Archive | July, 2010

Sweet Revolution Maple Honey Caramels – “Viva La Revolution!”

31 Jul

San Francisco’s Sweet Revolution makes a darn good salted caramel. Now, you may think you’ve had good caramels before. But, believe me, these folks take it to another level. This (above) is how our candies arrived at the HQ.

But before I continue, let’s learn a little more about the source:

Sweet Revolution’s Maple Honey Caramels are as unique and innovative as their name. The only confectioner nationwide making USDA certified organic salted caramels with the finest ingredients and devoid of corn syrup or cane sugar. The caramels are handmade in San Francisco using only Maple, Dairy, Honey, Sea Salt, and Vanilla Bean.

Deliciously addictive, the intense sweet and savory flavors and the buttery finish have created a frenzy amongst candy lovers all over the world. Even candy fans who don’t love caramels have touted their praise and asked for more.

Anastasia Hägerström, the brainchild behind Sweet Revolution, developed her sense of taste and style from living in many different countries throughout her life. It was her exposure to the pureness and simplicity of these various cuisines that impelled her to create a candy that best exemplified the integrity and ingredients she grew up with. The result is Sweet Revolution’s Maple Honey Caramels; her attempt to revolutionize the candy world as we know it.

Now that we have that bit of back story out of the way, let’s get down to the fun part. Eating them! I carefully opened the brown cardboard box to reveal 12 delicious salted caramels wrapped in plain white wax paper. Sure they’re almost $2 each, but these babies are something to be savored, not woofed down like a bag full of Sugar Babies.

Here (above) is a single candy piece — for scale purposes if nothing else.

The unwrapped caramel is a glistening thing of beauty to behold. Bask briefly in all its sweet glory before taking your first bite. Yes, I said bite. Don’t go scarfing these caramels down in one giant chomp. Take your time … savor the rich, complex flavor. You’ll taste the honey, the maple syrup. All organic I might add. Vanilla bean and sea salt round out this delicious party in your mouth.  

A certain sadness will set in once you’ve polished off the first piece. A sadness that comes from knowing you only have 11 candies left. Ouch! I guess I’ll be placing another order soon. I was also thinking these attractive little boxes (sealed with red wax a la Makers Mark Bourbon) would make for unique holiday gifts. Hey, it’s not that far away, people. So make yourself a note to put a few of boxes of Sweet Revolution Maple Honey Caramels on your end of year shopping list. Your family and friends will appreciate it. I know I sure would — hint, hint! 

Get your own little brown box today. Here’s how …


31 Jul

Hey, Blues fans! Check this one out. “Lucky” is back!

WOODSTOCK, N.Y. — Lucky Peterson was discovered by blues legend Willie Dixon when he was three years old, released his first record at five and soon after appeared on TheTonight Show. Trained by keyboardists Bill Doggett and Jimmy Smith, Peterson went on to play behind Little Milton, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Kenny Neal. On return from the “Young Blues Giants” tour of Europe, he signed first with Alligator, then Verve, Blue Thumb and Birdology/Dreyfus, where he recorded what called “his finest album,” Black Midnight Sun, in 2003. The New Yorker called him “a master of the guitar, organ and microphone.”

But Lucky’s journey was not a smooth one, and Peterson spent the next few years in transition, working to free himself of drug troubles that had affected his health, family life and professional life. He spent time in treatment, making one-off records for small European labels, but never a proper follow-up to Black Midnight Sun.

The new CD (slated for release on September 28) was made in the Catskills with master Woodstock musicians Larry Campbell, guitar (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm); Scott Petito, bass (The Fugs, Mercury Rev, Rick Danko Band); and Gary Burke, drums (Joe Jackson, Shania Twain). Peterson as usual plays a mix of instruments: duolian resonator, piano and acoustic and electric guitars. Also prevalent is the acoustic piano on which Lucky sounds like a bluesy Elton John. “He’s something of a genius — his piano playing reminds me of Aretha Franklin,” says drummer Burke, who has played behind Franklin on the road.Lucinda Williams, Tom Waits and Ray LaMontagne. The album closes with a version of Curtis Mayfield’s “Think.”

“This album is very different for me — it’s more from the heart,” says Peterson. “The songs were picked by (co-producer) Doug Yoel, and he knew my heart. I feel like all these songs were for me.” The album would be the last co-production of Francis Dreyfus, who passed away on June 24, before the album’s release.

But you can always turn around. These words took on special meaning for the 45-year-old Peterson, which is why the first album since his rehabilitation is titled You Can Always Turn Around. It is an uplifting collection of songs that speak of struggles and salvation, using the gritty clarity of acoustic roots-blues (with modern touches) as its main musical vehicle.

