Bountiful sound

Americana band Raid the Larder performs

Raid the Larder perfectly illustrates the intersectionality of Concord’s music scene. At its core are Taylor Pearson and Brian Peasley, two friends who started playing punk rock together 10 years ago in high school. When Pearson introduced Peasley to the Grateful Dead and its all-acoustic cousin Old & In the Way, he picked up a mandolin and the two morphed into a younger version of Jerry Garcia and David Grisman.

They called themselves Hometown Eulogy. The moniker came from a song by Tristan Omand, a local rocker turned folkie who inspired their rustic turn.

“His albums seem to come to me in certain places in my life where I need it the most,” Peasley said in a recent phone interview. “Me and Taylor were really loving that first album of his. We’re like, ‘Hometown Eulogy just sounds like a badass name.’”

A couple of years ago Peasley heard Ryan Nicholson playing with a band called Oddfellows Way at a craft beer festival. Learning the guitarist also played banjo, he suggested an impromptu jam session; the two clicked immediately. Later he discovered that Nicholson would soon be moving to Concord.

Peasley connected with guitarist Mac Holmes after watching him play in Plymouth, where he lived.

“I was like, ‘This guy’s amazing — I need him. I wanted a full bluegrass band,” he said.

Holmes ended up traveling to Concord so frequently that he eventually relocated to the city.

“The bass player was the hard part,” Peasley said.

He knew Scott Heron and his wife, fiddler Betsey Green, from their time jamming with singer-songwriter Will Hatch.

“Will was starting to get a band together when he moved back up here from Virginia and he found Scott and Betsy.”

As the two grew occupied with their own project, Green Heron, Hatch cast about for new players.

“Me and Taylor were playing in a band called the Graniteers with our friend Nick Ferrero from high school. … We ended up playing shows with Will,” Peasley said.

He suggested a jam session with Hatch.

“Will’s like, ‘Oh yeah, that’d be fun,’ and it ended up being a Pizza Tapes kind of thing,” he said.

They became friends with Heron and Green in the process. So, when an upright bassist was needed, Heron agreed to join. Raid the Larder played its first show in December 2018, with Green guesting on fiddle. Travel to and from Kingston made it too much for the couple. Heron left, and Nicholson recruited Adam Martin, who’d just left Oddfellows Way to take his place. The band’s lineup now consists of Peasley on mandolin, guitarists Pearson and Holmes, Nicholson playing banjo and Martin on bass.

For now they’re all about playing together whenever they can, and haven’t made a record — yet.

“I want to get together and play these songs that I’ve been covering for years, but with a full band,” Peasley said. “We do everything from old Carter Family tunes to Modest Mouse to Jimmy Buffett. I would love to do a recording because we all bring originals from the different bands we’ve come from; it’s a big collaboration. I think Mac doesn’t care if we recorded or anything. He just wants to play.”

Peasley also hosts the weekly open mic at Penuche’s, where Raid the Larder will perform two days after Thanksgiving. He and Pearson also appear regularly at another Concord hub for local music, Area 23. They two co-led a weekly songwriters night a while back, inviting local performers over to play their originals.

Pearson and Peasley always join in, and the evenings often provide a full flavor of one of the state’s most burgeoning and enjoyable scenes.

“Me and Taylor, learning people’s songs,” Peasley said. “It’s just what we do.”

Raid the Larder
: Saturday, Nov. 28, 8 p.m.
Where: Penuche’s Ale House, 16 Bicentennial Square, Concord

Featured photo: Raid the Larder. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 20/11/26

Local music news & events

Leading in: Enjoy a variety of musical genres with Tim Hazelton, a singer-songwriter based in Holderness who moves from guitar to ukulele and covers songs across the spectrum — his “Folsom Prison Blues” is a good one — along with some tasty originals. He made an album a while back with David Young as the Tim & Dave Show. Hazelton can also rock out and dig deep into the blues. Wednesday, Nov. 25, 6 p.m., Hermanos Cocina Mexicana, 11 Hills Ave., Concord,

Dining out: Small plates and country music are on the menu as Nicole Knox Murphy performs. The Candia-based singer-songwriter used her spring lockdown time to finish and release “I’m So Done” and “The 802” — the latter tune is an ode to Murphy’s Vermont roots. She was a working musician and a beauty show contestant in her teenage years. Friday, Nov. 27, 7 p.m., Granite Tapas & Cocktail Lounge, 1461 Hooksett Road, Hooksett,

