My Top 10 Bites & Top 5 Sips from our 2012 Trip to the Island of Oahu, Hawaii

27 Dec

TOP TEN MEMORABLE BITES

Please keep in mind that this is in no way a complete list. Many delectable treats were devoured. And many refreshing beverages were consumed. Narrowing down the list to 10 food items and 5 drinks was decidedly difficult. Enjoying Hawaii’s delicious bounty was not. Special mention should go out to the Diamond Head Deli and Bakery.

bbscone

Everything we ate there was top shelf. That included their memorable ginger spiked grilled tuna steaks and the gargantuan (almost as big as Diamond Head) blueberry scones (seen above) they serve up each morning for breakfast. If I could move any restaurant we visited on Oahu back to the mainland with me, the Diamond Head would probably be the one.

1) FRIED BANANAS @ KAHUKU LAND FARMS, KAHUKU (NORTH SHORE)
fried banana
2) SPAM MUSUBI (“SPAM SUSHI”) @ CHING’S GROCERY, KULA
spamwich
3) GARLIC SHRIMP @ BIG WAVE SHRIMP, HALEIWA
garlic shrimp
4) MALASADAS @ LEONARD’S BAKERY (NEAR DIAMOND HEAD)
malasada
5) MACADAMIA PINK SNAPPER @ BLUE WATER SHRIMP
bluewater
6) PORK DUMPLINGS @ LEGEND SEAFOOD, HONOLULU
dumplings
7) SWEET PINEAPPLE BREAD, YUMMY LAND BAKERY, KALIHI
sweet roll
8) BOWL AT CRISPY GRINDZ FOOD TRUCK (NORTH SHORE)
acai bowl
9) HAUPIA (COCONUT PUDDING) ICE CREAM @ HU LA LA’S
hu la
10) HAWAIIAN PIZZA (KALUA PORK & PINEAPPLE) @ DUKE’S WAIKIKI
hawaii pizza

TOP FIVE SIPS

1) MAI TAI @ ROYAL HAWAIIAN RESORT
mai
2) KONA COFFEE @ HONOLULU COFFEE COMPANY
newlogo
3) BIG WAVE GOLDEN ALE FROM KONA BREWERY
big wave close
4) PASSION FRUIT LILIKOI PUNCH @ LA MARIANA TIKI BAR
fruit
5) HAWAIIAN SUN PASS-O-GUAVA NECTAR DRINK
pass o

The Bluegill’s “Flaming Oysters” – Easily One of Mobile’s Best Bites

10 Nov

The causeway over the Mobile Bay has many dining options. All of them focusing on seafood. One of our favorites is the Bluegill Restaurant. They have been around since 1958, although they have had a few different owners over that long period of time. The Bluegill is now operated by the Cooper Restaurant Group … the same folks who run the wildly successful Felix’s Fish Camp (also on the causeway) and Mobile’s own version of Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

The Coopers have done a fine job in retaining much of the Bluegill’s original rustic charm. The whimsical exterior is adorned with antique advertising and humorous declarations such as “No Curb Service Since 1958!” Yes, they have long been known for their fried, locally sourced oysters, but there is a relatively new menu item that has totally captured our fancy.

The Fish Tacos are good, but our mind was on something else

You can dine inside or out at the Bluegill. I would encourage you to sit outside whenever the weather allows. Such a relaxing atmosphere overlooking the bay and watching the occasional boat (or gator) chug by. The open air deck is pretty much fully covered and clear plastic flaps can be lowered if rains or windy conditions should arise. They frequently feature live local entertainment on the deck here. That only adds to the whole “Margaritaville” vibe. A Kenny Chesney tune played over the sound system as I was being seated this late Friday morning. My server (a young man named Buck) did a great job of taking care of me. Fast, friendly service has long been a trademark of all the Cooper-owned restaurants here in the Mobile Bay area.

Please DO NOT make the mistake of not ordering the Flaming Oysters at the Bluegill. They have only been offered for a short time, but they have quickly earned (and rightfully so) a large and loyal following. I crave them — and apparenty I’m not the only one. I’ve heard that someone on the inside at Cooper Restaurants was a longtime fan of Drago’s in New Orleans. That famed eatery has long been known as THE place to get your flame grilled oyster fix in NOLA. I have dined there and can attest to its glory. Magnificent. The Cooper’s recipe is equally sublime — matching Drago’s slurp for slurp.

