WIB Listening Party #59: Hey Joe

featuring…

Various Artists, Hey Joe (One-Song-Edition)

🍺 Meantime Brewing London IPA

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

Today’s the birthday of the great James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix. Had he not joined the so-called 27 Club in 1970, but rather lived on for another 52 years, Hendrix would have turned 80 today. (Shows you just how short a life of 27 years is.) In other words, he’d be as old as Sir Paul McCartney, the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson or blues vets Taj Mahal and Elvin Bishop. It’s given me occasion to raise a glass and write about a song I’ve grown to hate. “Hey Joe.”

Don’t get me wrong. It’s undeniably a good song if not one of Hendrix’s absolute best. What’s ruined “Hey Joe” for me is its fate as a go-to crown pleaser for thousands of bluesrock bands who have nothing else to offer. If I’m at a show and I hear the opening guitar riff – this happens way too often – that’s my signal to head to the bar or take a bathroom break. No offence to listeners who haven’t tired of it, but for me, this tune is well past its sell-by date. It has become the ultimate yawn elicitor.       

I’m tempted to write that Hendrix already exhausted the song’s possibilities with the landmark version he recorded with the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1966. In fact, several other worthwhile interpretations have emerged on record, mostly in the years immediately before and after. (Note: Hendrix was by no means first to record it: The song had been circulating for many years with various parties claiming authorship. Notable pre-Hendrix versions include those by the Leaves, the Standells and the Byrds.)

Today’s featured album Hey Joe (One-Song-Edition) compiles 20 different versions of varying quality. (Nineteen if you subtract the “Karaoke Playback” track at the end.) We’ll listen to some of the best as we crack open a bottle of Meantime Brewing’s London IPA in honor of the beloved guitar trailblazer.

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WIB Listening Party #58: It Serves You Right To Suffer

featuring…

John Lee Hooker, It Serves You Right To Suffer

🍺 Aleworks Tavern Brown Ale

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

Rotten times call for urgent measures. Let’s drink. Just like that. Bango. No messin’ around.

That’s right. I’m upending the traditional structure of this beer-and-blues soiree, the usual slow build-up before we get to the beer tasting. That’s because after eight days without a drink, I am truly craving one.

Alewerks Tavern Brown Ale, with which I will momentarily break my fast, is one of five year-rounders made by the Alewerks Brewing Company of Williamsburg, Virginia. Here’s what it looks like smiling at me:

Cheers.

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WIB Listening Party #57: At Last

featuring…

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, At Last

🍺 Misfit Pumpkins Imperial Pumpkin Stout

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

Halloween is stupid.

I mean, can we at least agree that it is becoming increasingly stupid?

For kids, I get it. In fact, later today I’ll be chaperoning my son and a few of his friends as they do the traditional trick-or-treat thing.

When I was a boy on Long Island, trick-or-treating was an annual thrill. I’d go with my siblings or closest friends and come home with bag after bag full of Tootsie Rolls, Milk Duds, Mary Janes, Jawbreakers. It was excessive and I loved it. After some swapping with my sisters, we’d each pour our respective haul into a big cardboard box and then devour the contents over the course of many weeks. Nobody thought much about the consequences for our teeth back then.

If that sort of thing exists in suburban America today, when everyone is far more afraid that the reclusive guy who lives four houses down could be a cannibal axe murderer, well kids – more power to you.

But when I go on social media and see how much effort normally level-headed forty- and fifty-year-old acquaintances of mine put into dressing up as zombies and horror clowns, I can only shake my head. If only folks would put one-tenth of the same energy into more important things, like, say … feeding the poor?

This past weekend’s tragedy in Seoul, South Korea – where the desire to celebrate this bizarre ritual cost more than 150 young people their lives – made me hate Halloween even more.      

So why do a Halloween edition of the Listening Party?

Here’s a hint.

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WIB Listening Party #56: Set It On Blast!!

featuring…

Stevie Salas, Set It On Blast!!

🍺 Unverhopft Galactic Splash Milkshake IPA

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

Sometimes you’ve got to roll out the big guns. The heavy artillery.

Remember how last time around I was feeling down and how a few timeless blues songs seemed to lift me out of the hole I was in? I didn’t quite make it.