Laughing up: Ending an 11-year run as a comedian, according to an announcement on his Facebook page, Jay Grove and his sharp observational style of standup will be missed. Along with being a talented storyteller, he helped the scene grow, hosting Monday night open mic shows at Penuche’s in Concord and opening a few clubs of his own. The most recent was Curlie’s, in his hometown of Rochester. See him one last time Friday, Nov. 27, 8 p.m. Chunky’s Cinema Pub, 151 Coliseum Ave, Nashua, tickets are $15 at

Working it: Acoustic singer and guitarist Christopher Perkins performs as The Lone Wolf Project. His set list includes everything from Queensrÿche to Cyndi Lauper, with sweet tunes like John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” offered as well; he even covers “Cum On Feel The Noize.” He has some nice originals as well; “Today” is a family-centered song written during lockdown. Saturday, Nov. 28, 8 p.m., South Side Tavern, 1279 Willow St., Manchester,

At the Sofaplex 20/11/26

* Once Upon a Snowman (TV-G)

Voice of Josh Gad, Chris Williams.

Sure, this is a short, but I’m still counting this eight-minute movie about Olaf of the Frozen universe as fair movie game. Here, we see the little journey Olaf (voice of Gad) went on between the time that Elsa, mid- “Let It Go,” conjured him and when he met up with Anna and Kristoff. Maybe you remember, back a million years ago in 2013, how some complained that early trailers had set Frozen up as a slapsticky adventure with a snowman but then the movie wasn’t really that (ha, to have such concerns; were we ever so young?). Well, here’s your slapsticky snowman movie, which gives us Olaf’s proto-nose and explains where the wolves in Frozen came from. It also cracked my slapstick-loving kid up with a “where’s my butt” joke. This is a sweet, probably all-ages-friendly new bit of Frozen-ness. B+ Available on Disney+.

*Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe (TV-G)

Voices of Ashley Tisdale, Ali Wong.

While I was aware of the existence of Phineas and Ferb, neither I nor my children had seen an episode of the Disney series before we watched the movie, which I think all of us enjoyed. Maybe me the most. This visual- and verbal-joke-dense world features young teen Candace (voice of Tisdale) and her younger brothers Phineas (voice of Vincent Martella) and Ferb (voice of David Errigo Jr.) in that age-old sibling battle between the kids always doing crazy stuff (Phineas and Ferb) and the kid (Candace) who can’t convince anybody that they are really the ones causing trouble and mess. There’s also a secret agent platypus and a mad scientist and his too-cool daughter (Vanessa, voiced by Olivia Olsen, Candace’s chill friend) and a bunch of Phineas and Ferb’s friends, all with their own weird quirks. But in this adventure, Candace is central to the action; she is kidnapped by a spaceship and taken to a planet where she is told by leader Super Super Big Doctor (voice of Wong) that she is the Chosen One, and what put-upon older sister doesn’t like that? Meanwhile, Phineas and Ferb and their friends try to save her — and convince her that she needs saving. There are also songs, all of which are great.

My younger kids loved the pratfall humor, my older kid liked some of the “little brothers, ugh” bits and I liked the classic The Simpsons mix of pop culture references, smart use of cartoonery and general smart alecky-ness. And, the message is ultimately that families love each other and should stick together, but said with way less sappiness and plenty of kid appeal. A Available on Disney+.

Secret Society of Second Born Royals (TV-PG)

Peyton Elizabeth Lee, Elodie Yung.

And Skylar Austin, of Pitch Perfect fame, who is 33 and playing, essentially, the professorial Giles-from-Buffy-like mentor to the kids in this movie, which is one of many things about this cute adventure movie that will make parents feel old. Lee plays Sam, a second-born royal whose older sister Eleanor (Ashley Liao) is about to become queen of Illyria, their tiny European country. Sam is all about her band with her best friend Mike (Noah Lomax) and being all “the monarchy and rules are lame,” behavior that she thinks is the reason she’s sent to summer school. Really it’s because she, like fellow royals Tuma (Niles Fitch), January (Isabella Blake-Thomas), Matteo (Faly Rakotohavana) and Roxana (Olivia Deeble) (and, it’s suggested, the late Princess Margaret and Prince Harry — ooo, does America have a new superhero?), are second-borns gifted with special abilities that will help them protect and serve their countries. If they pass rigorous training, they will join a secret society of second-borns — and their skills may be even more important now that a dangerous prisoner (Greg Bryk) has escaped an Illyrian prison. Who is this baddie and what does he want? Will the second-borns figure out how to use their powers? Will Sam’s mom (Yung) get off her back about being perfect? This teen superhero movie makes up for what it lacks in story innovation and special effects (there is one special effect in particular that is pretty “yikes”) with likeable characters and pacing that mostly moves the action along (even if my eight-year-old did get bored by some of the emotional drama stuff). B Available on Disney+.