An order of a full dozen is just about right for me. Each half shell comes complete with fresh local oyster, butter, garlic, and lots of Parmesan cheese. They are placed over an open flame, which can viewed from the inside dining room. A bit of show biz never hurts and the Bluegill gets that. And just when you think this recipe can’t be topped, they go and throw in a couple of large pieces of flame kissed, authentic New Orleans-style Po-Boy bread. It’s legit bread, for sure — straight from some Big Easy bakery. You’ll need it to sop up all the remaining butter and garlic mixture once your oysters are history. Trust me, leftovers don’t happen here.

This makes sense, because the Flaming Oysters are truly UNREAL!

Bluegill Restaurant – 3775 Battleship Parkway, Spanish Fort, AL 36527

(251) 625-1998; www.bluegillrestaurant.com

“Having Fun At The Bluegill!”

The Pumpkin Milkshake is Smashing at Cammie’s Old Dutch Ice Cream

6 Nov

Cammie’s is a pretty cool spot (pun totally intended). Every town should have a little scoop shop like this one. Looks a bit like an old filling station from the outside. They make their own ice cream too. Cammie’s doesn’t offer a gazillion flavors — this place is more about quality, not quantity. That being said, the flavors they do offer change on a semi-regular basis and do provide local ice cream junkies like yours truly with plenty of choices – both traditional and daring.

Seasonal flavors  are always popular here. And their Pumpkin milkshake, sold only during the Fall months, is a personal favorite of mine. Now, Chick Fil A has carved out a nice little niche with their specialty shakes. Their Peppermint, Banana Pudding, and Peach shakes are always welcome in my belly. But most fast food shakes tend to leave me cold. And I do mean that in a bad way. They are often far too sweet, artificially colored, and they taste, well, very unnatural. Cammie’s Pumpkin shake is exactly the opposite — and I would expect nothing less from them. Let’s just be thankful they don’t offer a Candy Corn shake (gross!).

The Pumpkin shake (above) I sucked down today was not too sweet. It wasn’t a hideous bright orange color either. You might say it had something of a light tan/peachy hue. The obviously natural pumpkin flavor was enhanced with the addition of nutmeg and perhaps a few other seasonal spices.  It was a special mid-afternoon treat that I attempted to savor. The problem was it was simply too good. And it was gone in a flash.

The atmosphere at Cammie’s is quaint — sort of a Pennsylvania Dutch theme. Makes sense given the name. They were obviously going for a bit of a retro vibe inside. That meshes perfectly with the whole “making our own ice cream in small batches” theme.

Tips??? Try the Creole Praline and the Rum Raisin

The weather here in Mobile is just starting to turn a little more Winter-like and I’ll be returning to Cammie’s before too long. Not necessarily for a holiday-themed (egg nog?) shake — but more likely for a crunchy cone topped off with a heaping scoop of Cammie’s fine Coconut ice cream. Come to think of it, I guess that is holiday-themed — Caribbean holiday, that is. My kind of vacation … even if it only lasts a few brief yet glorious moments.

And I’ll get 50 cents off next time too — smashing, baby!

Cammie’s Old Dutch Ice Cream – 2511 Old Shell Road, Mobile, AL 36607

(251) 471-1710; http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cammies-Old-Dutch-Ice-Cream-Shoppe/109587249076821

“YAK – The Kathmandu Kitchen” Is Second to Naan

27 Oct

You don’t expect to find Shangri La wedged between a package store and a nail salon in a suburban strip mall. But then again, you don’t expect to find authentic Nepali Indian cuisine in Mobile, AL. Yep, life is full of surprises. And this was a really pleasant one. I must confess that I’ve never traveled to Nepal or hiked the Himalayas. Never been to India either. I did grow up just outside of Washington, DC — a truly international city. My culinary curiousity allowed me to explore many exotic flavors and I came to appreciate good Indian and Middle Eastern foods.  

YAK’s All-You-Can-Eat Lunch Buffet is a steal at just $9.95

The interior at Yak is tidy and sun-drenched. They have only been open about 3 months, so it still has that new feel about it. I arrived right as they opened at 11 a.m. on a Friday — this explains the dining room being empty when the above image was captured on my phone. Apologies for the picture quality, friends. I often go in “stealth” when on assignment. This was one of those times.

The menu is extensive — the buffet makes for a fine introduction

One of the many stars of the buffet was the Chicken Tikka Masala, described as grilled chicken breast chunks in a tomato and onion cream sauce. This dish is extremely popular in the UK — dating back to India’s many years under British rule. Yak’s Tikka Masala is bright orange in color (as you can see above). The darker meat dish to the left is Lamb Roganjosh, which consists of boneless “cubes” of tender lamb simmered with yogurt and tomatoes. The Chicken Curry was equally delicious and its sauce was a perfect compliment for the famous Tandoori bread known as “Naan.” It is essentially a white flour bread cooked in a traditional Indian clay oven.   

