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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Travel Tunes - Week 28

"Around the world the trip begins with a kiss"...I think I'll start taking that advice.  Too often, each trip begins more like "get your butt in the car, it's time to go!" 
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Corentin LAMY under CC-BY-SA license

The kids from Athens, Georgia seem to know a little bit more than I.   Start it off right.  So they get this week's pick as the travel tune, the B-52's with Roam from their 1989 album, Cosmic Thing.  It hit number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1990.  It's THE travel song for many, appearing in Subaru ads in New Zealand, the theme for Peter Greenberg's show, in Discovery Network ads, and on PBS World.

Really, that's why we travel.  To go see new things, new places, different cultures, and...above all...have a good time.  That's what this song is all about, "roam if you want to, roam around the world...hip to hip rockin' through the wilderness."  Here now, enjoy Roam...

-Darryl

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Travel Tunes - Week 27

John Fogerty has been through a lot for his music.  Sued by his producer for plagiarizing his own songs, practically disowned by his brother just before his brother died, and being forced to take a long hiatus from singing to deal with the legal issues...some of which went all the way to the Supreme Court!
Back to the music, Fogerty wrote extensively about the south, very convincingly too for someone who had not grown up there or even visited there until long after the songs were written.  Born on the Bayou, Green River, and Bad Moon Rising are all good examples. 

We've just gotten back from a trip where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers were an almost constant companion, so we're going with John's ode to riverboat travel, Proud Mary.  Written by Fogerty in 1969, it first appeared on Creedence Cleawater Revival's Bayou Country album.  Ike and Tina Turner did a very successful cover of it...in fact, many say it sold more copies than the original CCR version.  Tina does a very good version without Ike too.  Other artists that have covered it include Beyonce and Bruce Springsteen.

Proud Mary, of course, refers to the name of a riverboat.  People could cruise up and down the river, free of worries.  Don't worry if you're down and out because, as the lyrics say, "people on the river are happy to give."  Great song that has by now become a standard.  A happy tune about life on the river that Mark Twain could easily get behind.

Here it is, sung by Fogerty at a concert taped at L.A.'s Wiltern Theater, enjoy!

-Darryl

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Travel Tunes - Week 26

Love, LOVE this song...

Several country singers can't really stand the slick, Nashville influence on their music and several sub-genres were developed.  Today, we have a merging of two of them, the Outlaw style of West Texas and the Bakersfield Sound.  Willie Nelson  really doesn't need any intro and if you look back at last week's tune, you can get the back story on the Bakersfield Sound and its native son, Merle Haggard.

Merle's a real outlaw.  When Johnny Cash was singing at San Quentin back in the 60's, Haggard was in the audience, doing time for burglary.  When they met later in life, Haggard told Cash he was there that day and Johnny told him that he didn't remember him being in the band.  Haggard informed him that he was an audience member.

Anyway, today's song is one where I make everybody hush when its turn on the playlist comes up in the car.  No one really knows what it is about, something to do with bandits and the men who turn on them.  Whole essays have been written about the meaning...Tim did one in college.  We'll put it on this week because it's a great song, great road song, and...since we're in Ohio this week...spends a good time during the lyrics in Cleveland (the rest of the time in Mexico).

Enjoy one of my favorite songs, Pancho And Lefty written by the late Townes Van Zandt and performed by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.


-Darryl

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Cocktail Hour - Skid Row Wine Bowl:Round 2


It's time for another round of the Skid Row Wine Bowl where we take an ultracheap wine...Two Buck Chuck (Charles Shaw)...and put it up against a higher rated moderately priced wine of the same variety. We take the name for the cheap wine you'd get in the bad liquor stores along Skid Row. At two dollars a bottle, Charles Shaw is cheaper than bottled water but it has a fairly good reputation among the public.
Watch the Video!
Today, we're going to be pitting their merlot against a similarly price merot from Sterling Albert Winery.  Sterling Albert is located in a low-rent industrial park in Concord, California.  The grapes are grown in the Russian River Valley which is located about 50 miles west of Napa Valley.  This valley winds up from the Mendocino coast towards Santa Rosa where the heat of the inland valleys mingles with the fog from the ocean.

The Sterling Albert merlot is available at The Wine of the Month Club for $4.99 a bottle.  Online, the winery lists it at $30 and I've seen it on a restaurant wine list for $52.  If  you see it on a wine list at a restaurant you're dining at for this price...walk out the door, they're ripping you off!