The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special (TV-G)

Rey learns a valuable lesson about friendship on Life Day in The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special, a gleefully goofy Lego tour through the Star Wars universe.

It’s also 47 minutes long, which is the perfect “movie” length for something that I think is fairly kindergarten-and-up appropriate. (Even the scariest moments are cut with levity.)

In what I’m pretty sure is a post-Rise of Skywalker world, Rey (voice of Helen Sadler) is trying to teach Finn (voice of Omar Miller) the ways of the Force, all shield helmets and drone lasers in the Millennium Falcon, just like Luke and Obi-Wan. Despite reading all the Jedi texts (nice callback!), she can’t seem to get the teaching right and decides to set off to an ancient cave on the Whatever planet where it is prophesied that Jedi can find answers to their questions once a year on Life Day — and, luckily, it happens to be Life Day.

A brief “Life Day” aside: So this is a Wookiee holiday that originated in the infamous 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, a TV thing that featured the likes of Bea Arthur and Harvey Korman as well as many of the original Star Wars movie actors and was so notoriously bad that it never saw the light of day after its initial airing. I have never seen the whole thing, though the full special and clips are available on the internet. A few years back, David T. Cole of the Extra Hot Great podcast did a delightful short-run podcast series called Now That’s What We’re Tarkin About that examined in depth this thoroughly bizarre-sounding special, which is where most of my knowledge about the special comes from. (In a brief search, I couldn’t figure out if the podcast was still available anywhere; there is an Honest Trailer about some early Star Wars spinoffs, including the holiday special, and that also gives you the gist of what this cultural artifact was like.) This 2020 special seems to offer a general acknowledgment of the place in pop culture that “Star Wars holiday special” as a concept holds without winking too hard about it or requiring you to have deep canonical knowledge to get it. Just for tone and how it deals with this element of its subject, I give this movie points.

Back to the plot: Finn, Poe (voice of Jake Green) and Rose Tico (voice of Kelly Marie Tran, who also played Rose in the most recent trilogy) are bummed that Rey is leaving on Life Day. The plan was for the whole gang to be together to help Chewbacca celebrate and welcome his family. Scenes of them preparing, with varying degrees of success, for a big party are intercut with scenes of Rey finding the special Jedi cave and stumbling upon a crystal that opens portals through time. Since she is looking for help training Finn, she specifically goes back to previous scenes of teachers and students: Luke (voice of Eric Bauza) and Yoda (voice of Tom Kane), Luke and Obi-Wan (voice of James Arnold Taylor), Anakin (voice of Matt Lanter) and Obi-Wan, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn (also Kane) — a particularly delightful scene because it highlights how boring trade talks are.

But, of course, there is another master-and-apprentice duo in the Star Wars universe: Emperor Palpatine (voice of Trevor Devall) and Darth Vadar (voice of Matt Sloan). When this pair catches a glimpse of Rey portaling through time, they decide that maybe her time-travel-enabling crystal would be a good thing to have.

As Rey jumps through the Star Wars timeline, occasionally pulling a character or two along with her, we get some fun sight gags — young and old Han Solo both shooting first, a Darth Maul sighting, a shirtless Kylo Ren, a moment of The Mandalorian’s The Child. This element of the movie has a very Avengers: Endgame feel, with a kind of affectionate and playfully ribbing reference to characters and situations across a franchise. It’s all done with enough general silliness that you don’t have to know every corner of every entry to enjoy it. And we also get nice Lego-physicality gags — my favorite is one involving the Return of the Jedi-era Death Star. Through it all, there is even some nice messaging about friendship and believing in yourself — but don’t worry, the bits of sentiment don’t get in the way of a good blue milk mustache.

This holiday special really does seem made for the whole family — with Lego people doing lightsaber battles for the kids and Empire Strikes Back callbacks for the adult fans. A

Rated TV-G. Directed by Ken Cunningham with a screenplay by David Shayne, Lego Star Wars Holiday Special is 47 minutes long and available on Disney+.