The brilliant red object in the center of the above photo is Chicken Tandoori. The dish itself has almost become a bit cliche — it appears on almost every Indian buffet on the planet. It is made with bone-in chicken parts marinated with yogurt, herbs, and spices … and then cooked in the aforementioned clay oven. Tandoori Chicken is eye-catching, no question. Yet it is often dry and less flavorful than it looks. That, thankfully, is not the case at Yak. Their version is suitably moist and practically singing with deep, smokey flavor. Yak was impressing me at every turn and a work day lunch was being transformed into a magical, mystical experience.  

Even the vegetarian offerings (like the dish seen above) were mind-bending trips into an exotic land of flavors hereto unknown to Mobile, Alabama. Was this all a dream? Did they slip something into my iced water? Was the sitar-driven music filling the dining room somehow hynotizing me and/or my taste buds? It was all amazingly good. Almost too good to be true. My mind groped for a word that might describe my state of nirvana. Astonishing! That was it — I was astonished.

Even the desserts were first rate. This included the incredible warm Indian Carrot Pudding (aka Gajar Halwa) and a cool, pleasantly soupy Rice Pudding laced with shredded coconut. I had never enjoyed Gajar Halwa before. Yet I was immediately smitten. Call me weird, but have always loved Carrot Raisin Salad. It’s something of a Church Supper staple. So if you’re with me, then continue to follow along. Others may skip ahead to the next paragraph. OK. Imagine a good Carrot Raisin Salad — only served warm — without the raisins — and the mayo and shredded pineapple replaced with ground nuts, maybe a hint of cardamom, and sweetened condensed milk. Sounds a bit strange, I know. But it was really, really good – at least to me. Try it and let me know what you think.

Once again, I must apologize for the pictures. The muddled white mess seen above is the Coconut Rice Pudding we touted earlier. I had to share the picture to show just how soupy a consistency it presented. The long strands of coconut were a welcome surprise … as was the “just right” cool temperature of the dish. It was ideal for extinguishing some of the overall spiciness of my main course – or should I say courses. Yes, I did make several trips to the buffet line. Tried pretty much everything. It was all superb. Collectively, it was pretty much one of the finest meals I have enjoyed in my nearly 4 years in Lower Alabama. Go figure, right? High praise, for sure. But much deserved. You really must try this place. You can expect to see me here often. Yeah, I know it ain’t exactly your typical Dixie Dining joint. But I would call it Indian Comfort Food — pretty doggone healthy too — and medicine for the soul.  

Had I finally reached the summit? It sure tasted like it, folks!

YAK  The Kathmandu Kitchen – 3210 Dauphin Street, Mobile, AL 36606

(251) 287-0115; http://www.facebook.com/IndianNepaliRestaurant

Momma’s Mojo Brings Miami Spice to West Mobile, Alabama

25 Oct

West Mobile (and I do mean WEST) is not the place you’d expect to find a Cuban cafe. Especially one offering a great Pressed Cuban Sandwich or a shot of authentic Cubano coffee. Yet that is exactly what you will find when you make the drive out Cottage Hill Road to Momma’s Mojo Cafe & Deli.

As you can see by the above banner, Momma’s Mojo is not exactly a secret any more. It is slowly gaining a reputation for its Cuban-style Roast Pork, Mojo Grilled Chicken, Sweet Plantains, Flan, Tres Leches cake, and more. But there are many Mobile area foodies who have yet to sample the fine exotic foods offered here. It’s not necessarily due to a lack of interest. The location is not exactly on the beaten path. Heck, for folks like me who reside on the Eastern Shore of the Mobile Bay, it’s almost in Mississippi, for crying out loud. But the positive buzz kept on coming my way, so I felt compelled to checking it out.

It’s a small, cozy joint — and very clean. That is alway’s a plus. I was greeted with a smile and a complimentary shot of strong, sweet Cubano java. Nice! Imagine a slug of dark coffee liqueur (without the alcohol, of course) and that will give you the general idea. The interior decor here is bright and cheery. That’s pretty much what you expect, right? There is even a domino table out front, so the Little Havana vibe can’t help but grab hold of you.

Cuban Coffee is strong and sweet — it’ll give you a serious JOLT!

