Sunday, June 18

Signature drink: First trial

For years, I've wanted a signature drink for Burnt Sugar Blues, and tonight I tasted an excellent contender!   At the Depot Brewery, I asked bartender Paul Wheeler if he liked making up new drinks.   Ready for fun, he said, "Sure!" and listened to my wish.

I said
(1) the band's name is Burnt Sugar Blues;
(2) I like chocolate; and
(3) the drink ought to have a burnt sugar taste, maybe like caramel.

He thought for a moment, then shook together a combo of Baileys Irish Cream, Kahlua, and DiSaronno with half-n-half to make a sweet frothy delight that goes down soooo easy ~~ smooth and smokin' ~~ just like our sound!

Is it luck or is it fate that Mr Wheeler chose liqueurs I've had on my own shelves at home?   Maybe he's psychic.   That would explain a lot.   It would especially explain the coffee part of Kahlua ~~ because although I didn't mention coffee, the lyrics of the band's name song, Burnt Sugar Blues, include coffee (along with chocolate, sugar, burnt sugar, lollipops, and honey).

As I sipped, I sorted through the symbolisms . . . .
photo of me dancing before drinking
Before I put my feet up to experiment with symbolic drinks, I cut a rug with George Hrebar while collecting cover charge at the door for the band, Dr Blade's Blues. The other two dancers shown here in the foreground are Thomas Selleck and Jennifer Nelson.  (photo by James Moore)

Blues ~~ 

Irish whiskey is renowned for drowning sorrows.   I guess the Irish have a lot of sorrows to drown.   Anyway, Irish whiskey seems related to pick-me-up times with pick-me-up friends, like the blues are.

(As a total tangent, my name "Welty" traveled through Ireland on its way from Switzerland to North America.)

Chocolate ~~ 

From the Baileys Irish Cream website, I learned this: "The distinct style of Baileys is derived from a unique proprietary cocoa extract recipe giving Baileys its chocolate character and essence."

Three hundred some flavors accompany coffee's aroma, so Kahlua's contribution includes chocolatey impressions, too.

Burnt Sugar ~~ 

Sugar cane itself is the basis for the rum in Kahlua, along with roasted arabica coffee beans.   Roasting coffee develops yet another aromatic carbon ring of burnt sugar.

Veracruz, where Kahlua is grown and blended, is on the Gulf coast of Mexico, where Spanish, African, and Caribbean cultures have coexisted for centuries.   Burnt Sugar Blues puts Afro-Cuban and Latin rhythms with midwestern roots, so I feel a correspondence there.

All liqueurs involve transforming sugar resulting in a carbon ring giving the impression of burnt sugar, some more than others.   Disaronno's legend claimed it was an 'infusion of apricot kernel oil with "absolute alcohol, burnt sugar, and the pure essence of seventeen selected herbs and fruits"' (although in spite of its past as an "amaretto," no almond is included.)

I like the impression of herbs and fruits.   It sounds like a tonic with those essences.

Caramel ~~

Half-n-half, along with Baileys cream, smoothes the flavors into a luscious caramel.   Caramel is, after all, just perfectly browned sugar and cream.

For next time, I'll try it with the ice strained out after shaking, just because I'm a no-ice kinda drinker.   I'll report further experimentations as they happen.

Cheers to great beginning!

Thursday, May 4

Midnite Open Mic Jam

I sang "Never Gonna Go Easy" for Wednesday's Midnite Open Mic Jam at the Depot Brewery.   Although at the time I didn't know about the coincidence, I wrote the song a few years ago on the same night a friend was fundraising for his legal defense against accusations of herbal disobedience.   The words and melody came in like a radio wave ~~ THAT part WAS easy!

None of the other musicians had heard this song nor played it, but they made it sound great: Tim Carey grooved bass line, Jon Estrin embellished with lead guitar, James Moore kept rhythm on kit while Bob Bernards gave a beautiful hand rhythm on a djembe.   I added flute between verses.

Afterwards, long, energetic jams with Tim and Jon as Dan Gorman sat kit, James moved to conga, Tony sat keyboard, Paul Squillo joined on trumpet, and newcomer Lava Lava added his saxophone to the mix.

Super energy, awesome sound, so three hours later I'm easing off the high.  Whew!

Saturday, October 8

Flute follow-up

I was sitting at a sidewalk table on North Main yesterday checking email when I saw a familiar figure walking toward me.

"Your flute sounded nice last night," he said, as I remembered that he heard me play at Late Night Open Mic at the Depot with the house band.

"Thank you!" I said, feeling happy for his kind words.

"You must have been playing for a long time?" he asked.   Maybe he was trying to gauge how long it would take for him to gain the skills he wanted.

"I learned in fifth grade, but there was a long break in there."  

He stopped to tell me a bit about himself.   Turns out that in 1972, he felt inspired to learn flute because he liked its sound.   He tried guitar instead, but the strings hurt his fingertips, and his attention was distracted by other things, and time passed.   Hearing our upbeat jazzy improv renewed his inspiration to learn how to play.

I hope he follows up on that.  

I thank him here on this blog for confirming a pattern I noticed in several conversations like this:
One way for me to empower people is by first empowering myself and then living out loud.   Lucky for me, I dig that design!

Tuesday, September 27

Bring on the douns

Josy and I experimented on Tuesday, September 13, and then again on Thursday, September 22, to see how my songs sound when she plays douns and I sing.   We feel encouraged ~~ I feel ecstatic, actually ~~ about how good they sounded.   It's the foundation for the way I hear my songs in my head.

On Tuesday we found some grooves with Coconut Oil and Burnt Sugar Blues.   I figured if we couldn't find good riffs for those two songs, we better just give up and go home.   But they sound cool!   Yay!

On Thursday we refreshed Tuesday's songs, then added Wayfaring Stranger and Fever and enjoyed another round of good luck.   The two links here go to youtubes of the nearest inspirations for our take on these cover songs.   I rewrote about half the words in each so I'll update this post with links to my versions.

Bob Miller of Foliba offered super suggestions and recorded the basic rhythms with his phone so we would remember them for next practice.   In this picture, Bob wears a white shirt as he plays the douns.
Foliba in 2012
Foliba plays Open Mic at Cafe Paradiso in 2012

Josy started drum lessons with Fonziba Koster about seven years ago, and has developed into the go-to doun player in her intermediate drumming group, keeping a steady beat for their traditional West African polyrhythms, from simple to complex.

I feel overjoyed and deeply honored to hear Josy holding the basic rhythm structures for Burnt Sugar Blues' songs.