Hootenanny Ribs

Hootenanny Ribs
3-2-1 rib perfection on my Traeger Pro 34 wood pellet grill

Monday, December 30, 2013

Blue Lou's Top 10 in Music 2013

Music is my comfort and joy.  It is my medicine.  I have enjoyed many genres of music since I was very young.  It is the soundtrack to life.  These are my favorite releases of 2013.  Of course it is blues heavy but not all blues.  You may be surprised at my favorites of the year.  Listen with me now to the best of 2013.  Enjoy the musical journey.

10.  Buddy Guy - " Rhythm & Blues"

Buddy Guy is the torchbearer for incendiary blues.  He is the Godfather of it.  Buddy Guy is what Jimi Hendrix would be if he had lived longer.  "Rhythm & Blues" shows that Guy's blazing chops are still in fine form.  The Chicago Blues are alive and well, thank you very much, thanks to Buddy Guy and his wonderfully young seventy-seven year old soul. Lots of good ones here and some very interesting guest appearances:  Kid Rock, Keith Urban, Beth Hart, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and Brad Whitford from Aerosmith, and Gary Clark Jr.   Buddy's still got it.

9.  Tinsley Ellis - "Get It!"

Atlanta bluesman Tinsley Ellis' instrumental release "Get It!" is old school.  Blues, surf, chicken pickin', Southern rock all on a fun and at times intense release that showcases Ellis' guitar brilliance and his various influences.  This one shines. 

8.  Moreland & Arbuckle - "7 Cities"

I swear Moreland & Arbuckle are straight out of North Mississippi.   Turns out they're from Kansas.  How does this hot Hill Country Blues-Roots-Rock trio not come from the Delta?  Blues is universal.  So is very good music.  Aaron Moreland on cigar box guitar absolutely kills it on "Tall Boogie".  Check them out for yourself.

And maybe the most interesting cover for 2013 for "7 Cities" is Moreland & Arbuckle covering Tears For Fears'  "Everybody Wants To Rule The World", seen and heard here:

7.  Tedeschi Trucks Band - "Made Up Mind"

Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks' super group maintains excellence with "Made Up Mind".  Beautiful vocals from soulful Tedeschi, brilliant slide guitar from Trucks, a big horn and percussion section, funky, bluesy, rock and soul all mesh to form a near perfect CD.  Check out one of the Tedeschi Trucks Band shows if you get a chance - brilliant!

6.  The Avett Brothers -  "Magpie and the Dandelion"

A lot has been written about The Avett Brothers in the last couple of years.  Audiences have found their live shows riveting and lively.  They have an extremely loyal following.  And no wonder!  Superb song writing, beautiful harmonizing, masterful musicianship, great chemistry all abound in this North Carolina band.   Roots, folk, bluegrass, rock, country all rolled into one to create a great American sound.   This release harkens to some of their earlier efforts and has a very earthy feel to it. 

5.  Shawn Holt and The Teardrops - "Daddy Told Me"

Shawn Holt is the son of the late, great Magic Slim (Morris Holt).  Magic Slim's band, The Teardrops, back Shawn on this debut effort, and man does it sizzle and pop.  Gut wrenching blues with tight and heavy guitar licks, big on the Chicago gut bucket sound.  Thick and swirling with his legendary father's influences, Shawn Holt hits a home run with this one, featuring some blues standards and some great originals.  (Favorite lyrics, from "Hold You Again", "My tears are my only friend...")

4.  The Civil Wars  -  "The Civil Wars"

Simply the best duo in any music genre today.  Haunting harmonies,  virtuoso musicianship, deep soulful and heart-wrenching songs... and they are not speaking to each other?  Joy Williams and John Paul White comprise The Civil Wars and yet they have been uncivil to each other since Williams took a "maternity leave" from touring late in 2012.  Yet they still managed to record a deep, melancholy and reflective self-titled CD.  Even the artwork for the cover is bleak.  This release features a fantastic cover of Smashing Pumpkins' "Disarm".

Their future is not bleak though.   We can only hope that they work out their differences.  They are simply phenomenal.

3.  JJ Grey & Mofro  -  "This River"

JJ Grey & Mofro hail from Jacksonville and their sound is decidedly Southern.  Rock/blues/soul/funk and a little jam band thrown in for good measure.  Sprinkles of the Muscle Shoals sound and Stax Records are heard.  Grey's voice is gritty and honest.  His lyrics reflect a great wit with a slower pace, then he gets funky and you must boogie.  One of my favorite songs of the year is the title cut "This River".   I love this release; was played constantly over the summer when I was down on Watts Bar Lake on the Tennessee River.