But it’s Peterson’s vocal instrument that some might find most arresting. Peterson wraps his voice around an eclectic selection of blues-based materials including songs by original Delta bluesmen Robert Johnson, Rev. Gary Davis and Blind Willie McTell up through the music of today’s top songwriters including

One standout on the album is the civil-rights era anthem “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free,” written by Billy Taylor and popularized by Nina Simone. The new recording introduces Tamara Peterson, Lucky’s wife, a worthy blues singer in her own right. The chemistry between Lucky and Tamara on that session was so exciting that Larry Campbell was prompted to invite the pair to appear with the Levon Helm Band at the Midnight Ramble concert the following night.

Enjoy this video of Lucky Peterson in action back in the 90’s

Peterson creates something brand new on “Trampled Rose,” turning a wordless hook into a seductive Arabian-flavored line. The band responded to and fed the creativity of the newly awakened Lucky Peterson, and the results are truly special.

Peterson continues to tour, doing dates big and small. This new album should increase awareness of and demand for this one-of-a-kind musician.

And when off the road, he’ll be at his church in Dallas, Texas with his family, holding on, and playing for one very lucky congregation.


1. I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom (Robert Johnson)
2. I’m New Here (Bill
3. Statesboro Blues (Blind Willie McTell)
4. Trouble (Ray LaMontagne)
5. Trampled Rose (
Tom Waits / Kathleen Brennan)
6. Atonement (Lucinda Williams)
7. Why Are People Like That (Bobby Charles)
8. Four Little Boys (James Peterson / Judge Peterson)
9. Death Don’t Have No Mercy (Rev. Gary Davis)
10. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be
Free (Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas)
11. Think (Curtis Mayfield)

Quantity over Quality at Pensacola’s Barnhill’s

31 Jul

A business day trip to the FL Panhandle gave me a rare opportunity to dine in new territory during the work week. This “fly-by-night” banner (above) can easily be viewed from I-110 in Pensacola. I have actually passed this eatery before, but it really didn’t make much of an impact on me. Then last week I saw an “info-mercial” for Barnhill’s Southern Fresh Buffet on MediaCom Cable (our provider here in Baldwin County, AL). And it actually looked pretty promising.

Loyal regular customers raved about the made from scratch, homestyle food. Employees were lauded for their pursuit of both perfection and cleanliness. One employee was even interviewed to fully explain her commitment to be the best dishwasher in the food business. OK, now I had to give this place a go. Frankly, it all sounded a bit too good to be true.  

I guess this sign is appropriate.  A “trainload” of grub is served here each day.

All You Can Eat for $5??? Sure seems like the bargain of the century.

Others obviously agree … the line stretched outside the door on this early Tuesday afternoon. It was a rather motley looking crew — the clientele and the staff. That may have been my first warning sign. The line did move along at a brisk pace and I was certainly happy for that. Yes, I was one hungry beast!

My platter (pictured above) — well, at least the first go-around. BBQ chicken, green beans, stewed squash, and carrot raisin salad. I usually love them all — so I was anticipating a solid mid-day feed. The BBQ sauce slathered on the chicken breast was indeed very good. Both sweet and peppery. But the white meat inside was woefully overcooked … almost to the point of dry petrification. The green beans were just fine – no complaints here. However, I must add that the squash was extremely bland and the carrot raisin salad just a touch warm and watery.

Undeterred, I shoved off for my second run at the steam table. Sadly, similar results were acheived. This bowl of cabbage (above) pretty much summed up the day. Looked good, tasted flat. C’mon, folks — how about a little salt? Maybe some fatback? A sprinkle of black pepper? A splash of hot sauce? Little touches mean a lot and they were consistently missing. My table was dirty. The server seemed bothered. It took a while just to get a few napkins delivered to my table. The sweet potatoes were overly candied into a gloppy, gooey mess. Just gross. The rutabagas (yes, they actually had rutabagas!) were a welcome sight, but not the best I’ve ever had. A little dry … perhaps canned and re-heated???  

Well, I thought, at least there will be some decent dessert choices. Always seem to be a good dessert bars at places like this. But nope, foiled again. The pies were obviously mass produced, Sysco-style productions. As I walked down the line I was greeted by dry, pre-baked cookies, a couple brightly colored Jellos, a chafing dish swimming with canned peaches in heavy syrup. Hardly Southern fresh, Mr. Barnhill. Shame on you!

You may have fooled me once, Mr. B.

But never again, sir. Never again.

