Friday, November 18, 2011

SAVE THE DATE! 5th Annual DGA Crawfish Boil, March 10, 2012

We now have an official date for the 5th Annual DGA Family and Friends Crawfish Boil!

Friends Coastal Restaurant has been reserved, Tuba Skinny has been booked, and final preparations are underway!

The 5th Annual DGA Family and Friends Crawfish boil will be on March 10th, 2012.  We're looking forward to seeing all of you there, so make sure to mark your calendars.  March is absolutely the most beautiful time to visit New Orleans.  The weather is gorgeous and all of the best seafood is in season.

We'll be sending out save the date cards soon, so keep any eye on the mail.  Later, we'll follow those up with official invitations and this years' wrist bands.

We will post more details about the event as we get them, so keep an eye on the blog.  This year we're planning to have two live bands.  We haven't settle on who will be opening for Tuba Skinny, but we'll let ya'll know as soon as we have the band booked.

Track 7: He Likes it Slow

Posted by Benson

I realize that I have been skipping around the CD with little in the way of a clear organizational scheme, but this week we're going to take a look at track 7: He Likes it Slow.  Rest assured that eventually we'll cover every song on the CD, but today I really wanted to introduce ya'll to a very interesting song originally written by some colorful vaudeville characters: Butterbeans and Susie.

Butterbeans and Susie were a mid-century African-American comedy duo whose stage performances featured comedic sketches, banter, dance numbers, and blues numbers.  Butterbeans and Susie were played by Josie Edwards and Susie Edwards (Susie Hawthorne).  The two met in 1916 and married on stage shortly thereafter, but they did not perform as a comedy team until the 1920s.  

They had been touring with a black husband and wife comedy team known as Stringbeans and Sweetie May, and on the death of Stringbeans (Butler May), Josie and Susie agreed to take over the act as Butterbeans and Susie.

The act consisted chiefly of marital quarrels with a dynamic not unlike the Odd Couple.  Susie was elegant and presented an air of composure and sexiness while Butterbeans acted the fool in his characteristic too-small pants, tiny bowler hat, and floppy shoes.  His loud and belligerent affectation belied a naturally care-free disposition and sweet affection for Susie.  Butterbeans' foibles were often the cause of friction between him and his wife, but by the end of every show, Butterbeans and Susie would be getting along happily.  Their comedy often focused on married life, but they also dealt with issues related to black life in general.  

On stage, the duo could be rather racy or salacious at times.  They sang provocative songs full of double entendre and Susie would sometimes perform risque dances.  They published several blues records and even appeared in a feature film.  In 1926 the duo recorded He Likes it Slow with the famous Louis Armstrong's Hot Five.

He Likes is Slow is an amusing and suggestive song.  Butterbeans and Susie's stage act could stray into realms that weren't fit for recording in the mid-1900s, but He Likes it Slow only turns suggestive towards the end.  As was typical of the Butterbeans and Susie comedic styling, the song is sung from the perspective of a wife who is complaining about her husband.  She complains that in many things, "he likes it slow," suggesting that his plodding outlook on life leaves little room for excitement or romance.  However, being slow isn't all bad, she says, because he also takes his time "when he starts making love."

I got the sweetest man you know
I’m crazy about him but he’s so slow
And when he takes me out to have a talk
He never has a taxi he makes me walk

What I’m telling you is true
Everything he goes to do
He likes it slow when he calls to play
He likes it slow when he goes to pray

Just like a snail that man of mine
But I never have to hurry, I just take my time
When he calls he never brings no news
Always got them low down blues.

But when he starts to making love on me
And starts to huggin me so tenderly
The reason papa makes me feel so sweet
Because he likes it slow, honey, in the morning,
Because he likes it slow.

DGA Dining: Market, Boston MA

Posted by Benson

The DGA team is in Boston at least several times a year.  Not only is Boston a great city to visit, but it also has a wide range of excellent restaurants.  Although I’ve been to Boston many times over the years, I’d never eaten at Market, a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant in the W hotel.  This was actually a little odd because both Matt and Doug rave about Market, and they usually make an effort to go when they’re in town for any appreciable length of time.  Well, Doug and were just up in Boston and he insisted that I get the full Market experience.