I was told that the traditional Cuban Sandwich was the house specialty, so that’s where I started. The lunch platter comes with sweet fried plantains, a unique dipping sauce, a dill pickle, and a handful of pork rinds. The sandwich, which just so happened to be amazing, was made with good bread, Boar’s Head brand ham, Swiss cheese, smokey house roasted pork, and a tangy mustard. The combination of flavors and textures immediately delivered me back to South Florida. Momma’s Mojo owner (America “Maggie” Lamorell) moved here from Miami and was determined to bring along the flavors of the city. She learned to cook with her Mom, hence the eatery’s name.

I love sweet plantains — and these babies were cooked just right

Fried pork rinds (or chicharrons) are a staple in South Florida and Cuba. Their addition here was a nice little touch. And little touches really do make a big difference. The folks at Momma’s Mojo are proud of their food and their native traditions. That comes shining thru like the bright Caribbean sun.

There’s really nothing else quite like this place in the Greater Mobile area. Business is chugging along OK, but Maggie tells me it could always be better. They are trying really hard and deserve our loyal patronage. There is even a Momma’s Mojo food truck making the rounds now. You can follow them on Facebook. Maybe this is a more convenient alternative for some people.

We love Cubano food and culture. And we really dig Momma’s Mojo. It’s the next best thing to a trip to Miami’s Little Havana.

Momma’s Mojo – 9211 Cottage Hill Road, Mobile, AL 36695

(251) 607-0442; www.mommasmojoal.com

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mommas-Mojo/235515533126713 

The Compleat Angler in Daphne, Alabama Has Snagged Us – Hook, Line and Sinker!

25 Oct

This relatively new restaurant has been a hit. And owner Bob Baumhower knows a few things about hits. As a former college and pro football player, Bob starred at the University of Alabama and with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. His coaches Paul “Bear” Bryant and Don Shula were both legendary characters. They taught Bob a lot about the game — and the game of life. Baumhower has taken that wisdom and work ethic and parlayed it into something of a restaurant empire here along the Central Gulf Coast.

Bob’s latest brand is called the Compleat Angler and it takes on something of an Ernest Hemingway vibe. Travelers motoring along Interstate 10 between Pensacola and New Orleans will want to make a pit stop here. Consider it a mini vacation. That’s how I feel each time I have dined here. The food is good — as is the service. The island atmosphere is relaxing and the views of the Mobile Bay are pretty hard to beat.  

Most of the seafood served here is fresh from the Gulf of Mexico. I ordered the Grilled Mahi Mahi with Black Beans, Coconut Rice and Stewed Okra & Tomatoes. The fish was doused with the “Stevie Nicks” sauce, which had a nice tangy, citrusy flavor.  The fish was expertly grilled and delivered a slightly smokey aftertaste. Really good — and yes, I would order it again without hesitation.  

Mahi Mahi, baby — so tasty they had to name it twice!

Black Beans topped with a generous dollop of Cilantro Lime cream

Okra is most often served fried. And I must admit I typically prefer it prepared in that fashion. But the Compleat Angler’s stewed okra and tomato combo was a welcome change of pace on this sunny Fall afternoon. The flavors do compliment each other quite nicely and the okra pods were not nearly as slimy as you might expect. Many people, especially Yankees, whine about okra’s slimyness factor. Not much we can do to change that. Coach Bryant would have likely told you to put your big boy britches on and give it a try. I did — and I really enjoyed it.

And don’t miss dessert at the Compleat Angler. The Key Lime Pie (shown above) is as good as any you’ll find in South Florida. The Ginger Snap crust makes it extra special. Can’t tell you how much I loved this pie. I don’t often eat dessert in the middle of the day, but I just couldn’t resist. And I’m pretty darn happy I didn’t.

If the pie doesn’t get your motor running, we suggest you order a big ole chunk of Rum Cay Cake. It won’t make you tipsy, but there is a good amount of rum in each portion served. It is a nutty treat that is further upgraded with the addition of a fruity (raspberry?) dipping sauce. It’s a thing of beauty to gaze at as well — just take a gander at the image above. Man, it was delicious — and a generous portion too. Ex-football stars tend to be big believers in generous portions. Makes sense, huh?

So if you’re traveling on vacation — or if you simply need a break from the every day routine — you’re invited to come aboard at the Compleat Angler.  We are hooked … and we think you will be too!