Stan Ridgeway Still Shines on “Neon Mirage”

25 Jul

I have always loved and promoted the music of Stan Ridgeway — from his IRS years with Wall of Voodoo to his countless solo and soundtrack recordings. It’s pretty hard to believe it’s been about 30 years since “Mexican Radio” first hit the airwaves. And judging from his latest CD “Neon Mirage,” Stan still has the knack for strong storytelling framed by atmospheric sonic imagery.

“Big Green Tree” opens this effort in winning fashion. Strumming acoustic guitars and a haunting blues harp are followed by a wistful Ridgeway vocal. It’s tone is vaguely reminiscent of a big screen Western. All in all a fine opening track.

“This Town Called Fate” is more familiar ground for Stan. It offers up a chugging “Camouflage” beat accented by big Marlboro man guitars. “Desert of Dreams” sports a soft Bossa Nova sound that would make Stan Getz proud. “Turn a Blind Eye” is a bit darker — almost Tom Waits’ dark. Good though … really good. It’s one of the CD’s highlights, thanks in large part to the precise interplay between a wispy flute and a honking tenor sax.     

“Flag Up on a Pole” is another standout cut. I really dig the funky reggae beat and scratchy guitar riff that pervades this track. It is further accented by a light, Doors-like organ and Ridgeway’s bold, echo-enriched blowing. “Scavenger Blues” sounds like a pure Chicago blues. Tasty rhumba drum notes and a searing electric Otis Rush-style guitar solo dig deep with truly satisfying results.

The CD closes with an instrumental (title track “Neon Mirage”) that could easily be claimed by both surf guitar and spy soundtrack afficianados. It’s a fitting way to wrap up another fine effort from an unheralded master of his craft. Let’s just hope that Stan Ridgeway continues to “do that voodoo that he do so well.”      

Former Wall of Voodoo frontman is flanked by Dave Alvin,
Pietra Wexstun, Ralph Carney, Rick King and the late Amy Farris

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — “You never really have a choice about the tone and subject matter of the records you make,” confides veteran L.A. singer-songwriter Stan Ridgway about his new album, Neon Mirage. “At least I don’t. They’re obsessions, really. Things happen, good and bad. And for most people, the passing of a parent or a close friend has an impact. It’s really about the music, and how it heals the mind. The records I grew up with still inform me, and the best were like an inner journey — mixing up blues, jazz, pop and country to make something fresh and, in the end, positive. But you can’t ignore the darker side of things, either.”

Stan Ridgway’s Neon Mirage, due for August 24, 2010 release, is arguably the most emotionally revealing, musically far-ranging — dare we say mature? — album of the L.A. singer-songwriter’s accomplished career. Yet it’s also a project whose troubled circumstances might tempt Stan to paraphrase John Lennon’s familiar wisdom: Life is what happens when you’re busy making another album.

Indeed, in many ways Neon Mirage can’t help but feel like an elegy to the colleague and family Stan lost in the midst of writing and recording its dozen, typically eclectic songs: gifted Texas-born violinist/session player Amy Farris; a beloved uncle; and the man who helped forge the very foundations of Ridgway’s unique outlook on life and music, his own father. “Events like that can’t help but have an impact on the music you’re making at the time,” Stan admits. “You’d be lying to yourself — and your listeners — if you thought otherwise.”

Ridgway quickly sets the album’s tone with a warm, accomplished recasting of “Big Green Tree” from Black Diamond (his forceful 1996 debut as an independent) produced by Dave Alvin. The L.A. roots rock legend reinvents it here in a gentler, more hopeful ethos around Ridgway and his longtime keyboardist/collaborator Pietra Wexstun, with Brett Simmons on upright bass and Amy Farris, then a member of Alvin’s own Guilty Women ensemble, on violin. Alvin had heard Stan perform the song solo at a special show for mutual friend and fellow songwriting legend Peter Case, and early sessions also yielded Neon Mirage’s memorable, Alvin-produced cover of Bob Dylan’s elegy to his own fallen hero, “Lenny Bruce.”

Ridgeway’s biggest hit with Wall of Voodoo was “Mexican Radio”

It’s an album in which Ridgway’s familiar wise-guy wit and cinematic lyricism are further tempered by an ever-inquisitive mindset that ranges from the haunting, candid introspection of “Behind the Mask” to an effusive, wistful tribute to lost friends and the Nashville of record producer Owen Bradley, “Wandering Star.” Elsewhere, Neon Mirage centers around more impressionistic takes on the toll patriotism extracts from its warriors (“Flag Up On a Pole”), the reality of being closer to the end of life’s rich pageant than its beginning (“Halfway There”) and the human propensity for myopia in the face of looming catastrophe (“Turn a Blind a Eye”).