Market is a chic little restaurant in the W Boston hotel on Stuart Street.  It is located in what I understand is Boston’s up and coming theatre district.  Jean-Georges apparently says, commensurate with his idea of the hotel as a home, that Market is like a casual family kitchen.  The website also indicates that the food is “Inspired by the casual, simple elegance of the setting.”  Personally, I think the restaurant came off as pretty chic, with more than a twist of hip.  Of course, I might have gotten that impression because of the fashion show going on. 

Apparently, W Hotels is pretty big into fashion.  Little did we know, but the same night Doug and I reserved a table at Market, Fashion Next was featuring Bibhu Mohapatra.  I had no idea that we’d be getting a sneak peek at the 2012 collection.  Not to split hairs, but fashion models usually don’t prance around in my kitchen.

Even forgetting the fashion show, Market really doesn’t come off as a cozy family kitchen.  It is a small restaurant with a modern, classy décor full of clean lines and geometric shapes.  The service is brisk, professional, and excellent.  The food is both nuanced and imaginative, but its delicate portioning and sophisticated flavors just don’t scream casual.  As an aside, I’ve noticed that service in many Boston restaurants has a pretty brisk pace, but it may just seem that way to me because I’m from New Orleans. 

Dining in New Orleans tends to be rather leisurely, with an often relaxed almost languid pace.  Doug and I both got the Market Menu, Market’s daily chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings.  We were in and out if the restaurant in less than two hours.  A similar meal at Restaurant August in New Orleans, for example, would easily have taken three.

In terms of the meal, Market is pretty special.  As I mentioned, Doug wanted me to have the full Market experience, so we ordered the Market Menu with wine pairings.  This was a five course menu with an appetizer, soup, two entrees, and desert.  The portions were small, but this not only facilitated the pace of the meal, it also allowed us to enjoy each course without feeling overstuffed by the end of the meal.  We started with an appetizer of Maine Diver scallop sashimi over a square of warm crunchy rice with a chipotle emulsion and scallion. 

Sadly, the appetizer was the only dish that was not excellent.  The essential problem was that the incredibly delicate flavor and texture of the raw scallop was overwhelmed by a disproportionately large block of what was essentially a fried rice cake.  The rice cake filled the mouth, requiring an undue amount of mastication while the thinly sliced scallop all but evaporated.  Compounding the problem was the rich chipotle emulsion.  The smoky flavor of the chipotle, combined with the fried flavor of the rice, simply overwhelmed the scallop.

Although it embarrassed Doug, I informed the waiter that the appetizer had much more in common with a tater tot than scallop sashimi (he asked how I enjoyed it).  Although the comparison was rather unkind, the dish had, in fact, summoned up clear memories of elementary school lunches.  This eventually precipitated a visit from the maître d’, who was apparently surprised that we both thought the “warm crunchy rice” was too much for the delicate scallop.

The rest of the meal was fantastic.  The soup was a butternut squash soup with ginger and pumpkin seeds.  I’ve just now read that off of the menu (yes, I took one home).  I don’t think that’s accurate.  I believe the dish was butternut squash soup with tofu cream, fresh basil, and toasted pine nuts.  Whichever is accurate, the soup was delicious.  The flavors were distinct and very complimentary.  The wine pairing was a bit overwhelming, but it complimented the pine nuts very well and served to cleanse the palette, allowing you to once again fully appreciate the flavor of the fresh herbs.

This was followed by slowly cooked Atlantic salmon with homemade black olive oil and a vibrant passion fruit sauce.  Doug absolutely loved it.  He’s often tried to slow cook salmon, but it is a very tricky task.  This dish was cooked perfectly.  The salmon was beautifully moist and fell apart easily while still remaining sufficiently firm.  The intense sweet citrus flavor of the passion fruit was a really exciting, and it followed the soup very nicely.

In my opinion, the crowning achievement was the soy glazed short ribs with an apple-jalapeno puree and rosemary crumbs.  This was a wonderfully rich dish, but the richness of the meat was tempered by the tart flavor of the apples.  The short rib was topped by thinly shredded fresh apple, which offered up a sweet flavor and slight crunch.