Featured Photo: The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special

The Arrest, by Jonathan Lethem (Ecco, 307 pages)

The Arrest, by Jonathan Lethem (Ecco, 307 pages)

Despite a vague discomfort with what it says about me, there’s never been an apocalypse I didn’t like. In 1998, when everyone was asking why America needed two asteroid disaster movies released within two months of each other (Deep Impact and Armageddon), I was wondering why we couldn’t have three.
So I was stoked for Jonathan Lethem’s latest, The Arrest, even more because it’s set in New England. Its premise seems the perfect antidote to 2020: a world in which all modern technology has stopped working. No more planes, trains and automobiles, no laptops, no electric blankets, no Googling, no doomscrolling. The doom is already here, and it’s not as bad as predicted. In fact, if you are the type who thinks wistfully about living off the grid on an organic farm one day, this is not the apocalypse, but paradise.
The disappearance of technology, which unfolded slowly, as opposed to one catastrophic event, has been dubbed “The Arrest.” The citizens aren’t sure what happened, but it appears the apex event in a long line of losses to include biodiversity, the melting of polar ice and the drowning of Miami. There were apparently no riots and mass human deaths, however, just a pervasive sadness at the loss of our cellphones. Some built shrines to them; others “needed eventually to be given a mug of herbal tea while someone else hid their inert former playthings.”
Our escort through this world is one Sandy Duplessis, a Hollywood screenwriter whose primary job, pre-Arrest, was to rewrite the work of others, and to enjoy whatever scrap-work was tossed to him by a longtime friend who has been much more successful than he was.
Sandy’s world is much different now. For one thing, he goes by the quaint moniker Journeyman, and his job is to deliver food and other necessities of life around the town in rural Maine where he has settled. He also assists the local butcher and has acquired an unsettling amount of knowledge about how to slaughter ducks.
He has settled in this town because it’s where his sister, Maddy, lives on an organic farm; he had come to visit her when the Arrest occurred. Now, for reasons that are unclear, New England has dealt with its collective loss of smartphones by organizing itself into Walking Dead-esque communities, taking care of their own but keeping their distance from other, threatening communities. Mostly, this works; life has essentially reverted to the 19th century, where all communities need is one everything: one butcher, one fisherman, one seamstress, one mediocre former screenwriter who ferries around homemade sausage.
People may miss their former lives; they certainly miss coffee. They nurse deep sorrow about the relationships they have lost. But they still have hot mulled cider and there’s currently no trauma, no drama, until Journeyman’s old friend, the smooth-talking mogul, shows up in a monstrous, futuristic rocket-ship of a car: a supercar that could decapitate intruders, run on nuclear fuel and make espresso.
The friend, Peter Todbaum, said he’d spent 10 months driving across what was left of the country to find Journeyman, and Journeyman’s sister, with whom he had a complicated history. (When Maddy visited the two men when they were newbies in Hollywood, she and Todbaum shared a weekend together that had apparently shattered her, although he doesn’t know the details. She only told her brother, cryptically, “He didn’t do anything to me that he doesn’t do to you.”)
Todbaum’s arrival sets up the mystery: What is he doing here? Is the supercar real? Is any of this real? In Malibu the friends had been working on a script called Yet Another World, with Maddy’s help. And when Todbaum arrives and Journeyman hoists himself into the vehicle, Lethem writes, “He climbed into surely that most abhorrent of things, a mixed metaphor.”
The unspooling of the answers provides only limited satisfaction, in part because the novel is so strange, and no single character endearing. There is also the matter of Lethem’s self-indulgent musings, which seem like observations he’s jotted in his journal over a lifetime and wants to put to use. Example: his recurring mention of “time averaging,” which he defines as the mental gymnastics in which we reconcile the younger version of people we know with the aged version confronting us today.
Another example: his introductory aside into a quirk of the wintry Northeast, frost heaves, which Lethem describes as “a verb itself frozen.”
“Maybe Frost is in fact a person, that poet we studied in high school. Frost heaves into the mind. His road diverged; ours doesn’t. Thought, really, isn’t any road you could follow in either of two directions divergent enough to begin with?” he writes, losing a third of potential readers from the get-go.
But Lethem, the author of 11 well-regarded novels including Motherless Brooklyn and several collections of short stories, is at the stage of his career where he can write what he wants, unmolested. His latest is not a bad book, just a meandering one that ultimately fails to, well, arrest. C — Jennifer Graham