Yet, as the foreboding and darkly loping guitar lines of “This Town Called Fate” and the album’s infectious instrumental title track attest, Ridgway’s new songs are also graced by the inventive musicality and unique viewpoint his fans have become well acquainted with since his early days as the driving force behind L.A.’s favorite ’80s experimentalists, Wall of Voodoo. But while the album’s expressive baritone and deft harmonica flourishes are instantly familiar, Stan employs them here on an ever-restless musical odyssey. Ridgway expands an already impressive musical palette via Wexstun’s always intriguing keyboard melodies and textures, the masterful sax, flute and woodwind work of Ralph Carney, the deft acoustic and electric guitar lines of longtime band mate Rick King and the rich symphonic string orchestrations of Amy Farris.

“I’ve probably confused people with my music, my choices, the albums and the changes in direction from year to year,” Ridgway admits. “But I can’t help it. That term ‘eclectic’ fits me perfectly and there are just too many musical styles and songwriters and singers I enjoy to just involve myself in only one type of music. I try to bring all the things I love into the sound. There’s a weird old American jukebox in my head and it still plays everything that’s ever got under my skin.”

Stan is quick to note where his often-mischievous musical curiosity came from: “Your parents’ record collection can be a big influence growing up. Something you thought was corny has a way of hangin’ on if it’s good to begin with. My dad was a big fan of country & western music, comedy records, hi-fi playboy stereo lounge stuff. Hank Williams, Dean Martin, Ernest Tubb, Sinatra, Johnny Cash of course, Allan Sherman, Charlie Rich, Patsy Cline, and Marty Robbins — all of the great originals. I learned to love the singing, the stories, and even when my tastes in music grew far too weird for my dad, we could still come together on those old records we loved and listened to together. The old western myths of heroes and villains and storytelling of Marty Robbins’ Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs was an important one. And I never would have thought of covering ‘Ring of Fire’ with Wall of Voodoo without my dad’s influence in the beginning.”

Ridgway also credits his father with informing much of the wry personal/musical viewpoint that’s always been central to his songwriting. “A sense of humor is important in handling the disappointments in life,” Stan notes. “My father taught me that, too. Along with a strong work ethic. A certain type of ‘black humor’ helps put a light on the darker realities of living and let’s you get above them by making a joke about it. But it wasn’t a cynic’s view, more of a frustrated romantic’s perspective over a developed sarcasm about the way things really are and not how they seem to appear.”

Stan explains: “In the last few years in his 80s, he always knew my mother and all of us right up until the end. But memory could sometimes be sketchy for Dad. Even so, he never lost who he was or his love, loyalty and dedication to family and working hard in life to achieve results. Or the hard won values of his generation and what they’d sacrificed to achieve for a greater good. All the great adventures he’d had, the global travel and work, the grand victories he’d experienced along the way were never lost to him. And he recalled them all in great detail with pride and a singular sense of humor. And us there with him.” Ridgway’s father passed in December 2009.

But while Ridgway had long girded himself for his father’s passing, he admits the suicidal death of brilliant violinist Amy Farris in the midst of Neon Mirage’s sessions felt “abrupt and brutal.” When Amy phoned him to cancel an upcoming appearance with his band because she wasn’t feeling well, Ridgway assured her it was no problem, saying, “‘health is everything.’ But that weekend she took her life,” he recalls sadly. “Possibly even the night we were on stage at McCabe’s. Dave (Alvin) called me Monday morning with the news and I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. But mental illness and depression are like any other illness, and Amy struggled from childhood with them.”

“Drive, She Said” was perhaps Stan’s biggest solo hit

Despite the troubled times it was recorded in, Ridgway insists Neon Mirage represents something even more personal than the sum of its songs to him. “It’s as much a journey as a destination,” Stan says of his music. “If I don’t try and create something of my own, I just feel that I’m hangin’ on a corner waiting for someone to tell me what to think and do. It’s a mad society. But the best therapy for me is always creativity and invention. And a dedication to the people and things you love. Most people live their lives upside down and backwards, only jumping in when the consensus says it’s safe. That’s just human nature — who doesn’t want to be safe? But is that really possible?”

“Camouflage” is another memorable cut from Ridgeway

Lunch at Delish’s Desserts – Mobile, AL

23 Jul

I happened to be motoring around Midtown Mobile between appointments earlier this week. I was just starting to think about lunch when I spotted Delish’s Dessert’s on Upham Street.  I’d never really heard anything about the place, but an inner voice beckoned me to pull in anyway for a quick “look-see.”

