By Ben Heskett
Sometimes when you go to a show in tabula rasa mode, ready to be turned on to some new thing, it’s the best of all postures to be in. Such was the case recently on a random Tuesday night in San Francisco, when a friend invited me to come down to a seminal local club called the Café du Nord to check out a relatively new British band called Dry the River.
Equipped with a semi-acoustic esthetic and a soaring approach to vocal delivery, the band was a pleasant surprise. I often hesitate when vocals head toward those emo high notes, and this band does just that. But the impact of that approach isn’t what I expected – It’s more church-like, a reminder of a small country setting – rather than a lot of the pop-driven emo drivel that has befallen music in recent years.
I’ll showcase the studio version of a tune called “Shaker Hymns,” a beautiful acoustic number that showcases the band’s strengths. It’s off the band’s debut album called “Shallow Bed.” The album offers an interesting variety of sounds and approaches – A good bet that the future is bright for these lads.
The Dry the River show came at an opportune time, as I was just recently fortunate enough to spend some quality time (link to photo gallery) in the Anderson Valley area of Northern California, in part for the annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival event held this year on the Goldeneye Winery’s plush vineyard grounds (Pictured at right). The festival is terrific, a manageable experience championed by the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association to promote the area's burgeoning wine industry. I also had the chance to camp, and this band’s sound immediately harkened back to the beautiful Hendy Woods State Park where I stayed.
As a result, I’ll feature one of the standouts from the aforementioned Pinot festival, the Handley Cellars 2009 Mendocino County Pinot Noir, a lovely, approachable bottle at a good value. What we often look for at CORKZILLA is a certain price/performance ratio and this vintage is just the ticket. It has a certain depth of notes (Cherry, chocolate, etc.) that is often hard to find in a Pinot Noir under $30 these days. We enjoyed it so much that we revisited the wine over dinner at Lauren’s, a terrific spot with lots of good flavors in Boonville, Calif. Hope you’re turned on to Dry the River. Cheers!
By Joe Colgan
This month's Wine and Tunes Pairing is inspired by two very refreshing recent discoveries. The first comes to us from the ancient wine producing region of Santorini - The largest Greek island within the Santorini archipelago in the Aegean Sea. The second comes from outer space - not technically outer space, but more like a sonic/musical version of it provided by the fine hard working folks at N.A.S.A.
In an effort to spread some good news about Greece during this time of great economic crisis and political uncertainty, Greek winemakers are on a international promotional mission to spread the word about the wine from their country. Greece is currently experiencing a winemaking revolution as many winemakers are bringing new world techniques and ideas they've learned from the US, and are combining them with their old world techniques and extreme focus on terroir. Sponsored by the Hellenic Foreign Trade Abroad (HEPO), Greek winemakers recently held tasting events and wine symposiums in New York City to help bolster exposure of wines from Greece for consumers and wine professionals in the US.
CORKZILLA was invited to take part in a Greek wine webinar tasting event hosted by New Wines of Greece in NYC last month. The tasting panel consisted of winemakers and critics from Greece, in addition to US wine critics Steve Olson and Doug Frost. Over the course of an hour, the audience was taken through a selection of six wines, all of which highlighted various grape varietals and appellations. Personally, my knowledge and appreciation of Greek wine prior to this event was minimal at best. I've had experience with a few whites before, but due to plain ignorance, I've always tended to steer away from ordering varietals with names that had more consonants than I had fingers. Thankfully, I walked away from this very enlightening tasting with a huge respect and newfound appreciation for wines from Greece. I can also pronounce Xinomavro and Agiorgitiko with no trouble.
One standout wine from the event was a 2011 Assyrtiko from SantoWines, Santorini. The Assyrtiko grapes from Santorini grow in a porous volcanic soil, giving the varietal crisp acidity and intense minerality. As summer is upon us and the BBQ is about to work overtime, this wine is a fantastically refreshing choice to enjoy in the backyard - great citrus aromas and a surprising long finish which retails for around $20.
The second piece of this pairing doesn't come from the U.S. National Space Agency, but rather the North America South America music duo of LA based producer Sam Spiegel and Brazilian based DJ Zegon. I discovered these guys at a recent Los Angeles screening of their documentary The Spirit of Apollo - which is a look behind the making of their debut album of the same name. N.A.S.A.'s concept is a simple one, yet refreshingly different. They take their love of all music and cultures and bring it all together to create a musical stew that has no boundaries. For the creation of this album, N.A.S.A. made a music hero bucket list of who they would love to collaborate with. To their surprise, many of their heroes responded positively and the result is a very eclectic mix of musicians blending together, breaking musical boundaries. The list of musicians working on this album is incredible - David Byrne, John Frusciante, Chuck D., Kanye West, Tom Waits, Charli 2na, to name a few.
The link below is the first track from the album, featuring David Byrne, Gift of Gab, Z-Trip and Charli 2na. N.A.S.A. also got help from some amazing artists from all over the world to create animated videos for most of the songs on the album.