Maybe it’s the change of seasons, a case of the fall blahs as each day grows a few minutes darker than the one before it. Maybe it’s the exhaustion brought on by the rigors of parenting – presiding over a vicious fifteen-round fight between a pair of rival siblings can take a lot out of you. Maybe it’s just how fucking sick and stupid and depressing the world is sometimes. All of it is adding to a sense of heaviness and loss that hangs stubbornly in the air, weighing me down.

So I’ve been looking for a stronger and more muscular musical drug to keep me moving forward. One that kicks me squarely in the keister and says – snap out of it, man, get out there and get busy living. The record I’ve gone to most often these past few weeks is Stevie Salas’s Set It On Blast!!, a brash explosion of funk and guitars and conquer-the-world attitude. In name and in spirit, it pairs beautifully with Galactic Splash, a Milkshake New England IPA from Berlin’s Unverhopft brewery.

If this high-octane dream team doesn’t get it done, I may be a hopeless case.

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WIB Listening Party #55: Bittersweet

featuring…

Various artists

🍺 Let’s Bee Homies Hazy IPA

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

 

The blues is a lowdown shakin’ chill

You ain’t never had ’em, I hope you never will.

— Robert Johnson, “Preaching Blues (Up Jumped The Devil)”

I’ve had writer’s block since the last Listening Party. A tangle of thoughts and emotions has been messing with my head so badly that I didn’t know where to go with this. There was no Listening Party last week and I was figuring on skipping out this week as well due to a lack of focus.

This morning I woke up and a new thought took shape. Why should I let writer’s block deny me the pleasure of a good beer? In fact, might not a few drops of “heaven water” (thanks, Angelique) help me get past it?

So, in a few minutes, after a cup of coffee and two slices of cinnamon toast, I’ll go down to the cellar where I keep my stock and bring up that 16 oz. can (or is it cans?) of Let’s Bee Homies Hazy IPA. Been waiting down there patiently for this boy to get himself straightened out.    

I’ll crack it open a little later in the day and then we’ll see where life takes us, OK?

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WIB Listening Party #54: The Genius Sings The Blues

featuring…

Ray Charles, The Genius Sings The Blues

🍺 Cascade Brewing Blueberry

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

How much are you willing to pay for a can of beer?

That’s today’s musical question.

Getting deeper into craft beer these past few years has undoubtedly changed my attitude about beer. It has shifted dramatically toward quality over quantity. Big drinking parties like Oktoberfest, which is all about guzzling it down by the liter, are a total turn-off. I’ve even gone off the local brew Kölsch somewhat, an easy drinking beer eminently suitable for consumption in large quantities. Instead, I now appreciate craftsmanship and premium ingredients and savor each glass of beer or even each sip as a small-scale celebration.

That means I’m also willing to pay a little more. At the local supermarket, you can still buy a six-pack of Kölsch or Pils for around five euros. A craft beer from a specialty shop, on the other hand, can start at about two euros and cost as much as six, seven or eight euros (around eight dollars) for a single can or bottle. That’s where I start to ask myself: Can beer be that good? Is craft beer really five, ten or twenty times as enjoyable as the cheap stuff?

Recently I decided to find out. I crossed a self-imposed line and invested seven euros in a single can of beer. An exotic variety I had never seen let alone tasted before. Allow me to introduce you to Blueberry, a barrel-aged blend of sour triple and blonde ales and locally grown blueberries from Oregon’s Cascade Brewing. Cozying up to the stylish 250 ml can is today’s musical selection, The Genius Sings The Blues, a timeless Ray Charles classic.

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WIB Listening Party #53: Blue Guitars

featuring…

Chris Rea, Blue Guitars

🍺 Morebeer Brewing Dutch Eagle

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

If you’re a blues fan (I certainly hope so) you’ll be familiar with T-Bone Walker’s oft-covered classic “Call It Stormy Monday” and an expression it helped make famous: “The eagle flies on Friday.”

Well at today’s Listening Party, the Dutch Eagle flies. Morebeer Brewing’s Dutch Eagle Pale Ale to be exact.

And while we soar high on eagles wings, we’ll also be skimming the deep waters of Chris Rea’s 137-song, 11-CD opus Blue Guitars – an underappreciated 2005 project which can take years to listen to in its entirety.

Last time out I documented a family vacation in Berlin and my uphill battle to get a taste of that city’s beer scene. Two weeks later we arrived in Amsterdam and it was more of the same. A pair of my favorite craft brewers, Oedipus and Lowlander, are based there. I heard their clarion call. But as I surveyed our plans for the week, I didn’t see any way I could easily sneak in a visit to one of their locations without totally blowing off my wife and kids.