Finally, the desert was a salted caramel ice cream sundae with caramel popcorn and chocolate sauce.  By this point in the meal I was a bit tipsy, but it was one of the better deserts I’ve had in a while.  Of all the courses, the sundae was the closest to what I would consider casual and comforting.  The addition of the caramel popcorn was a uniquely perfect compliment.  It was plated in such a way to keep the kernels from soaking in the ice cream and yet there was enough to enliven almost every bite.  The chocolate sauce was a dark semi-sweet drizzle that went well with the salty undertones of the sundae.

All in all, I’d say that Market is a fantastic restaurant to visit when you’re in Boston.  Don’t go expecting a cozy, casual atmosphere though.  What you’ll find is a classy restaurant with an understated chic.  The food is delicate, creative, and experimental; and it is prepared with fresh, local ingredients.  You will find good service from a responsive wait staff; just-right portion sizes for a modest, satisfying meal; and dishes based on simple concepts that often surprise you.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Track 8: Six Feet Down

Posted by Benson

Today were going to take a closer look at Track 8 on the Tuba Skinny CD: Six Feet Down.

Thus far we've examined the history of of some of the classic Jazz and Blues songs that Tuba Skinny performs, and take a look into the lives of the legendary artists who performed and recorded them almost a century ago.  There are plenty more fantastic classic New Orleans Jazz and Blues songs on the CD to talk about, but Six Feet Down is unique among them.

As you may have already gleaned from the back of the CD sleeve, Six Feet Down is an original song by Erica Lewis, lead vocalist for Tuba Skinny.  It is Erica's amazing voice that helps to keep the wonderful sounds of traditional New Orleans music pulsing with vitality.  When she sings, she seems to channel the spirit of the great blues singers like Billie Holiday, Sister Rosetta Tharp, and Rosetta Howard.  At the same time her performances are captivating because of her astounding presence, the passion that courses through her voice, and the unique personality that enlivens songs we've loved for years.

It is interesting to see Erica perform, because she always seems to be surprised by the reaction she gets from appreciative fans.  We are addicted to the power and passion of her voice and intrigued by the discontinuity between the way she pours her soul into her music and her modesty about her role in reinvigorating century old music for a new generation of captivated listeners.  And yet Erica contributes far more than her voice to this unique musical tradition.  In Six Feet Down Erica does not merely reinterpret and reinvigorate classic songs from a bygone era of American musical history, although this is itself no mean feat.  With her own music, Erica carries this tradition forward, encouraging it to flourish by recreating it.

Six Feet Down is a plucky song.  It strikes me as a song about how one should strive to enjoy life for its own sake rather than dwell in the inevitable troubles that abound in our day to day lives.  "We ain't got time for sitting around," Erica says, because one day soon you will be sittin' six feet down.  And no matter what is happening in your life, that the world will keep going, that the "sun still shines as we pass by," is as inexorable as your own mortality.  You can spend that time regretting your troubles or worrying about the world falling down, but what a waste that would be.  Leave your troubles behind you, she reminds us, and remember that the world will keep on spinning no matter what you do, and laugh until you're six feet down. 

Six Feet Down

If you ask me one thing I’ll tell you darlin’
We ain’t got time for sitting around
You be waiting on your lover ,
but he’s gone and found another
and it’s time to get on up and leave this town

You ask me how can I be laughing
When this world is falling down
I’ll be laughing till I’m dead my little darlin’
I’ll be laughing till I’m six feet down

When the sun still shines as we pass by
I’ll be laughing till I’m dead my little darlin’
I’ll be laughing till I’m six feet down

Friday, November 4, 2011

Track 9: Yellow Dog Blues

Posted by Benson

Railroads have always been an integral part of the blues; not only in inspiring the boogie rhythms of countless rural guitarists, barrelhouse pianists and horn blowers, but also the lyric content of the blues singer.  On track 9, Tuba Skinny performs a song that features one of the most famous southern railroads: Mississippi’s so-called “Yellow Dog”.  Yellow Dog Blues was written by W. C. Handy, the Father of the Blues, and recorded by Bessie Smith in 1925.