This (above) is the A-Frame that truly grabbed my attention. A bakery also offering traditional “meat and three” plate lunches??? Hmmmm, I thought … very intriguing! The price ($7.98 including iced tea) was right, so I quickly ducked into the cool, white lace-curtained dining room. Check that — let’s call it a tea room. It had that kind of homey, Grandma’s place vibe going on.

The aroma eminating from behind the front counter was quite appetizing. So was the glass dessert case filled with fresh baked cookies, lemon bars, and heaping cake squares of various colors and flavors. And the vision of two plump black ladies working hard in the kitchen proved to be yet another welcome beacon.  

Trust me, people. It tasted a lot better than it looks.

My lunch special, served in a sturdy styrofoam box, was a weighty thing of joy. Homemade meatloaf and “smashed potatoes” bathing in a good (not gummy) brown gravy, earthy field peas, a boxy chunk of yellow cornbread, and a generous portion of mayo-soaked Waldorf Salad. Leave it to us Southerners to take something healthy like chopped apples and grated carrots and then drown them all in some fatty white goop. Hey, don’t get me wrong! I can truly appreciate a well-made Waldorf Salad, but a little bit goes a long way — especially on a steamy summer’s afternoon. The meatloaf and chunky taters were the obvious stars of this shindig … or at least I thought so. That all changed when I took a closer gander at the dessert case.  

What you see above is, simply put, the cake that dreams are made of. This glistening beauty is a glorious slab of Delish’s Mandarin Orange Cake. The magical creation was the featured dessert this day and I promptly caved into temptation. My personal slice of heaven proved to be moist and as light as a poofy little cloud. I suspect Cool Whip was somehow involved in the making of the mini orange-flecked icing. The taste made me think of pineapple-riddled Hummingbird Cake — or perhaps a fluffy homemade Angel Food cake topped with a mountain of rich whipped cream. It was easily one of the best things I ate all week.

My first visit to Delish’s Desserts was a very pleasant surprise.

And, oh yes, I will return for seconds!

Delish’s Desserts

23 Upham Street, Mobile, AL 36607

251 473 6115

Grading The Food Network Stars

20 Jul
I’m gonna do this very quickly — call it a “gut” reaction:

So let’s hear it, folks. I want your own ratings on this.

Who’s first???

“Black Sabbath” Exposes the Musical Connection between Black and Jewish Cultures

17 Jul

What a fascinating concept! I certainly give these guys an A+ for creativity. And you know what? They somehow manage to pull it all off. This is a really fun, well-researched collection of Jewish songs (some traditional, some more obscure) performed by some of the biggest African-American artists in the history of popular music. Nina Simone, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, and The Temptations all make appearances — alongside lesser known entertainers such as Libby Holman, Jimmy Scott, Malena Shaw (who performed the ’60s classic “California Soul”), and Slim Gaillard of “Slim and Slam” duo fame.

Gaillard’s “Dunkin’ Bagel” is a highlight and immensely catchy. Slim was known for his silly scat numbers and often used food as his lyrical inspiration. Calloway’s “Utt Da Zay” is another winning contribution to this recording. The track starts slow, but really swings. I also found The Temptations’ “Fiddler on the Roof Medley” and Aretha’s “Swannee” (a 1920 hit for the legendary Al Jolson) to be both eye-opening and ear pleasing. The “Theme from “Exodus” has always been a favorite melody of mine. Jimmy Scott gives it the good old slow burn treatment. And I must admit to renewed respect for Lena Horne’s vocal chops after hearing her passionate demand for social justice simply entitled, “Now!”

And please remember, you don’t have to be Jewish or African-American to enjoy this CD. “Oy Vey, y’all!”


CD compilation with deluxe booklet to be released by the Idelsohn Society on September 14; features Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Scott, Cannonball Adderly, Nina Simone, the Temptations and more

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Black Sabbath: The Secret History of Black-Jewish Relations is the first CD compilation to showcase legendary African-American artists covering Jewish songs. Focusing on the 1930s through the 1960s, it uses popular music to shed light on the historical, political, spiritual, economic, and cultural connections between African Americans and Jewish Americans. Featuring Aretha Franklin, Lena Horne, Cab Calloway, and many others, Black Sabbath explores the myriad ways that Jews and African-Americans have coalesced and clashed, struggled against each other and struggled alongside each other. This is the soundtrack to a rarely told American story. The CD, produced by the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation ( is set for September 14, 2010 release.

