June 8, 2008
“Cigarettes is my ruin, whiskey is my crave,
someday pretty women gonna take me to my grave”
A common question I am asked is why are so many early Blues performers blind. Seems to be a matter of simple economics. As Keith Briggs wonderfully understates, “A man born both black and blind in the American south at the beginning of the twentieth century soon discovered his options were limited.” Performing music was one of the only opportunites for autonomy and self-sufficiency. Another factor that complicates things is that Blind Willie McTell was smart enough to game the system and record under many names to avoid contractual obligations to one label. He recorded under is own name for Victor and Decca, Blind Sammie for Columbia, Georgia Bill for Okeh, Hot Shot Willie for Victor, Blind Willie for Vocalion, Red Hot Willie Glaze for Bluebird, Barrelhouse Sammie for Atlantic and Pig ‘N Whistle Red for Regal. For a man with such a singular sound how he did he manage to pull this off? He was yet another widely recorded artist that Alan Lomax “discovered” in 1940. That said, the Library of Congress recordings are amazing. McTell has been copied, name checked, and covered by everyone from Bob Dylan through Kurt Cobain up to the White Stripes – the looks I get when I play the original “Your Southern Can is Mine” – all a testament to his influence outside of blues. I was going to recommend Catfish Record’s Definitive Blind Willie McTell as it was once a budget three disc set of all his recordings under every name up until 1935. It now appears out of print and very expensive. In that case I recommend either The Best of Blind Willie McTell for a great single disk collection or The Classic Years 1927-1940 which has most of the recordings in the Catfish collection plus it has the LoC recordings by Alan Lomax. I can not recommend the Roots-n-Blues series from Columbia as typical with them the noise reduction is done to extremes transforming McTell’s voluminous 12 string sound into a tinny facade of its true tone. I am no audiophile but this is apparent enough on headphones and very apparent through a PA.
May 8, 2008
I am quite particular about where I get cocktails. At any neighborhood bar I can enjoy a beer or G&T with my friends. Cocktails are a different matter altogether. I fancy myself what Joe Keeper of Bar Keeper calls “a real drinker”. I try to make a great cocktail at home so when I am out I want a better one. I am not a great mixologist, by any means, but I have come to love cocktails made with high quality liquors, fresh juices, and exotic ingredients. This eliminates most bars including many with dozens of “martinis” on the menu. Most bars use mediocre liquors, ingredients with artificial flavors, bottled, or worse canned, citrus juices and tap flavored ice. These bartenders think pouring heavy is doing me a favor. Using plenty of ice, measuring the ingredients and actually shaking or stirring for a reasonable amount of time would be the favor I want. I love classic cocktails but I am open to new creations. After all the Cosmopolitan is relatively new and is as good as they come for sweet cocktails. All that said I find myself going to the same few bars in Hollywood and Downtown L.A. that make cocktails “right”
- SevenGrand – Great Whiskey selection but where else uses fresh Ginger
- Mixville – French 75s on the patio – yes, please.
- Dresden – Best Sidecars and Gimlets
- The Edison – Great new cocktails and they can shake some Gin.
- Musso & Franks – No one can top their classic Martinis, always stirred to perfection
- Cicada Club – even mixed drinks feel classier here.
So tell me, what am I missing?