If the No.1 measure of success in America is the amount of money you make, No. 2 might be that people want to know what you read. Consider Oprah. A longstanding feature of her magazine (which ends next month, at least in paper form) is what she’s reading.
But after Oprah, Americans care passionately about what Bill Gates reads.
It seems there’s always some new breathless recommendation emanating from the Microsoft founder, the latest of which I came across on Medium under the headline “Bill Gates Just Declared This Optimistic Read His New Favorite Book of All Time.”
Gates declared this his “new” favorite book of all time in 2018. But if you are wondering, it was Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now (Penguin, 576 pages), which replaced Gates’ previous favorite book, also by Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature (Penguin, 832 pages).
For something more recent, Gates recommended a handful of other books on his blog earlier this year. (Why has no one started Bill’s Book Club? He is said to read 50 books a year, by reading a minimum of an hour at a sitting.) A sampling of his recommendations this year:
Good Economics for Hard Times, by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee (Public Affairs, 432 pages), the case for “intelligent interventionism” in public policy to solve inequality.
The Ride of a Lifetime, Lessons Learned from 15 years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, by Robert Iger (Random House, 272 pages). “One of the best business books I’ve read in several years,” Gates says.
The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness, by Andy Puddicombe (St. Martin’s Griffin, 224 pages). Gates says he started to meditate after reading this book.
The Choice, by Dr. Edith Eva Eger, a memoir and guide to processing trauma (Scribner, 320 pages). Added bonus for this title: It’s also endorsed by Winfrey, who has said, “I’ll be forever changed by Dr. Eger’s story.”

Featured photo: The Arrest

Album Reviews 20/11/26

Patrick Higgins, Tocsin (Telegraph Harp Records)

Just before the election, there was a pretty good meme making the rounds, in which God scolds Gabriel for filling the year 2020 with all the events that were supposed to happen during the entire decade instead of spacing them out. This New York based noise/classical composer is perfect for this apocalyptic period, focusing his efforts on creating “crisis music” with his combo of overeducated, over-Manhattan-ed music nerds. After serving in bands both rock and classical, Higgins’ goal these days is creeping you out, or at least bringing the listener awareness of how creepy everything is these days, this by making his music act as an organic, brain-bending x-factor. In the beginning (“SQ3 (I) Aletheia”), it’s a cross between maximum-crazy Jim Thrilwell and the hope-destroying soundtrack to There Will Be Blood. But there are other things too, of course, such as angry piano-bonking, slasher-movie string assaults (“SQ3 (III) Passagio”), chime concertos (“Tocsin 01”), etc., all of it washed off most elegantly in the end with a stab at Bach’s Contrapunctus XIV. World-renowned contributors include Wet Ink Ensemble, pianist Vicky Chow and the Mivos Quartet. A+

Suuns, Fiction EP (Joyful Noise Recordings)

This Canadian band has been around since 2007, making an artsy mix of neo-psychedelic art-punk. They’re arguably most famous for their 2013 tune “2020,” a wub-wubbing freak-electro joint that sounds pretty much exactly like what you’d expect to hear from a band of Martians trying to sound like Clinic, which I, at least, am fine with. This shorty EP is the product of Covid-enforced isolation and sounds it; the basic tracks for these songs come from older recordings that have been micro-analyzed and reworked with their trademark futuristic mindset as tempered by the sense of doom that pervades human life these days. Opener “Look” is a bizarre noise essay combining the smooth EDM of The Orb with the reverent nonsense-sampling of The Books, but that’s just the warm-up. “Breathe” features guest Jerusalem In My Heart adding a buzzy Albanian chordophone line to a couple of pretty neat loops; “Pray” bounces along nicely with some bloopy goth soundtracking. A