The Compleat Angler – 29249 US Highway 98, Daphne, AL 36526

(251) 621-1086; www.compleatanglergrille.com

Annie Mae Turnes Justice, the primary inspiration behind DixieDining.com, dies at age 101

26 Aug

“Living a century on Earth is pretty remarkable — even in this modern age of medical miracles. But Annie Mae was a truly remarkable lady in many ways. I may be more than a little biased, but I believe this with all my heart. Many people today measure a successful life in terms of fame and fortune. Sad, but true. I can honestly say that Annie Mae never got caught up in any of that. She lived a simple, graceful life — and always seemed more than content with life’s simpler pleasures. In her long lifetime, she rarely left her home state of Virginia. Here favorite place to be was at home — surrounded by her friends and family. She first worked at Tubize Artificial Silk Company and, later, along with her husband Phillip, ran Justice Grocery in Hopewell, VA. She preferred home cooked meals to ritzy restaurants. She loved farm markets and yard sales. She could cook up a mess of greens with the best of ‘em. Her crispy fried okra was an inspiration. Her red velvet cake and chess pie were other worldly. When I recently asked her to name her favorite food, she surprised me by saying: “Potatoes.” Think about it: “Potatoes!” Not steak. Not lobster. I think that says a lot. The woman lacked pretension of any kind.”

“Annie Mae was indeed a woman of simple needs and tastes. And she possessed the unique God-given gift of turning simple, everyday things into something rather exceptional. I always admired that trait in her. As she aged, the world around her became increasingly busy, materialistic, and complex. But Annie Mae chose to keep it simple. She never seemed to long for material things. Never appeared to worry about what she didn’t have. She was too busy being thankful for what she did have — and placing other people’s needs ahead of her own. Annie Mae was always a giver — not a taker. She was ever positive — rarely complaining. She gave enormous hugs — and had an unforgettable, infectious laugh. And she was always perfectly comfortable in her own skin. What a rare quality that is these days. I can only hope a little bit of that has rubbed off on me.”

“I recall visiting Annie Mae & Phillip during my college years. As soon as I pulled in their Petersburg driveway, Annie Mae was quickly out the door to the grocery store. She wanted to whip up something extra special. I told her that wouldn’t be necessary, but she wouldn’t hear it. So she was off in a flash. She backed her sedan out of the carport — and slammed right into the front of my car.  I was so mad at myself for not reminding her that my vehicle was parked there. Just hadn’t thought about it. Didn’t have time. And, of course, I was concerned that she might have hurt herself. But all she could talk about was how sorry SHE was — and how she still needed to get groceries. That story speaks volumes about Annie Mae’s outlook on life. It was NEVER about her — ALWAYS about someone else. But in living out her life in that fashion, she forged a lasting legacy of love that few can match.”

A picture of me & Granny – taken at her 100th birthday party 

“We were all so blessed to have had Annie Mae Turnes Justice in our lives. Her quiet, selfless, Christian way of moving through this world made a massive impression on me. We were separated my many miles in recent years, yet I always felt a special bond with that wonderful Southern lady I called “Granny Justice.” Or, sometimes, “Granny Mae.” She would often tell me: “You were always my boy.” It never failed to put a smile on my face. During our last family trip to visit Granny, we arrived at Imperial Plaza cradling white cardboard box lunches from Sally Bell’s Kitchen in Richmond, VA. And by Granny’s reaction, you would have thought we were toting jewel boxes. She made such a big fuss about how tasty everything was – and how nice it was to see us all. Her smile lit up the room. Meanwhile, our youngest son Travis was growing more anxious by the minute — stomping back and forth — constantly asking when we would be leaving. Eileen and I were so embarrassed. But Granny, true to form, was simply “tickled” and that uncomfortable feeling of embarrassment soon disappeared. She had worked her special magic once again.” 

“I know the final few months were very hard on her. A loss of independence and energy, no more cooking, bland hospital meals, a bad fall, and a broken hip. She slowly lost her healthy appetite for good food — and for life. She was ready to go. She said that more than once during our last phone conversation. The Lord knew this, sensed her pain, and promptly carried her to Glory. God, as she often reminded us, is SO good! In our time of sorrow, I take comfort in knowing that Granny is no longer suffering, she is in a far better place, she sees clearly, she walks without pain, and she is at last (after 26 long years) reunited with her beloved Phillip Hendry Justice. They have an awful lot of catching up to do. And lots fish to catch too. That was always their thing. Rest in Peace, my sweet Granny. I love you so much and feel blessed to have had you in my life for so many wonderful years. I will see you again on the other side — and I will be fully expecting one of your famous bear hugs.”

B.J. Thomas Gets 2-Disc Scepter Re-Issue Thanks to Real Gone Music

4 Jul

Texas native B. J . Thomas had a great set of pipes — that most of us can agree upon.  He had a tremendously rich voice and a powerful upper range. His career started as a country crooner, reached its zenith via the pop artistry of Bacharach and David, and then returned to country stardom with hits like “Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.” Yet I contend that his collaboration with producer Chips Moman, tunesmith Mark James, and his time spent in the American Recording Studio in Memphis yielded perhaps his most durable platters. All those singles were released on the Scepter label and all are thankfully included in this excellent new collection from Real Gone Music.