Fortunately, being flexible and creative can lead to unexpected discoveries. So it was that as one half of the four-headed beast I call my nuclear family headed off to “look for shoes” – what, there are no shoes where we live? – I convinced my fourteen-year-old daughter to indulge my taste for good beer. She’s old enough to understand you must throw daddy a bone every once in a while. We don’t want him going off the rails now, do we? 

A quick Google search led us to a central but well-hidden pub called Mikkeller at Morebeer. And that is where I discovered Dutch Eagle, one of the best beers I’ve tasted in a while.

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WIB Listening Party #52: Hot Tin Roof

featuring…

Los Reyes del K.O., Hot Tin Roof

🍺 Lemke 030 Berlin Pale Ale

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

Berlin! More than Germany’s pre- and post-Cold War capital, this multi-faceted city of over three and a half million is also a craft beer hub. At least a dozen distinguished small and mid-sized brewers operate within the city limits and there’s an abundance of pubs and beer gardens serving local and international craft beer. As a vegetarian, I couldn’t help but notice all the street food and how far ahead of the curve Berlin is in offering meatless options. Vegan places have sprouted up everywhere. Similarly, as a beer lover, all I can say is that there, too, Berlin puts my home city and its decidedly more provincial tastes to shame.

But since my visit this summer was a family holiday, I had to make certain concessions. Much as I would have loved to hit every place on this helpful list of the 11 Best Craft Breweries in Berlin, I couldn’t, in good conscience, blow off my wife and kids and go on a six-day bender.

“Daddy, you’re a drunk!!” Nah, I didn’t fancy hearing that.

The situation, like much in life – family life in particular – called for compromise.

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WIB Listening Party #51: Sampling the Backlog

featuring…

Four songs & 🍺 Four beers

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

“I’m not gonna waste good beer.”  — Felix Unger

If you’re an Odd Couple fan – the syndicated sitcom Odd Couple, not the stage play, movie or any of its myriad other incarnations – then the line above, spoken by actor Tony Randall in the classic role reversal episode, will ring a bell. Felix (played by Randall, seen on the left in the photo below), imitating his ill-mannered roommate Oscar, puts out his cigar in a glass of wine. “I’m not gonna waste good beer” is his deadpan explanation.

I’ve adopted it as my motto for this edition of the Listening Party.

You see, while various factors (basically, a heavy workload followed by family vacations) have limited me to just a handful of blog entries in the past few months, several bottles and cans in my stash have been marching toward their expiration dates without any regard for my life situation. That beer – much of it kindly supplied to me by my craft beer partner Bierlager – is not something I want to let spoil.

The simple solution to this backlog was to divert from my usual “one album, no scotch, one beer” format. This time around, I’ll briefly present four different beers and let each one take me where it wants to take me. A song that comes to mind during each tasting will add to the fun.   

Remember: A beer is a terrible thing to waste!

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WIB Listening Party #50: If The River Was Whiskey

featuring…

Spin Doctors, If The River Was Whiskey

🍺 Welde Bourbon Barrel Bock

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

This particular Listening Party – number 50! – is going to be a music-heavy quickie. I do this whenever time gets tight. I’ve been stuck at 49 for a few weeks, burdened by my other work (yes, I do more than sit around and drink beer) and thus unable to reach that magical half-century mark. Now school is out, my kids are home and time is even tighter. It’s officially summer, some trips are planned, so the Listening Party will be on hiatus anyway.

But first – number 50.

We’ll toast this milestone with a really good and likely overlooked blues album, If The River Was Whiskey. Overlooked because Spin Doctors.

The record did peak at number five on the Billboard blues chart upon its release in 2013. Still for many, “Spin Doctors = blues” simply doesn’t equate. Doubters may think of the band as a one-hit wonder for their smash 1990s hit “Two Princes.” But years before that tune was blaring out of millions of car radios, the Doctors were indeed honing their chops at downtown Manhattan blues clubs.

While I have failed to dig up a whiskey-infused beer for the occasion (they most certainly exist), I have managed to get my hands on a bottle of Welde’s Bourbon Barrel Bock, which we’ll indulge in a bit later on. Let’s get to it …

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