Retro Playlist

At this point there’s really not much else to do other than commiserate with others on the internet. The other day I got into it on Facebook with a couple of my old alpha-troll friends, a couple of European chaps who, like me, used to chase bad people off the internet for fun. It all started when the British guy posted a SoundCloud clip of himself playing a guitar line to some song titled “So What.” I told him that to me it sounded like Allman Brothers (my default response when light jam-rock isn’t hopelessly wimpy), and our Belgian friend said it sounded like Steve Vai, one of those old guitar hero-type guys, you know, the “rock stars” who nobody really knows except for nerds and other guitar players.
The Belgian and I were surprised to find out that the Englishman was actually playing his “axe” over a rip of a Miles Davis jazz tune. Miles is the most famous trumpet player in history, which you should know if it ever comes up on a test, so the other guy and I felt kind of stupid, which meant that we all had to start throwing mindless insults at each other. Being I’m not a “Miles-ophile,” I led with the defense that I believe “anyone who pretends to like everything Miles has ever done should be dipped in murder hornets.” Things devolved from there, as always, but I think I successfully made the point that I’m a casual jazz fan, not a Miles wonk, mostly familiar with his work with Sonny Rollins.
I’ve gotten a lot of pleasure and serenity out of all these years of reviewing jazz albums, the bonus being that unlike my British friend I didn’t spend many thousands of dollars building my collection, since public relations people send me new ones nearly every day. And the jazz world isn’t just composed of a bunch of bands huddling in unheated recording studios trying to get a good take of “My Echo My Shadow And Me”; there’s always a new angle. I don’t know if any of you remember this — OK, you don’t, but who would — but in 2011 I tried to get you to listen to Mocean Worker’s Candygram For Mowo! You should still check it out; it’s a jazz album but with a ton of hip-hop and house-techno influences.
In 2014 I mentioned Zara McFarlane’s If You Knew Her, which included a cover of Kitty White’s “Plain Gold Ring,” but other than that it was expressionism colored in her African roots, accentuated with such things as bird noises and steel drum bits.
Great stuff, but as always, all jazz is eclectic stuff, so it’s best to sample jazz albums before buying the vinyl versions. Unless it’s the Yellowjackets. If you see a Yellowjackets album, just buy it.


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Here we go, the holidays are here, as evidenced by all the new CDs slated for release on Friday, Nov. 27! For our first inspection of the week, let’s look at the new Miley Cyrus album, Plastic Hearts, because it’ll probably be interesting if nothing else. Miley has stated that her influences for this record were Britney Spears and Metallica, meaning she’s still officially insane, but let’s not rush to judgment, shall we? I mean, if she can do this, maybe Bruno Mars will do a cover of a Death Grips tune, you know? Wouldn’t that be awesome, guys? But no, I’m kidding, Miley legitimized herself as a metal queen when she did the cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like a Hole” at the Glastonbury festival last year, but even before that, her appearance on the Worst Episode Ever of Black Mirror Krazy-glued her spurious new image into the public consciousness: She’s basically a hilariously overprivileged, 27-year-old version of Keith Richards, but with Auto-Tune. So this album (by the way, she’s also threatening to make an album of Metallica cover songs) is basically a Kinder Egg for critics, like, I know that when I check out “Midnight Sky,” the single I’ve successfully avoided for two months now, it’s going to turn out to be cheap and dumb, but will its Kinder Surprise be a toy car or a xenophobic Smurf? Whatever, the video is OK, if your brain doesn’t glitch out from being exposed to her usual overacting; it’s like ’80s post-disco, think mellow-mode Taylor Dayne as sung by Britney Spears. It’s survivable, is what I say.

• Ho ho ho, anyone notice that Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins is looking more and more like a clown version of Uncle Fester these days? I mean, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, per se, I was just making an … oh just drop it, the ’Kins are back, with a new double-album, called Cyr, this week! The only thing that’s ever stuck out to me about the ‘Pumps is that they have a real knack for making headlines, in rock ’n’ roll magazines, while only ever delivering room-temperature grunge-pop made even more inedible by Corgan’s Steve Urkel singing voice. But that’s just me, and you may disagree, which is fine, and I will simply agree to listen to the title track. Hmm, it’s like Kraftwerk, but with a catchy chorus. Does it seem weird to anyone else that the good old ‘Smashies are a ’90s band, and the ’90s were supposed to be an improvement over ’80s music, but here they are doing phoned-in krautrock? No? Never mind then.

Billie Joe Armstrong is that little fake punk guy from whatever-their-name, Green Day. Since Green Day’s music hasn’t made enough money to buy all the Twizzlers he could ever eat, he’s solo now, with a new album, No Fun Mondays! The album consists of all cover songs, including Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America,” which was a finalist in the 1981 “Worst Songs Ever Made” competition as selected by the legions of Beelzebub.

• We’ll end the week with holiday cheer, as spread by Nova Scotia-born folk-popper Jenn Grant on her new album, Forever On Christmas Eve! It includes “White Christmas,” blah blah blah, and an original, called “Downtown Christmas Eve,” a sexytime chill-out with binking piano and an aimless but pleasant melody.

Wines for giving thanks

Wines to consider for your Thanksgiving menu

“This Thanksgiving will be unlike all other Thanksgivings!”

We have heard that expression far too many times, haven’t we? We will all be hunkered down, safe in our households, seated for our traditional feast, but there will be differences around us, some subtle, some not-so-subtle. Crazy Uncle Larry who begins his Thanksgiving Day cocktail hour at 10 a.m. will be (thankfully) absent and the feast may be a bit simpler, a bit smaller. For the early afternoon, we plan to have another couple over for hors d’oeuvres in the driveway, surrounded by patio heaters! For our dinner, instead of a large turkey, we will have a roast duck. It will be smaller and simpler but still very enjoyable!

