Don Ross, the latter another fantastic Canadian guitarist. His style has evolved over the years I’ve been listening to him, getting more and more complex and reflecting a variety of moods. He’s an innovative player and composer who uses alternate tunings and some rather unorthodox techniques as he weaves his intriguing melodies.
His trademark “lap-tapping” technique is fascinating to watch and hear. Alternatively hammering and strumming the strings with the extended index finger of his right hand while generating percussive rhythms on the guitar’s body his fist and knuckles, he produces sounds that ring like bells as he taps out a melody with his left hand. His 2006 YouTube video of “Airtap” (see below) generated 10,000,000 views.
He’s released three albums: 2006’s “Fates”, 2008’s “Equilibrium”., and 2012’s “Forward.” While his CDs are excellent, if you get a chance to see him live, do it. You’ll witness one of today’s guitar virtuoso’s.

I’m pairing Eric with a 2012 Volver ($15.00), a single vineyard Spanish wine made from 100% Tempranillo. The wine is deep ruby in color and explodes with aromas of black cherries, boysenberry, and exotic spices. The palate follows the nose adding blue and blackberries and closing with a long lingering spiciness. Ordinarily I would drink this hearty wine in the winter months, but we’ve had some unseasonably cool weather this summer, a welcome change from our usual summer inferno, so the Volver paired with lap-tapping Eric Mongrain is a perfect combination.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

RIP Johnny Winter and Stolpman Syrah

Johnny Winter, one of the greatest Texas-bred guitarists and singers and a mainstay of the blues-rock world since the 1960s, died of unknown causes on Wednesday in his hotel room in Zurich. He was 70 and had been on tour in Europe.

Imagine a 130-pound, cross-eyed albino with long fleecy hair playing some of the gutsiest, yet fluid blues guitar you’ll ever hear. That was Johnny Winter. I discovered Johnny when I was 15 while strolling the aisle E.J. Korvette’s record section. His appearance reflected in the back of a National steel guitar on the cover of his “Progressive Blues Experiment” album was so intriguing that I had to buy it. From that moment on I was in love with his music and the blues.

In 1977 Johnny began a series of collaborations with Muddy Waters, his idol, producing his album “Hard Again.” That record, and two that followed won acclaim for their raw sound, and each won a Grammy Award. As Winter told Look Magazine, “I love the blues. You can feel that nobody cares about you, and you sing, and it doesn’t make any difference and you don’t care. It’s not a happy feeling, it’s not sad. You can cry, and it’s good.”

Commentators rarely mention the fact that both Johnny and his brother Edgar had albinism, a condition that severely affects the eyes and caused Johnny to become legally blind later in his life. He may have been blind, but he was still one hell of a musician. Rest in peace.

Don Kirshner’s Rock show:
Mama talk to your daughter:
Red House with Leslie West:

Johnny Winter requires a wine with a lot of depth, so I suggest a 2011 Stolpman Vineyards Estate Grown Syrah ($24.00). The wine is 94% Syrah, 3% grenache, 2% roussanne and 1% viognier.  Dark ruby red color with aromas of black raspberries and dark plums.  This is a dense wine, yet vibrant and with good acidity combined with sweet dark fruits, spices, and pepper flavors.  It’s a very juicy wine whose taste and aromas finish long.  Pour a glass and toast one of the greatest blues guitar masters to ever pick up the instrument.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Will McNicol & Cline Cellars Mourvedre Rosé

Will McNicol was born in 1989 in Glasgow, Scotland. At the age of six, his family moved to the south coast where he began studying classical guitar under Maurice Albin. He studied at Trinity College in London and graded with merits and distinction on all of his exams. Since then he gained Associate and Licentiate performance diplomas from Trinity and in 2011 was awarded a Fellowship diploma, an achievement rare for a twenty-one-year-old. Coincidently, he was also named 2011 Guitarist of the Year by Guitar Magazine.

He’s studied with several world-class classical and acoustic guitarists, including Gerald Garcia, Stuart Ryan, and Thomas Leeb. He’s a prolific composer and had released four albums and has written for theater and dance as well as for corporate films.

Will is currently based in Wimborne Minster, Dorset where he teaches acoustic, classical and electric guitar at Bryanston School, Yarrells Preparatory School and the Academy of Contemporary Music's regional center in Bournemouth.