This is the first attempt to gather the U.S. history of Black–Jewish relations into a selective pop musical guide. The relationship between African Americans and Jewish Americans has long been a reliable subject of rigorous attention. Books and articles focusing on the musical landscapes shared by Blacks and Jews have been equally numerous, indeed most general histories of American Popular Music even turn on the synergies of Black-Jewish creativity, influence, and exchange, be it African-American spirituals, Tin Pan Alley, Klezmer, the Yiddish theater, jazz or R&B.

Yet for all this attention there has yet to be a one-stop musical source of evidence and exploration, a single CD release that succinctly and selectively gathers together some of the key songs that speak to the vibrant and often dazzling musical back-and-forth between the two communities. The Black Sabbath collection samples a century’s worth of extraordinary and fascinating musical performance that finds African-Americans performing Jewish music and appealing to Jewish audiences.

After hearing the compilation, legendary jazz singer Jimmy Scott, whose version of “Exodus” is featured, had this to say: “”A wonderful musical composition by our Isrealite brotherhood. Well done and all that jazz!”

The CD moves from early black performers like Slim Galliard singing about bagels gefilte fish, and pickled herring (in a self-penned song) and Cab Calloway mixing Yiddish into his hepcat dictionary of jive to Billie Holiday singing “My Yiddishe Momme” and Aretha Franklin doing a ’60s take on the early blackface hit for Al Jolson, “Swanee.” Indeed, while much scholarly and media ink has been devoted to the Jewish attraction to Black music, this anthology — while surely demonstrating that — focuses instead on the long history of African-American interest in Jewish musical practice, performance, and composition.

The Idelsohn Society was so inspired and astonished by the Johnny Mathis version of “Kol Nidre” that they tracked the crooner down and interviewed him about his motivations for recording one of the most beautiful and sacred pieces of the Jewish canon.

“When I was growing up in San Francisco as a teenager, I would visit temple with some of my Jewish friends and I loved to listen to the cantors,” says Johnny Mathis, whose version of “Kol Nidre” is featured on the compilation. “They helped me learn these songs long before I recorded them.” Paul Robeson, no stranger to either repertoire, put it this way: “If it had been true that the Jewish people, like so many other national groups for whom I have sung, have warmly understood the loved songs of my people, it has also been true that Negro audiences have been moved by the songs of the Jewish people.”

About the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation

The Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation is a critically acclaimed all-volunteer non-profit organization. They are a small but dedicated team from the music industry and academia who passionately believe Jewish history is best told by the music we have loved and lost. In order to incite a new conversation about the present, we must begin by listening anew to the past.

They do this in a number of ways:

–Re-releasing lost classics like Mazeltov Mis Amigos, and compilations like Jewface
–Filming the story of every veteran Jewish musician they can find across the country to build a digitally-based archive of the music and the artists who created it in order to preserve their legacy for future generations
–Curating innovative museum exhibits that showcase the stories behind the music, like “Jews on Vinyl,” which is currently travelling the nation
–Creating concert showcases like “Mazeltov Mis Amigos” at Lincoln Center and, coming this August, the “Jews on Vinyl Revue” at the Skirball Cultural Center

All of this work is driven by the passion and energies of volunteer supporters and donors across the country who share the belief that music creates conversations otherwise impossible in daily life. Our work has lifted the past into the present, from the pages of the New York Times, to the NPR airwaves, to the stage of Lincoln Center. You can join the Idelsohn Society in their mission by visiting them at .

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Former Mavericks’ Frontman Raul Malo releases “Sinners & Saints” Solo CD

17 Jul

From the plaintive opening wail of a mariachi’s horn, to the lonesome twang of the Duane Eddy-style guitar, to the bouncing echo of a vintage Tex-Mex organ, you know this is going to be a very interesting ride. The title track “Sinners & Saints” sets the tone for what proves to be a very ambitious solo effort from former Mavericks’ leader, Raul Malo. We all have long known that Malo can flat out sing. His voice conjures up a haunting “Roy Orbison heads South of the Border” sound. Raul has frequently been stylistically compared to the likes of Orbison, Marty Robbins and Chris Isaak. Yet he has often worked within the contraints of Nashville’s major record label system.

This new Concord release granted Raul the freedom to experiment with a variety of musical styles. His voice is still always at the forefront — a soaring, operatic instrument that has become a very potent and recognizable musical weapon. In this effort you will be treated to bluesy numbers, Tex-Mex rockers a la Doug Sahm, accordian driven party tracks, country weepers, and traditional Latin tunes inspired by Malo’s childhood in the Cuban neighborhoods of South Florida. The wah-wah laced “Staying Here,” one of my favorite cuts on the new record, sounds like a long-lost Jimmy Webb ballad that could have been penned for a fresh-scrubbed Glen Campbell in the mid-1960’s.  