We still need to celebrate with our friends and family, and with wine paired to the extended courses. The possibilities are endless.

Chic Barcelona Brut Cava (originally priced at $14.99, on sale at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets at $7.99) is a bargain not to be passed up. A blend of 35 percent macabeu, 35 percent xarello and 30 percent parellada grapes, this wine hails from the Penedès region of Catalonia, Spain, south of Barcelona, where the climate is Mediterranean with continental influences meaning that it tends to have cold winters and slightly milder summers than the interior countryside produces full and fresh wines resulting in a slower maturation of the grapes. Cava is the chief wine of this region and it is made in the traditional, or Champagne, method, which means it has a second fermentation in the bottle. The color of this wine is a light straw. The tiny bubbles that rise from the bottom of the glass are not as intense as with Champagne and the nose is bright and fresh, lacking in the yeasty brioche nose one identifies with a Champagne. To the tongue, the taste is fresh and citric but lacking in length. This is an excellent accompaniment to hors d’oeuvres, and a great way to start the meal. Alcoholic content is 11½ percent.

Höpler Grüner Veltliner, 2019 (originally priced at $16.99, on sale at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets at $14.99) is an Austrian wine from the eastern part of the country, from vines planted along the Danube River and on the banks of Lake Neusiedl. The Höpler winery is located in Burgenland, just 45 minutes from Vienna. The soils range from gravel with some clay to rich, fertile well-draining silt. Cold winters allow the vines to go dormant, but hot summers with substantial sunshine and humidity rising from the nearby lake allow the grapes to develop a balance between fruit, flavor and great acidity. The color is straw with a strong overtone of green. The green results from the selection of greener grapes, producing a wine that is more aromatic than the wine made from grapes that are more yellow. To the nose the wine has notes of lime and minerality, along with some white pepper spice. This wine falls between sauvignon blanc (acid and green grassy notes) and riesling (tropical and mineral notes). To the taste, this wine has tropical fruit — pineapple with lemon-lime acidity. This is an ideal wine to cool and just sip, alongside the cava, to enjoy along with oysters, or to transition to the main course, the bird.

Schug 2017 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (originally priced at $32.99, on sale at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets at $14.99) is a blend of pinot noir grapes from select vineyards located in the western portion of Carneros, a region on the coast of the San Pablo Bay. A cool, breezy climate allows the grapes to mature slowly and retain their natural acidity, with bright flavors of red cherries, raspberries and spice. There is also a touch of tart pomegranate on the tongue. The wine is aged in large neutral oak casks and older French oak barrels to keep new oak flavors to a minimum. The finish is long and reminds me of cranberry, and therefore perfect to pair with that bird! It will nicely cut through the buttery fat of the bird’s side dishes.

So, while the Thanksgiving celebration may be small and ever so intimate, it should be savored. The pandemic will pass; the memories will live on. Happy Thanksgiving.

Cocktails as a holiday family avoidance strategy

Holidays are traditionally the time for extended families to gather together. Amid all the hastening and chastening, they are also a time for avoiding family. Hiding in the bathroom or the garage is a time-honored Thanksgiving activity.

But this year — as with all aspects of our lives — things are different. The family we might be the most eager to avoid may also be the same people we’ve been with 24 hours a day for the last nine months. At this point most of us have used up pretty much every viable excuse to leave a room.

Except perhaps one: a cocktail.

Please notice that I have specified “A” cocktail. Aside from flirting with dangerous habits or an outraged liver, heavy drinking rarely produces the outcome you might be looking for. Before you get to the Comfortably Numb stage, you will probably pass through the Karaoke stage, and even the “Let Me Text the Relatives and Tell Them What I Really Think Of Them” stage — neither of which are likely to give you the sense of peace you are looking for.

Leaving the room to make a drink, however, especially at the holidays, is a culturally sanctioned escape from playing Pictionary. “I’m just going to make a drink; go ahead and start without me,” is a tacitly accepted Holiday Get Out of Jail Free Card.

There are two approaches to the Escape Cocktail:

Fast and Easy: Get into the kitchen, make a simple drink, drink it, and get back out to the living room without spending too much of your rapidly diminishing social capital.

Slow and Complicated: Make something that will involve so much time and effort that nobody will be tempted to help you, and at the same time everyone will pretty much avoid and then forget about you altogether.

