The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
The Death Whisperer Series available at

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Michael Bloomfield & Christian Moreau Chablis

Michael Bloomfield was born into a wealthy Jewish-American family on the north side of Chicago, but preferred music to the family catering equipment business. He became a blues devotee as a teenager and spent time at Chicago's South Side blues clubs, playing guitar with some of the greatest black bluesmen

Al Kooper, Bloomfield's later collaborator and close friend, wrote the young guitarist's talent "was instantly obvious to his mentors. They knew this was not just another white boy; this was someone who truly understood what the blues were all about." Among Bloomfield’s early supporters were B.B. king, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, and Buddy Guy.

During his tenure in the Chicago blues clubs, he met Paul Butterfield and Elvin Bishop. Bloomfield recorded a few sessions for Columbia in 1964 (which weren't released until after his death), but ended up joining the original Paul Butterfield Blues Band, which included Bishop, Howlin Wolf rhythm section alumni Sam Lay, and Jerome Arnold.

Bloomfield tired of the Butterfield Band's rigorous touring schedule and, relocated to San Francisco to create his own group, Electric Flag in 1967. The band was intended to feature "American music," a hybrid of blues, soul, country, rock, and folk, and incorporated an expanded lineup complete with a horn section. The inclusion of drummer Buddy Miles gave Bloomfield license to explore soul and R&B. Electric Flag debuted at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and issued an album, A Long Time Comin', in April 1968, one of my favorites.
Later, Bloomfield joined with al Kooper, with whom he recorded the Super Session album in 1968. It was a jam session that spotlighted Bloomfield’s guitar skills on side one. It’s still a classic to this day. Bloomfield's chronic insomnia caused him to repair to his San Francisco home the second day of recording, prompting Kooper to invite Stephen Stills to complete the album. It received excellent reviews and became the best-selling album of Bloomfield's career

The exact events and circumstances that led to his death are not clear. What is known is that Bloomfield was found dead of a drug overdose in his car on February 15, 1981. The only details (from unnamed sources) relate that Bloomfield died at a San Francisco party, and was driven to another location in the city by two men who were present at the party.

Long time comin-Full album:
Long Distand (with Muddy Waters):
Paul Butterfield Reunion:

I recommend a 2010 Christian Moreau Chablis while you listen to Michael. Chablis is arguably the most famous white burgundy appellation on earth, and rightly so. The wines also see relatively less oak influence than most regions working with Chardonnay. In the case of Christian Moreau’s basic 2010 Chablis ($25) one sees aromas and flavors of lemon and honey with a bright hint of minerality. I’m trying to force spring here by recommending Chablis, a wine I usually drink in warmer weather. Hopefully it works.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Kelly Valleau & Girard Petit Sirah

Kelly Valleau has been one of my favorite guitarists since I discovered his work about five years ago. He was born and raised in Belleville, Ontario, joining the ranks of other great Canadian fingerstyle guitarists. Must be the cold winters where the only thing to do is sit inside and practice. He took up the guitar at 15 and by 22 was playing professionally. He used to focus mostly on classical and Spanish style music, using a nylon stringed guitar. However, after attending the 2006 Canadian fingerstyle guitar championships and hearing people like Don Ross, he began arranging and playing more pop tunes.

He switched to the steel stringed acoustic because he got bored with nylon, saying it wasn’t inspiring him anymore. He is one of the most prolific arrangers of pop tunes merging beautiful melodies with intricate harmonies all augmented by minimalist percussive techniques. I could (and often do) listen to him all day.

While my guitar gently weeps:

I’m pairing Kelly with one of my favorite wines, a 2011 Girard Petit Sirah ($20.00 at Costco). Planting your nose in a glass of baby is like falling into a patch of blackberries. The fragrance of this inky purple wine unfolds further revealing, black cherries, cassis, dark chocolate, and coffee. The taste is like a fruit extravaganza dominated by blackberries, cherries, and a touch of vanilla with nicely integrated tannins. Grab a bottle or six and check out Kelly Valleau.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Mike Dawes and Eguia Reserva Rioja

Mike Dawes is a 23 year-old English virtuoso guitar player known for composing, arranging and performing multiple parts simultaneously on one instrument. He began his musical adventure at the age of four, when his parents introduced him to The Blues Brothers. In his early childhood he experimented with keyboards before picking up his first electric guitar at age twelve. Mike switched to steel-stringed acoustic guitar in 2008.

His early influences were Michael Hedges, Pierre Bensusan, and John Gomm. From late 2008 to late 2011 Mike performed hundreds of instrumental concerts at venues and festivals throughout the United Kingdom both solo, and with concert harpist Amy Turk. He has performed alongside and shared the bill with a large selection of well-known musicians including Tommy Emmanuel.

He released a unique and technically virtuosic arrangement of “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye that went viral, gaining acclaim from the international music community. The likes of MSN News and Reddit all featured him on the front page of their websites. A headline on the US MSN Browser spawned a huge influx of American fans while Gotye (Walter de Backer) himself publicly praised the arrangement in numerous international publications.

For you guitar hounds, he plays guitars made by Nick Benjamin exclusively. I think you’re going to like him.

I suggest a 2007 Eguia Reserva Rioja ($10.00) while you listen to Mike. I often shop wines at Costco and this one caught my eye. Ten dollar Riojas are generally reliable wines, but this one was way more than reliable. The wine is dark purple with a nose of red fruit and spices. The pallet is full of red raspberries, black cherries, and dark plums accented by a bit of oak. The finish is clean and elegant with mild tannins. It certainly didn’t taste like a $10.00 Rioja, but it goes great with the guitar virtuosity of Mike Dawes.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Boyce Avenue No. 2 & Willakenzie Pinot Noir

I reviewed Boyce Avenue last October, but I like their music so much, it calls for an encore. The group’s review is the same as before, but the songs are all new. I know you’re going to like them.

Boyce Avenue is a Puerto Rican-American acoustic rock group consisting of the brothers Alejandro, Daniel, and Fabian Manzano. They’re named after a combination of two streets they lived on as kids. 

They formed in 2004 after Daniel (bass and percussion) moved back to Florida after graduating from Harvard law School. Alejandro (lead vocals and guitar) and Fabian (guitar and vocals) were attending the University of Florida, but dropped out to form the group. Since 2007, they’ve been posting videos of both original and covers of popular songs, many of which have received over 10,000,000 views and have been released as digital EPs by their own independent record label, 3 Peace Records. They have over 700,000 subscribers to their YouTube channel (including me).

They’re firm risk-takers and believing in the strength of their online presence, they booked a solo show in New York in January 2009. It was their first ever performance in the city and surprised label and industry experts who thought it was a huge gamble, because the show was a sellout. Later in the year, the group performed for an estimated 25,000 fans in the Philippines and followed with a successful whirlwind tour of the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

They are, in my opinion, one of the finest acoustic rock groups to hit the scene. Alejandro’s guitar and vocals are amazing and the percussion accompaniment by Daniel and the augmenting guitar of Fabian plus several outstanding guest guitarists, vocalists, and pianist, makes them one of my favorites. Hope you like them as much as I do.

What makes you beautiful:

I was out in San Francisco last week and had a 2010 WillaKenzie Estate, Estate Cuvee Pinot Noir ($23.00). It’s ruby red in the glass with a fragrance of strawberry, cherry, and herbs. The wine is light with a palate of juicy cherries, rhubarb, strawberries, and a hint of caramel. The tannins are mild and the wine hangs onto your tongue with remembrances of more strawberry and cherry. Very nice Pinot that perfectly compliments Boyce Avenue.