Friday, December 30, 2016

Music Friday: "Long December"

It's been a long December, and next year probably won't be better than the last. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Top Tensomething Albums of 2016

It's that time of the year again.

Like I did in 2010201120122013, 2014, and 2015, I'm providing my top ten albums that came out this year. After the top ten, there's a list of albums that deserve honorable mention. 

In the past, I've usually had twentysome albums on this list, but this year I didn't buy as much music as I usually do. It was not some kind of concerted effort to save cash. Rather, from my perspective, this was a down year for my musical tastes. Maybe I'm missing something. 

So if there are other albums you would recommend that came out in 2016, please let me know in the comments section.

1. Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor's Guide to Earth

Mr. Simpson had a tough draw trying to follow up Metamodern Sounds in Country. But he did so in an excellent fashion. At first listen, I was surprised by all the horns and strings. After the second or third listen, I was addicted. It's a stunning album with a strong Americana backbone. From the rocking "Brace for Impact (Live a Little)" to the poignant "Breakers Roar," from the standard "Keep It Between the Lines" to the wonderful cover of "In Bloom," this is just a fantastic album. 

Favorite Songs: "Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)," "Keep It Between the Lines," "In Bloom," and "Sea Stories"

2. Tedeschi Trucks Band, Let Me Get By

I'd really like to see this humungous band in concert because I don't think their albums give a person a full realization of how good this band really is. Tedeschi's voice sounds great as ever, and the arrangements are spot on. Just another strong TTB album for our listening pleasure. 

Favorite Songs: "Laugh About It," "Don't Know What It Means," "Let Me Get By," and "Crying Over You"

3. Drive-By Tuckers, American Band

I liked English Oceans, and I like this offering a lot too. There was all kinds of press touting this album as the band's best in a long time. I don't know about that. The lyrics and topics on a number of tunes certainly got the attention of people because of what was a rhetorical shitfest of an election, one that saw a second coming of George Wallace (crossed with P.T. Barnum) winning the presidency. Scary times and an album with political lyrics. Dislike the former--enjoy the latter. 

Favorite Songs: "Ramon Casiano," "Guns of Umpqua," "Sun Don't Shine," "Ever South," and "What It Means"  

4. Dawes, We're All Gonna Die

Dawes is a band that has filled the musical hole that R.E.M. once occupied. I wouldn't compare the band's sound and lyrics to that hallowed band. Dawes is more straightforward, and the band's lyrics are understandable--not the language poetry Stipe spun. Dawes is a rock band with a slight pop sensibility. We're All Gonna Die is another solid offering from these dudes. The lyrics of "Quitter" might be my favorite lyrics of the year. 

Favorite Songs: "Roll with the Punches," "Less Than Five Miles Away," "Picture of a Man," and "Quitter"

5. Metallica, Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

To longtime Metallica fans, I don't think any new album will ever live up to the early ones, but this one reminds me of ...And Justice for All. The album has the fellas going back to their speed metal roots. There are some really good arrangements and as usual solid guitar work. For those pining for straightforward metal, this is probably the go-to for 2016. 

Favorite Songs: "Moth into the Flame," "Confusion," "ManUNkind," and "Spit Out the Bone"

6. St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Sea of Noise 

These fellows from Birmingham, Alabama followed up their breakthrough debut album quite nicely. Like we saw two years ago, they offer no nonsense soul/R&B. 

Favorite Songs: "Is It Me," "Brain Matter," "Waves," "Midnight on the Earth," and "All I Ever Wonder"

7. Weezer, White Album

I desperately want the 90s back ... in so many different ways. This band is still putting out its alt-rock stylings. There's a lot to be said for just a rock band doing its thing and not getting caught up in some art-house, funhouse shenanigans. Just play something that rocks. And Weezer did that. 

Favorite Songs: "Thank God for Girls," "Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori," "Jacked Up," and "Endless Bummer" 

8. Jack Garratt, Phase

About the last thing you'd think I'd buy is music that could be labeled "electronica." But I saw this guy perform on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and I was impressed. I guess his stuff could be categorized as pop music. He's a Brit. I shut down my prejudices against electronic music and enjoyed the ride. 