His compositions are beautiful and his technique flawless. I hope you enjoy him as much as I do.

Summer hit this week and with temperatures in the mid-90s and the heat/humidity index around 105, it’s time for a refreshing Rosé. I love Rosés for their fresh fruit, bright acidity and a finish that makes you want to throw away the glass and sip it straight from the bottle with a straw. But of course, then you’d miss the fruity aromas. Cline Cellars Mourvedre Rosé is good one and a great bargain at $10.00. The first thing you notice is the aromas of strawberries and watermelon. The palate follows with more strawberry and bright cherry. And this one definitely calls for a straw. Great for a summer evening after the blazing sun has set and the humidity is bearable, and, of course, listening to the guitar of Will McNicol.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Michael Rosenberg aka Passenger & Laurenz V. Singing Gruner Veltliner

English folk singer Michael Rosenberg is better known by his stage name Passenger. He was born May 17, 1984 in Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, England to an English mother and an American father. He learned classical guitar as a child and began writing songs at the age of 14, which resulted in his not excelling in school, since all his free time was devoted to music. He left school at 16 to pursue a career in music, beginning as a busker in England and later Australia.

Along with Andrew Phillips, he co-founded the musical group Passenger in 2003. Their one and only album, Wicked Man’s Rest, was released in 2007 featuring songs written mostly by Rosenberg. When the band broke up in 2009, Rosenberg kept the stage name Passenger and took to developing his solo career, beginning again as a busker.

One of his close friends growing up was Ed Sheeran and in 2012 he began opening for him on his tours around the UK. He continued touring with Sheeran and the John Butler Trio for several months. He followed Sheeran on his 2012 U.S. tour that eventually crossed the Atlantic, ending in Paris.

His album, Little Lights, included the song, Let Her Go, which has become a huge hit for him. Much of his music is filled with lyrics about pain and lost love. In fact, he introduces his concerts by telling the audience that if they came expecting to leave happy, they would be disappointed. He’s an excellent guitarist and his song writing is superb. Hope you enjoy him.

One of my favorite white wines for sipping is a Gruner Veltliner, the wine for which Austria is known. They are refreshing and reasonably priced wines that compliment a variety of foods. The 2011 Laurenz V. Singing Gruner Veltliner ($13.00) is an excellent example. It’s pale yellow-green in the glass with light, flowery notes of green apples, lemons, limes, and peaches of the nose. The taste follows the nose with a touch of fizziness and good minerality, giving it a lively mouthfeel. The finish is crisp and bursting with citrus. It’s fun wine and a great choice for balancing the darkness of Passenger’s songs with a bit of sunshine.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ben Howard & Trousse-Chemise Pinot Noir

Ben Howard was born in West London in 1987. His family moved to Totnes, Devon when he was eight. His parents, musicians themselves, surrounded him with music as he grew up and exposed him to singer-songwriters of the 1960s and 1970s like Joni Mitchel and Simon and Garfunkel. Two of his biggest musical influences were John Martyn and Nick Drake.
Ben began writing his own songs when he was around ten, using the guitar as his composing vehicle. He attended Torquay Boys’ Grammar School and King Edward VI Community College then went on to study journalism at the University of Falmouth. But six months shy of getting his degree, he decided to make music his full-time career focusing on the folk-style genre made popular by Nick Drake. His guitar style is a blend of fingerpicking, standard tapping, and lap-tapping. His lyrics are full of imagery, some of which is rather dark. He released two EPs before signing with Island Records. His debut CD, Every Kingdom, went gold in the U.K. and is gradually gaining traction in the U.S. due to a recent tour.
In 2013, he won BRIT awards for Best British Breakthrough Act and Best British Solo Male Artist. His voice and guitar have a haunting quality to it that I hope you like. Enjoy!

I’m pairing Ben with the 2012 Trousse-Chemise Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Oregon, and particularly the Willamette Valley region, produces some of my favorite Pinot Noirs. This one is bright cherry red with a nose of red raspberries and cherries. The palate follows the nose with rich fruit and a fresh vibrant finish. It’s a nice wine to enjoy with a good book while listening to the music of Ben Howard.