Elvis Presley struck vinyl gold at American — so did Neil Diamond. Chips Moman sure had the midas touch … that’s for certain. It helped having a guitar/sitar picker like Reggie Young, songwriters like Mark James and Spooner Oldham, and drummers like the mighty Gene Chrisman. After Thomas enjoyed some regional country success, the James’ composition “The Eyes of a New York Woman” really got the ball rolling for B.J. (charting #28 in 1968). That was soon followed by the classic “Hooked on a Feeling,” a James creation. “It’s Only Love” came next and crested at #45, although it deserved a much better fate. “Pass the Apple Eve” stalled out even further from the top of the charts and it seemed the run was just about over for Thomas.

Just as hope was fading, Burt Bacharach entered the picture and B.J. Thomas’ 1969 recording of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” became a certified worldwide smash.  “Everybody’s Out of Town” (1970) is vintage Bacharach-David and one of my personal favorites. Then came “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” another top ten hit — this one from the pens of the legendary Mann-Weill songwriting team. “Send My Picture to Scranton, PA” (1970) and “Long Ago Tomorrow” (1971) are two more Bacharach contributions not to be overlooked. And I still cannot believe that Mark James’ song “The Mask” did not fare better (it didn’t even chart — madness!).

Sure, some of the B-sides were clunkers. Shoot, some of the A-sides were too. But listening to them is half the fun with collections such as this. You’re not just enjoying a little music. You are listening to a talented artist trying to find his way. Or an singer attempting to live up to the promise of his previous smash. Or a genius producer, top notch session players, and a young vocalist creating a sound that remains branded in our collective mind some 4 decades later.   

From his 1966 recording of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” through his 1972 double-sided hit single “That’s What Friends Are For”/”Happier Than the Morning Sun,” B.J. Thomas enjoyed a string of hits rivaled by few artists of that time. And the fact that he did this on an indie label, Scepter, makes the achievement even more impressive. Various compilations of Thomas’ Scepter sides have come and gone. But Real Gone’s 44-track anthology is the first to offer A- and B-sides of every one of the artists’ Scepter singles, including his 19 hits. Many of the B-sides never appeared on albums. DJ/journalist Michael Ragogna wrote the notes, which feature quotes from Thomas.

Nashville’s Triple Threat Jerry Reed Enjoys New Life Thanks to Real Gone Music

26 May

JERRY REED

The Unbelievable Guitar & Voice of Jerry Reed

Nashville Underground

OK, folks. Let me begin by stating that this CD does not contain the radio hits “Amos Moses,’ “When You’re Hot You’re Hot,” “Ko-Ko Joe,” or “East Bound and Down.” So does this mean should immediately dismiss the new Jerry Reed release from Real Gone Music? Nope. Check that. Make it “Hell no!” Jerry Reed Hubbard was one talented cat, y’all. Master guitar picker. Cracker Jack sense of humor. Accomplished song writer. Starred in a few movies too (who can forget him as Burt Reynold’s sidekick in “Smokey and the Bandit”?).

Real Gone’s new CD covers 2 early Reed efforts (1967 & 1968) on the RCA label. RCA was riding high during those times – thanks in good measure to the production skills of legendary Chet Atkins and all the talented musicians and tunesmiths who called Nashville’s fabled RCA Studio B home. Reed spent some valuable time in that stable, but it soon became evident that this Georgia native had major star power.

Check out “Guitar Man” — you’ll dig it. Elvis did too. The King recorded it and it became a sizeable hit. Presley also tackled “U.S. Male,” another rockin’ track appearing on the original issue of “The Unbelievable Guitar and Voice of Jerry Reed.” Sure, a pretty wordy album title. But you must keep in mind that Jerry Reed was not exactly a man of few words. In fact, some of his recordings might even be called “Redneck Rap.” The old boy had a way with the King’s English, that’s for certain.

Reed’s nimble fingers get a 1:59 workout on his signature instrumental piece, “The Claw.” “Love Man” spotlight’s his undeniable Dixie-fried bravado, while a few Nashville Underground tracks like “A Thing Called Love” showcase Jerry’s softer side and actually tug at the heartstrings. Reed’s voice tended to take on a deeper tone when delivering this type of sentimental material. The song’s a keeper … as are cuts like “Fine on my Mind” and the raucous “Tupelo Mississippi Flash.” The latter tune is a fine example of Jerry Reed’s trademark sense of humor and gift of gab. Have a listen to this disc, hoss. We think it will, as Jerry used to say, “knock your hat in the creek.”