2.  Southern Hospitality  -  "Easy Livin'" 

Southern Hospitality.  That says it all.  This Southern Super Band is made up of regional stars of Southern music.  On this debut release they blend blues, soul, funk, swamp, Southern rock, gospel and reggae all into a giant tasteful biscuit of Southern Love.  Shades of Little Feat, Dr. John, and CCR all echo in their gritty Southern soulful sound, yet it is still fresh and tasteful.  You feel Memphis and New Orleans all over this release.   Get me some sweet tea and butter my biscuit 'cause this is one the best releases of any genre in 2013.  Bonus:  this release was produced by Tab Benoit.  Win.

1.  The Wood Brothers  -  "The Muse"

The Wood Brothers are Oliver (guitars) and Chris (upright bass) along with percussionist- instrumentalist Jano Rix.  The brothers grew up listening to blues and roots music, which is the base of their sound now, forming a Folk-Blues-Roots trio that conveys the Americana musical form to perfection.  Solid, witty and thoughtful songwriting paired with extraordinary musicianship provided for my favorite release of the year.  Reflective ballads, country blues-based boogies, strong stories reflect in their songs.  Fantastic chemistry and professionalism are conveyed in their recording and live shows.  Oliver carries the weight with an earthy vocal style that harkens to a simpler time while remaining contemporary.  His style eases the soul and captivates the mind.  The Wood Brothers are simply one of the best Amercian bands recording and performing today.  If you haven't had the pleasure of listening to them or enjoying one of their live shows, do yourself a huge favor and indulge.  You will find your muse.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Twelve Beers of Christmas 2013

The holidays are a great time to select your best beers from your cellar or fridge to share with your family, friends, or savor by yourself by the fireplace.  For the past few years I have enjoyed assembling a "Twelve Beers of Christmas" to enhance my holiday beer experiences all while giving me another good reason to acquire rare and highly rated beers during the year to save for this event.  The 2013 lineup is no exception.  These beers are all offerings that I have not yet tried giving me yet another reason to enjoy the season.  The tastings start on Christmas day, one of these exquisite beers per day, and goes twelve days, following the Twelve Days of Christmas festive tradition.  I give you my Twelve Beers of Christmas for 2013:

1. The Bruery Oude Tart


"Oude Tart is a Flemish-Style Red Ale aged in red wine barrels for 18 months. Pleasantly sour with hints of leather, dark fruit and toasty oak."

I'm very fond of this style and this is a great brewery so I know this will be epic.  Thank you Matt R for acquiring this one for me.

2. Engelszell Gregorius Trappistenbier 

"The Trappist monastery of Stift Engelszell is located in Engelhartszell, in the northern part of Upper Austria, on the Danube, in a valley with wooded hills.  This monastery has been a member of the International Trappist Association (ITA) since 2008.  In 2009 the ITA granted Stift Engelszell the right to use the 'Authentic Trappist Product' label on its Trappist liqueurs.  The Trappist community have launched a dark Trappist beer, the 'Gregorius' (9.7% ABV). This name refers to Dom Gregorius Eisvogel who was the abbot of Stift Engelszell Abbey for 25 years (1925-1950)."

This is the only "Authentic Trappist" brewery from which I have not tried at least one of their ales.  One of my beer goals for 2013 was to track down one ale from the remaining Trappist Monasteries that I have not tasted.  Mission accomplished. 

3. Williamsburg AleWerks Brewmasters Reserve Café Royale

AleWerks Brewmasters Reserve Café Royale

"We age a stronger version of our CoffeeHouse Stout in Virginia Gentlemen Bourbon Barrels for 3 months. This aging adds layers of complexity including notes of vanilla and Bourbon to this big coffee beer." 

This beer is from a beer trade with BeerPal Melanie Wiscount who attended my annual  Hootenanny in 2013 by riding down on her Harley-Davidson from Washington, D.C. with FoamDome.  Aged in Bourbon barrels; what's not to like?