According to Handy, in 1903 he heard a lean, raggedy, black guitarist playing in railroad depot in Tutwiler, Mississippi.  Handy heard the man singing of going to the place where the “Southern cross the Yellow Dog”.  For those of you that don’t know turn of the century railroad slang, the “Southern” was the Southern Railway which began operations in 1894.  The "Dog" was the Yellow Dog, a vernacular name for the Yazoo Delta Railroad.  “Dog” or “short-dog” was railroad slang for a local or branch line.  Handy’s story about how the Yazoo Delta railroad acquired the name “Yellow Dog” goes something like this:

When a black trackside worker was asked what the name of the railroad was, the man looked up at a nearby locomotive and, seeing the initials “Y.D.” on the tender, replied, “Yaller Dawg, I guess.”

Unfortunately, Handy’s anecdote never explained why the worker’s best guess was “Yaller Dawg,” but we can take a guess.  The Yazoo Delta was, in fact, a branch line, or “Dog” in the local slang, and it turns out that the Yazoo Delta locomotive was yellow.  In other words, hanging around a Yazoo Delta rail line in 1903, the initials “Y.D.” could as easily have stood for Yaller Dawg as Yazoo Delta.

It also turns out that the Southern railroad did indeed cross the “Yellow Dog” in the town of Moorhead, Mississippi in the Yazoo River Delta, making Moorhead the place where the “Southern cross the Yellow Dog.”

Written for the vaudeville stage, the song I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone? was first popularized by Sophie Tucker.  The lyrics tell of a woman named Susie Johnson who bets on a horse race using a tip from a swindler named Jockey Lee, who subsequently runs off with her money.  It is most noted for its performance in a 1933 movie, She Done Him Wrong, in which it was sung, quite suggestively, by Mae West.

Miss Susie Johnson is a crazy as can be
About that easy riding kid they call Jockey Lee
Now, don't you think it's funny, only bets her money
In the race friend Jockey's goin' to be

There was a race down at the track the other day
And Susie got an inside tip right away
She bet a hundred to one that her little Hon
Would bring home all the mon

When she found out Jockey was not there
Miss Susie cried out in despair....

I wonder where my easy rider's gone today
He never told me he was goin' away
If he was here he'd win the race
If not first, he'd get a place
I never saw that Jockey trailing anyone before

I'm losing my money, that's why I am blue
To win a race, Lee knows just what to do
I'd put all my junk in pawn
To bet on any horse that Jockey's on
Oh! I wonder where my easy rider's gone

Oh! I wonder where my easy rider's gone
He went to put my brand new watch in pawn
I see him comin' round that turn
What a trail that man can burn
He's gonna win because my dough is on the nose

Just watch my Jockey's easy rider stance
He'll hit that home stretch, win it by a mile
I want him to win this spree
And keep a-goin' till he comes to me
Oh! I wonder where my easy rider's gone

Oh! I wonder where my easy rider's gone

In 1915, W.C. Handy wrote an answer song to I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone? which he called Yellow Dog Rag.  Unfortunately for Handy, Yellow Dog Rag sold poorly, so in 1919, he retiled it Yellow Dog Blues to take advantage of the explosion blues popularity.  After the song was renamed, it started selling rather well, and became a classic of the genre.

As an answer song, Yellow Dog Blues explains what became of Jockey Lee.  Bessie Smith recorded Yellow Dog Blues in 1925, and Erica sang a wonderful version of it at the crawfish boil.

Ever since Miss Susan Johnson lost her Jockey, Lee,
There has been much excitement, more to be;
You can hear her moaning night and morn.
She wondering where her Easy Rider's gone?

Cablegrams go of inquiry,
Telegrams go off in sympathy
Letters come from down in "Bam"
And everywhere that Uncle Sam
Has a rural delivery.

All day the phone rings, it's not for me,
At last good tidings fill my hearts with glee,
This message came from Tennessee.
Dear Sue your Easy Rider struck this burg today,
On a south-bound rattler beside the Pullman car.
I Seen him here an' he was on the hog

Easy Rider's gotta stay away,
He had to vamp it, but the hike ain't far.
He's gone where the Southern cross' the Yellow Dog.