Favorite Songs: "Breathe Life," "Weathered," "I Know All What I Do," and "Chemical" 

9. Ben Harper, Call It What It Is

After his fabulous collaboration with Charlie Musselwhite, I was sort of expecting a more bluesy offering. "Call It What It Is" provides that vibe with a obvious political statement: "Call it what it is ~ Murder." This is not one of my favorite Harper albums, but it's worth your time. 

Favorite Songs: "Call It What It Is," "How Dark is Gone," "Shine," and "Dance Like Fire"

10. Luther Dickinson, Blues & Ballads (A Folksinger's Songbook), Vol. I & II

The front man for the North Mississippi Allstars put out his own solo affair with some songs on the album from the NMA canon. The whole affair is stripped down to the basics with a couple of guests. 21 songs on this bad boy. 

Favorite Songs: "Mean Ol' Wind Died Down," "Ain't No Grave," "Highwater (Soldier)," "Ol' Canonball," and "Mayor Langford Birmingham Blues" 

Honorable Mentions

Quaker City Nighthawks, El Astronauta

Elizabeth Cook, Exodus of Venus

Mount Moriah, How to Dance

Bob Mould, Patch the Sky

Amanda Shires, My Piece of Land

Hard Working Americans, Rest in Chaos

Lydia Loveless, Real

Regina Spektor, Remember Us to Life

Sarah Jarosz, Undercurrent

Music Friday: "Hard Times"

I wish this band would put out a new album soon. I have their first two albums, and they are staples in my music rotation. 

To extend my streak of morose/depressing/angry-song Music Fridays, I offer "Hard Times." 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: V8 Slow Cooker Beef Stew

I got the base of this recipe from Slow Cooker Kitchen on FB, but here's my modification of the recipe.

1 and a half lbs. of stew meat
1 lb. of top round steak
1-2 bags of tiny Yukon Goldish potatoes, quartered
4 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 package of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1-2 tablespoons of Worchestershire sauce
2-3 12 oz. cans of low sodium V8 juice
1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
Smidge of paprika
Healthy smidge of smoked paprika
Healthy smidge of Penzey's beef roast seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

Trim unnecessary fat off of the meat. Cut the meat into small pieces and place it in a large bowl. Coat the meat with the flour. 

Coat a cast iron skillet with a bit of olive oil and brown the meat over medium-high till it's browned. 

In the meantime dump in the vegetables into the slow cooker. One the meat is browned, transfer it to the crock pot and use some of the V8 to deglaze the pan. Pour the rest of the juice into the slow cooker and add the seasonings. Mix. 

Cook on high for five hours and mix the concoction from time to time. After five hours, add in the mushrooms, set the machine to low, and cook for another hour. 

For me, I will probably use just one bag of potatoes next time I make this and add more carrots. Also, I will possibly use more V8 juice, so the stew is almost like a soup. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Music Friday: "Chitlins con Carne"

In a world filled with bad news, frustration, and anger, I sometimes reach for music to help me out. 

So here's a classic from Stevie Ray Vaughan. 

As a side note, I will be posting my top ten/twenty albums of 2016 sometime here soon. I may have to limit it to ten because I haven't done as much album buying as I have in previous years. 

Just fyi loyal readers.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

[Belated] Music Friday: "Snow and Lights"

It's that time of the year when I watch TV in my living room with all the lights out except for the lights I have around a dead pine tree in our house. 

No real decent snowfall yet, but we got lights. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sunday Hangover: Florida--SEC Championship

54 to 16 is a lopsided score. 

We got back from my son's basketball game to watch the start of the second quarter, so I didn't watch the first quarter until after the game was over. Florida had a good first drive. After that, not so much. 

It was another dominant game from the Alabama defense:
  • 4 sacks
  • 3 interceptions, one of which was a pick-6 by Fitzpatrick
  • 9 tackles for loss
  • Florida gained 0 net yards rushing--gained 51 but lost 51

A large loss in the game was the injury of staring LB Shaun Dion Hamilton, who will be out apparently for the rest of season. I assume Rashaan Evans will take over his spot, so he needs to get ready. There was a bust in coverage by Evans (or possibly Foster, though I doubt it) that resulted in a Florida pass TD in second quarter that will be a teaching moment. 

Next up is Washington in a revisit to the Georgia Dome on New Year's Eve day. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Music Friday: "Will O' the Wisp"

As I finally rolled into the office this morning, this is the song I started with. Sketches of Spain is a masterpiece.