4. AleSmith Decadence 2012

"Decadence is the ongoing anniversary ale from the amazing AleSmith, unquestionably one of America's top five breweries, and this 2012 is a real show-stopper: a Belgian-style Quad that serves up a completely hedonistic richness and velvet-like creaminess that just tastes special; a beer obviously brewed with consummate skill and obsessive care. The lush fruits and boozy notes present themselves powerfully and the brawny 12% ABV is absolutely undetectable. This is a masterful ale from a world-class brewery and a perfectly delicious treat!
Raisins, milk chocolate, burnt sugar, molasses, treacle, yeast-driven spices, and rum fruitcake notes make this a titanic, memorable limited ale!"

Really looking forward to this one.  This will be my first in the annual Decadence series.

5. 3 Fonteinen Intense Red Oude Kriek

"Intense Red is an artisanal, unsweetened, unfiltered old kriek. It contains a higher amount of cherries, making it slightly less sour than a traditional 3 Fonteinen kriek. The new beer is the result of a collaboration between 3 Fonteinen’s Armand DeBelder and Manu De Cort of PuPil, a creative marketing company in Halle."

3 Fonteinen Intense Red Oude Kriek

I simply love most kriek ales I've tried, especially the higher quality Belgian offerings.

Scaldis Noël

"It is the custom in Belgium custom to brew a beer a bit bolder and stronger as a holiday gift to loyal patrons. At 12.5% ABV, the little Scaldis Noël bottle contains one giant beer. It has a burnished ruby-copper color and a spicy aroma with notes of caramel and marzipan and peach. The taste is round, with hints of anise leading to a long warming finish. If it is snowing and you have a Yule-tide log—fire it up and sip a Scaldis Noël—Pieter Breughel couldn’t paint a more Belgian scene!"

Merry Christmas to me!

7. Central Waters Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Barleywine (2011)

"A barleywine ale aged for a full year on used bourbon barrels, this beer has flavors of dark fruits and wood, winner of the Gold Medal at the 2008 Great American Beer Festival."
PfoxyJohn, aka Beer Santa, gifted me this beer in 2011.  It is time to enjoy this puppyThank you Mr. Pfister.  You are indeed Beer Santa.

8. Bells Third Coast Ale (2012)

"Third Coast Old Ale focuses on malt, offering notes of burnt caramel & other earthy malt flavors. Designed with vintage aging in mind, the malt aspect is matched to a heavy complement of hops. Sharply bitter at first, this will fold into the malt character over time and balance out the maltiness."

Another top rated beer acquired in a beer trade, this one with BeerPal kinger.

9. The Abyss (2012)

"A deep, dark Imperial Stout, The Abyss has almost immeasurable depth and complexity. Hints of molasses, licorice and other alluring flavors make it something not just to quaff, but contemplate.  As for the great "drink it now or let it age" debate, we stand clearly on the fence. Distinct and delicious on release, the flavors meld and fuse into an entirely different pleasure a year on."

The Abyss Interview video 

Another gift from PfoxyJohn. Huge thank you. 

10. Struise Pannepot

"In the early 1900s, the village of De Panne, close to the French border, was famous for two things — the ‘Pannepot,’or fishing boats, that could be seen along the coast, and the unique dark ale enjoyed by the local fishermen. Our Old Fisherman’s Ale is a tribute to these hardy sailors and their rich, flavorful brew.
Pannepot is an unfiltered, unpasteurized, bottle-conditioned dark ale with an intense, complex chocolate malt aroma, roasted accents, and subtle hints of spice."

One of the top beers in the world.  Surprise find.

11.  Bear Republic Big Bear Black Stout

"Big Bear is a big, black, stout you can really sink your teeth into. The bold, roasty, caramel malt flavor is balanced by Centennial and Cascade hops."


One of the best stouts in America. On my wish list for quite a while. 

12.  Dieu du Ciel Péché Mortel 

"Péché Mortel (French for "Mortal Sin") is an intensely black and dense beer with very pronounced roasted flavors. Fair trade coffee is infused during the brewing process, intensifying the bitterness of the beer and giving it a powerful coffee taste. Péché Mortel is brewed to be savored; we invite you to drink it in moderation."

This Canadian beer has also been on my wish list for quite a long time.  Purchased at Belmont Party Supply in Dayton, OH.  Ending my Twelve Beers of Christmas with this one because it has evaded me longer than any of the others.

These magnificent dozen are certain to greatly enhance my Christmas spirit.  No "Bah, humbug" from me.  I'm going to be like that Jolly Old Elf by the time my Twelve Beers of Christmas have been enjoyed.  Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Joyous New Year to you all.