Two classic, late-‘60s albums from Jerry Reed, both of them never on CD before! The titles to these two records (his first two) really tell the tale; Jerry was an unbelievable guitarist and singer, and you can add songwriter to the list—at least Elvis thought so, as he covered both “Guitar Man” and “U.S. Male” from Unbelievable (and hired Jerry to play guitar on both)! Jerry returned the favor by writing an Elvis tribute song (“Tupelo Mississippi Flash”) on 1968’s Nashville Underground, which lives up to its title by presenting a revelatory blend of country, rock ‘n’ roll, folk, blue-eyed soul and even progressive pop.

Though Reed was a protégé of Chet Atkins, his eclectic taste and irrepressible personality—later on full display in the Smokey and the Bandit films—ensured that this record busted out of the countrypolitan mold that held sway in Nashville at the time. Both of these albums are must-listens for any alt-country and roots music fan, and Chris Morris contributes notes that place these two albums in context of Jerry’s incredible (and, to this day, underappreciated) career.

Featured Songs:

It Don’t Work That Way

Guitar Man

You’re Young and You’ll Forget

Woman Shy

I Feel for You

Take a Walk

Love Man

If I Promise

U.S. Male

Long Gone

If It Comes to That

The Claw

Remembering

A Thing Called Love

You Wouldn’t Know a Good Thing

Save Your Dreams

Almost Crazy

You’ve Been Cryin’ Again

Fine on My Mind

Tupelo Mississippi Flash

Wabash Cannonball

Hallelujah, I Love Her So

John Henry

Available May 29, 2012 Pre-Order Now!

Rick Nelson & Mark Lindsay – Former Teen Idols Return with New CD Collections from Real Gone Music

8 Apr

Most of us 50 and over types remember Paul Revere and the Raiders. We also remember the 1970 smash “Arizona.” A singer by the name of Mark Lindsay was the voice behind most of those hits. Just Like Me, Good Thing, Steppin’ Out, Hungry, and Kicks were all solid rockers — driven in part by Lindsay’s snarling, cocksure vocals. Mark had plenty of swagger in those days. But he also had a sensitive side. That side of him didn’t fully emerge until he embarked on his solo career in 1969.

Casual music fans may be hard pressed to name any of Lindsay’s solo tracks after Arizona. He never gained much traction after that initial success. However, this new collection reveals that Mark recorded several near misses that are worthy of being heard today. His success with the Raiders put him in touch with some of the industry’s most talented songwriters and session players. Tim Hardin, Jimmy Webb, Jerry Fuller, Sonny Curtis, David Gates, Burt Bacharach, and the storied team of Mann/Weil all contribute songs in this 24 track compilation. Lindsay even wrote a few himself — including the memorable “Man from Houston.”

Mark Lindsay’s versatility is evident on songs like Reason to Believe, Miss America, Been Too Long on the Road, and Small Town Woman. He at turns evokes comparisons to everyone Gary Puckett and the Grass Roots to B.J. Thomas and Blood Sweat and Tears’ David Clayton Thomas. It certainly caused me to re-think my earlier position that Lindsay was a dime a dozen 60s garage shouter. This guy could really sing! But don’t just take my word for it. Have a listen for yourself – we think you’ll be impressed.

After a spectacularly successful stint as the lead singer and saxophonist for Paul Revere and the Raiders, Mark Lindsay commenced a solo career for Columbia that cemented his reputation and legacy as one of the truly great pop-rock singers of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Now, for the first time, all of his singles for the label—plus an unreleased track, a stunning version of Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe” that was originally slated to be one side of Mark’s first solo single—have been collected on to CD in one place in chronological order and in their original commercial format (which means mono on the first five tracks, stereo on the rest). Most of these original single mixes have never appeared on CD before.

The accompanying booklet features photos from Mark’s private archive, and liner notes by Ed Osborne that feature interviews not only with the artist himself but also with Jerry Fuller, Artie Butler and Tom Bahler, all of whom worked on these singles.

Spanning his entire solo career with Columbia, carefully mastered by Vic Anesini at Battery Studios in New York, and representing his finest work for the label, these recordings render all other Mark Lindsay solo collections superfluous.