Charles Shaw, of course, is famous for selling their wines exclusively at Trader Joes for $1.99 a bottle.  The very first two-buck Chuck I ever tasted was the merlot.  I remember it being very good and very smooth and, like a lot of people, was blown away by the price.  To me, it is still the best of their varietals but the one big knock against the Shaw line is their inconsistency.  You can get a good wine one week and one you'll end up using for cooking the next so it's like paying twice as much for the one you drink. 

We do have to give Shaw...or more properly Bronco Wines, the owner of the Shaw label...props for one thing.  Since they sell so much wine and buy so many grapes at low prices, they keep the lid on grape prices in California.  Growers and other wineries don't think highly of them for this reason, but it keeps the prices on other wines low, such as the Sterling Albert we taste today.

In Round 1, we tasted the Chardonnay and, believe it or not, we picked the two-buck Chuck as the winner. So how does the merlot stack up?  Watch the video above for the results.

Cheers!

-Darryl
Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Travel Tunes - Week 25

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Djh57 under CC-BY license
Did you know that a big branch of country music is based in Bakersfield?  Some liken it to Nashville West, but actually, the Bakersfield Sound is kind of a backlash against the polished studio sound of Nashville.  The two biggest names to come out of the area are Buck Owens, who moved here in his younger days, and Merle Haggard, who grew up in the rougher area of Oildale on the other side of the Kern River from Bakersfield.

Owens achieved great fame with songs like I've Got A Tiger By The Tail, Act Naturally (which was covered by the Beatles and then Ringo Starr later), and Cryin' Time.

A lot of people came to know Buck as one of the co-hosts (along with Roy Clark) of the comedy sketch and music show, Hee Haw. 

Buck was best friends with his guitarist Don Rich.  Don, a motorcycle rider, decided to take a ride over to Morro Bay.  He hit a center divider on Highway 99 and was killed.  Buck was devistated by his friend's death and went into a deep depression that lasted for years.  By the 1980's, he had stopped recording and was running a considerable empire in Bakersfield, concentrating on owning radio stations and real estate.

In the early 70's, Buck had recorded a song written by Homer Joy called Streets of Bakersfield.  Dwight Yoakam, who was influenced by Owens and the Bakersfield Sound, wanted to record it but insisted that Owens sing it with him.  Buck was a little hesitant, but they finally recorded it in 1988.  It appears on Yoakam's album, Buenos Noches From A Lonely Room.  The song hit number 1 and was Owens first number 1 hit in 16 years.

I love Bakersfield and love this song.  If you don't know about Bakersfield, you probably think of it as a hot, dusty, stop on the way north or south to L.A.  Most people don't have a good opinion of the place...I know I didn't.  But, if you stop and start exploring, the city starts to reveal itself to you and, although it still has a lot of flaws, you find a vibrant, exciting place with a lot to do and some of the greatest food you'll eat.

The song is kind of about that.  Bakersfield attracts a lot of down-and-outs looking for something better like the first line of the song..."I came here looking for something I couldn't find anywhere else."  The singer is looking for something better on the streets of Bakersfield.  The chorus is what nails it..."you don't know me but you don't like me, say you care less how I feel"...a bitter realization that people just don't like Bakersfield without even knowing what it's like.  Then a challenge, "how many of you that sit and judge me have ever walked the streets of Bakersfield?"

The video below also fits the town.  There is a large hispanic population here and the video opens up in a Mexican restaurant.  Boy, do they have good Mexican food here.  Another nod is the Mariachi style music with the small guitar and accordion.  Watch for Buck's custom Pontiac at the end of the video...this car now sits in a place of honor, mounted over the bar in the Crystal Palace, the nightclub Buck built.

Buck passed away of a heart attack after playing a set at his club in 2006.  His band, the Buckaroos, still play every Friday and Saturday night and his son Buddy Alan joins them every other week.  It's a fun night out.

OK, so here is Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens singing Streets Of Bakersfield.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
-Darryl

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Cocktail Hour Compendium

For you fans of The Cocktail Hour, our weekly Sunday Happy Hour here on The World on Wheels, here is a link to our YouTube channel for The Cocktail Hour that has all the videos on one page:

The Cocktail Hour YouTube Channel

-Darryl