This satisfying collection of recordings immediately grabs your attention like a fiery hot salsa rojo. And repeated listens will only deepen your appetite for Malo’s spicy musical tastes and the magnificent pipes with which the Saints have blessed him — and us.  


New album for Fantasy Records/Concord Music Group recorded in Nashville and Austin; guests include Augie Meyers, Shawn Sahm, Michael Guerra and The Trishas

AUSTIN, Texas — Self-produced in his home studio, Sinners & Saints is the most intimate, honest and complex album Raul Malo has made in an already distinguished career. One hears in it a lifetime’s journey, from the singer-songwriter’s youth in Cuban neighborhoods of Miami through his years as one of the most intriguing talents in the Americana scene. The album is set for September 28, 2010 release on Fantasy Records/Concord Music Group. Sinners & Saints follows 2009’s critically acclaimed album Lucky One, Malo’s Fantasy debut.

Rooted in Malo’s lifelong connection to Latin music but infused with his wide-ranging love of country, blues, jazz and vintage rock ’n’ roll, Sinners & Saints combines sonic ingenuity with emotional sincerity.

Entertainment Weekly stated, “Malo is one of those rare singers who transcend the mundane with the sheer operatic sweep of his marvelous instrument. He’s among the last of a breed: a country stylist with finesse and brawn in equal measure, turning his laments into bittersweet valentines.”

In a departure from his past albums, Malo took his tracks from his home studio in Nashville to Austin, where an incredible musical cross-pollination took place. Malo has spent much time playing in Texas with the Lone Star State’s wealth of legendary musicians. He entered longtime friend Ray Benson’s Bismeaux Studios and finished the album with the help of Sir Douglas Quintet and Texas Tornado veteran Augie Meyers on the Vox Continental organ and, on the song “Superstar,” guitarist Shawn Sahm, Sir Douglas’ son. The Trishas (Savannah Welch, Kelley Mickwee, Liz Foster and Jamie Wilson) provided background vocals. And hotshot accordionist Michael Guerra, known for his work with the Tex-Mex Experience, lent further Tejas authenticity to the sound.

The title track opens the record, setting the album’s tone thematically and musically. From his boyhood and through his years of coming of age in Miami, Malo spent many nights in neighborhood music rooms listening to local artists perform their Flamenco zarzuelas. Malo wrote “Sinners & Saints” by conjuring up those nights in his head, and playing his electric guitar with a cross between Flamenco melodicism and retro surf-twang. “It has no chorus, no repeatable line,” he says, “And it’s long. Purposefully long.”

The second track, “Living for Today,” ventures into socio-political territory against an upbeat sound that includes chiming guitars, Meyers’ Vox organ and the Trishas’ backing vocals. In a musical space that includes the biting observations of Rodney Crowell, James McMurtry or Todd Snider, this song is a welcome addition. Speaking of Crowell, Malo provides a heart-felt reading of his modern-day standard “Til I Gain Control Again.”

The disc’s other songs are also full of special moments. In Austin Malo recorded an original song called “Superstar” with several pals from the Texas Tornados. That and several other tracks feature Guerra’s blazing Tex-Mex accordion, as in “San Antonio Baby.” In a more serious vein, Malo delivers the classic Spanish song “Sombras” in the stunning tenor voice that made him famous. He also offers an innovative cover of Los Lobos’ “Saint Behind the Glass,” whose rich mix of percussion, guitars and Mexican instruments will leave audiophiles deeply absorbed. The cryptic lyrics offer an unexpected finale to the album.

Malo & The Mavericks perform one of their Country hits

Raul Malo has seen and done a great deal in his career but Sinners & Saints demonstrates there is much more inside him. “This is the hardest I’ve ever worked on an album,” he says with a mixture of relief and pride. That includes the physical labor of confronting the studio alone day after day as well as the emotional courage to challenge his listeners and speak his mind. “This really is about me and my point of view. I realized that after I’d done it. It reflects really how I feel about a lot of things. That’s why this is as much of me as I’ve ever put on a record.”

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A Day Trip to Bay Minette, Alabama

10 Jul

Street’s Seafood Restaurant is apparently the place to go for good old home cooking in Bay Minette, AL ( That’s what I had learned in talking with Sara Godwin at nearby Faulkner State Community College. It’s always good to get some feedback from a local. And in this case, Sara did not steer me wrong.