Reason to Believe (Previously Unreleased); First Hymn from Grand Terrace; The Old Man at the Fair; Arizona; Man from Houston; Miss America; Small Town Woman; Silver Bird; So Hard to Leave You; And the Grass; Won’t Pay No Mind; Funny How Little Men Care; Problem Child; Bookends; Been Too Long on the Road; All I Really See Is You; Are You Old Enough; Don’t You Know; Something Big; Pretty, Pretty; California; Someone’s Been Hiding; Mamacita; Song for a Friend; Photograph

I have long been a fan of Rick(y) Nelson. Some consider him a lightweight. Others write him off as a teen idol who solely benefited from his parent’s show biz clout and endless TV exposure on the hit show, “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” I beg to differ. Nelson had a pleasing voice and delivery, surrounded himself with great musicians, and consistently displayed a great ear for quality material and winning arrangements.

Never one for relying on his past success, Nelson was always looking forward. This caused friction between Rick and some diehard fans and eventually led to the writing and recording of the biting song “Garden Party.”  Just listen to “Change Your Mind” on this collection. It is a far cry from Be Bop Baby — that’s for sure. Or check out Nelson’s unique arrangement of the Arthur Alexander pop standard “Every Day I Have To Cry Some.” This is certainly not an artist resting on his laurels.

I really enjoyed this collection — especially the Al Kooper produced tracks on “Back to Vienna.”

Rick Nelson’s short, late-‘70s tenure at the Epic label was an exceptionally creative and productive period for him, but you wouldn’t know it by what has been released, especially in this country. He recorded three albums’ worth of material, but only one, 1977’s Intakes, was released during his lifetime; the tracks he laid down the next year met a much less kind fate.

The first, the Al Kooper-produced Back to Vienna, was never released as an album at all; the next, originally titled Rockabilly Renaissance, a startling return to his rockabilly roots and a forerunner to the cow-punk and alt-country movements to come, was released in 1986, the year following his death, in watered-down, overdubbed form as The Memphis Sessions. Some of the unreleased material leaked out on the 18-track 1993 CD release Stay Young—the Epic Recordings, but much of his work for Epic remained buried in the vaults—witness the fact that 11 of these 41 tracks see their first American release right here (and another 12 tracks make their American CD debut)! In fact, NONE of these three albums has ever been on CD in this country, and, even better, Memphis Sessions has been remixed under Richard Weize’s supervision to eliminate the posthumous studio dubbing that adulterated Rick’s original vision. Produced and annotated by renowned Rick Nelson expert James Ritz and featuring photos from the period, Rick Nelson: The Complete Epic Recordings offers a long-overdue look at a neglected period of a true rock legend’s career.

DISC ONE: INTAKES LP SESSIONS

1. You Can’t Dance; 2. (Love Is) Something You Can’t Buy; 3. I Wanna Move With You (1st US CD Release); 4. Five Minutes More; 5. Gimme Little Sign; 6. Stay Young; 7. Wings; 8. It’s Another Day (1st US CD Release); 9. One X One; 10. Change Your Mind (1st US CD Release)

BACK TO VIENNA SESSIONS

11. Everyday I Have To Cry Some (1st US Release); 12. Love You So (1st US Release); 13. Chump Change Romeo (1st US Release); 14. What Is Success (1st US Release); 15. Carl Of The Jungle; 16. No Words Of Love (1st US Release); 17. New Delhi Freight Train; 18. Mama You’ve Been On My Mind; 19. Getting it On (1st US Release); 20. Conversation

DISC TWO: ROCKABILLY RENAISSANCE (aka MEMPHIS SESSIONS)

1. That’s All Right Mama; 2. Send Me Somebody To Love; 3. Stuck In The Middle (1ST U.S. Release); 4. It Shall Remain (1st U.S. Release); 5. It’s All Over Now (1st U.S. Release); 6. Lay Back In The Arms Of Someone; 7. That Ain’t The Way Love’s Supposed To Be; 8. In My Heart (1st U.S. Release); 9. Almost Saturday Night; 10. Dream Lover; 11. True Love Ways (1st U.S. CD Release); 12. Sleep Tight Goodnight Man (1st U.S. Release); 13. Rave On; 14. Dream Lover (with conga overdub) (1st U.S. CD Release); 15. Send Me Somebody To Love (alternate mix) (1st U.S. CD Release); 16. Lay Back In The Arms Of Someone You Love (alternate version) (1st U.S. CD Release); 17. Almost Saturday Night (alternate version) (1st U.S. CD Release); 18. Rave On (alternate version) (1st U.S. CD Release); 19. Lay Back In The Arms Of Someone You Love (EP version) (1st U.S. CD Release); 20. Almost Saturday Night (EP version) (1st U.S. CD Release); 21. Rave On (EP version) (1st U.S. CD Release)