The exterior at Street’s is nothing special at all, but the food inside these walls certainly is. I happened to stop in on a Friday … shortly before noon. The parking lot was already filling up – mostly with pickup trucks and company logo’ed vehicles of all shapes and sizes. That is always another good sign. Inside, the hustling female servers wore T-shirts stating, “If you miss us, you have wasted a trip.” Well, I was going to call their bluff this day.

Friday means a mess of fried whole catfish on the lunch buffet at Street’s. The buffet was large and in charge, that’s for darn sure. Lots of choices and everything looked fresh and homemade. TIP: Always try to hit lunch buffets early. The food will be at peak freshness and not so picked over. Further, the most popular items (and usually best tasting too) will likely still be there for your dining enjoyment.

The chicken pot pie at Street’s is obviously freshly made and totally satisfying. It is served up in large rectangular chafing dishes sporting a dense, golden brown crust. Cracking into the crust with the serving spoon, I exposed the glistening interior chock full of white chicken meat, sliced carrots, and tender green peas. I also made stops for some sweet BBQ beans, a creamy macaroni cheese riddled with chopped bacon (you heard right, bacon!), buttery green beans, and what turned out to be a very flavorful buttermilk cornbread muffin.

Street’s also has a very nice salad bar, although I am not so sure how much action it sees with the all the other tempting high-calorie options that are always available. The large group of 60-something men dining at the next table appeared to be regulars. I’m guessing they were retired because no one seemed in a big hurry to move on with his day. These were strong, salt of the earth, good old boys speaking in a deep Old South dialect that had this longtime Dixie resident struggling to follow the conversation. Eavesdropping? You bet! Yet I must admit that these gents were tossing in the “y’alls, fixins, and directlys” at such a clip that I had a hard time keeping up. “Doggone!”

The cole slaw at Street’s is also made fresh daily – always a welcome touch! 

Banana pudding is actually offered up two ways at Street’s. Now how is that for attention to detail? One variety is served cool with a whipped cream topping. The other is presented warm out of the oven with a glorious brown meringue topping. I am a lifelong member of the “Warm Nanner Puddin’ Society” and I was most certainly not disappointed here.  

Pineapple Upside Down Cake has always been one of my favorite desserts, so you can imagine my glee when I spied the moist squares like you see in the above image. Just the right size too — not too big, not too small. Plenty of carmelized pina. Gotta have the cherry too. Right? It was amazing with all the brown sugar, residual pineapple juice and melted butter being absorbed just below fruit level. Soooo good!  Street’s also makes a killer peach cobbler and I couldn’t resist having a little taste of that too. So many delights, so little time! The ownership at Street’s (a derivative of the last name Overstreet) also operates the popular Stagecoach Cafe in closeby Stockton, AL. Gotta give that a shot soon. Really good steaks, that’s what I hear.

Heading back home along southbound Highway 59/31, my eye caught the sign pictured above. Who knew the Bee Gees were now in the filling station business??? With a smile still on my face, I also noticed a makeshift boiled peanut stand in the gas station’s parking lot.

How can a motorist resist such a whimsical, homemade sign?  

Mel (Pastor Mel, to be exact) was not around when I first stopped in, but Mel’s mom was present and she turned out to be a very sweet lady indeed.  As you can see, free samples are offered. I tried the regular and Cajun boiled peanuts and found both to be masterfully prepared.

I decided to purchase a big bag of regular boiled peanuts. These were some seriously massive briny goobers! Batches are made fresh each morning with green peanuts grown right here in Baldwin County. How ’bout that?  

Look at the size of these monsters, grown locally at Fiddler’s Farm near Silverhill, Alabama (,_Alabama). Needless to say, they were amazing and quite warm to the touch. That is always a good sign. Get ’em warm, get ’em fresh. They will keep in the fridge for a few days, but they are never quite as good as they are right out of the cooking vessel.

The prices are fair and the proceeds go to church mission trips in Latin America. How is that for a true win-win proposition? They even have photo albums on display from previous mission trips. It becomes clear very quickly that these fine folks are doing God’s work — whether it’s in their peanut preparation or their efforts in the high hills of Guatemala.

Roasted peanuts are also offered. This is a good back-up plan for Yankees who have not developed an appreciation for the soft, salty boiled ground peas. I’ll stick with the boiled variety, myself. They are always a treat and especially welcome when they are crafted with such love and heavenly conviction. GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Mel’s Boiled Peanuts – (251) 455 7719

Shrek Peddles Vidalias to 50% Growth Spurt

3 Jul