Thanksgiving Cocktail No. 1 – Fast and Easy: The Jack-In-The-Box

2 oz. Calvados, AppleJack or other apple brandy

2 oz. Pineapple juice

2 dashes bitters (I measured this out and two dashes = about 25 drops)

Combine ingredients over ice and shake thoughtfully. Don’t smash the ice up this time.

Strain into a martini glass.

The Jack-In-The-Box is a classic cocktail from the 1970s. It is different enough from what you are used to drinking to be interesting, but not so different as to be threatening. You don’t need threatening. Not right now.

Your experience drinking a Jack-In-The-Box will be highly subjective, depending on what you’ve been snacking on. If you’ve been eating something sweet, this will taste a little … off. If you’ve been eating something salty on the other hand, you will need one hand free to make a chef’s kiss gesture upon drinking it.

For those of us who are also from the ’70s, the JIB goes spectacularly well with homemade Chex Mix, or as we called it in my youth, Nuts & Bolts (see box).

Thanksgiving Cocktail No. 2 – Slow and Complicated: The Cranberry Cobra

½ oz. lemon juice

¾ oz. jalapeño rum (see below)

1½ blisteringly cold vodka

1 oz. cranberry syrup (see below)

½ oz. 100 percent cranberry juice

1 bottle Fever Tree Aromatic Tonic

Shake everything but the tonic over ice, as vigorously as you see fit.

Pour into a tall Collins glass, over more ice.

Top with tonic and stir gently.

This is a Thanksgiving riff on a cocktail called a Cobra Verde, which is frankly delicious, but pretty summery. The Midori that gives the original drink its verde has been replaced with cranberry syrup and cranberry juice. Tasty-But-Pricey Mexican pepper liqueur has been replaced with homemade jalapeño rum.

Is it delicious? Yes. Is it Thanksgiving-colored? Yup. How long will it keep you in the kitchen? Anywhere from 20 minutes to four days.

Cranberry Syrup

1 part sugar

1 part 100-percent cranberry juice – NOT cranberry juice cocktail

Bring both ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until the sugar dissolves completely — about two minutes.

Actually that’s it. You will probably want to let it cool before actually using it in a cocktail.

So, right now, if you are a thoughtful reader, you are asking why you can’t just use cranberry juice and simple syrup in the Cranberry Cobra and skip the syrup making altogether.

Seven words for you — Apple. Pie. Ala. Mode. With. Cranberry. Syrup.

Jalapeño Rum. Photo by John Fladd.

Jalapeño Rum

1 liter bottom-shelf white rum

4-5 jalapeños, roughly chopped.

Combine peppers and rum in a wide-mouthed airtight jar. Store someplace cool and dry.

Let it macerate for up to a week, but taste it after three days.

Shake twice a day, which gives you a convenient week-long excuse to leave a room. “Oh, sorry — I have to go shake the rum.”

When the rum is at the right level of flavor and heat for you, filter it through a coffee filter, bottle and label.

According to the website for the Tasty-But-Pricey Mexican pepper liqueur, they combine specially grown-in-the-moonlight ancho peppers and “pure cane spirits,” which sounds like white rum to me. Why bottom-shelf? Any subtle rum flavors will be blown out by the Angry Jalapeño Brothers.

This rum is absolutely delightful and will revolutionize your bloody marys.

1970s Era Nuts & Bolts
½ cup salted butter (1 stick)
2 Tablespoons full-sodium soy sauce
1¼ teaspoons seasoned salt
¼ teaspoon garlic salt (If there was any way to cram more salt into this, we didn’t know about it in the ’70s.)
2¾ cups Corn Chex
2¾ cups Rice Chex
2¾ cups Wheat Chex
1½ cups cocktail peanuts (Oh, wait – apparently there is a way.)
1½ cups sesame sticks
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
Melt butter in a shallow pan. Stir in soy sauce, seasoned salt and garlic salt.
Add cereal, peanuts and sesame sticks. Mix until all pieces are coated.
Place on a shallow baking pan with sides.
Bake for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
“Wait,” I hear you saying, “what about the pretzels?
Funny you should ask.
I have a theory about pretzels; it’s part of my Grand Unified Snack Theory. Take a handful of pretzels. They’re fine. They aren’t exciting, but there’s nothing particularly wrong with them, either. Now, put them in a snack mix. They immediately become the worst thing in that snack mix. Sesame sticks, on the other hand, immediately become the best part of a snack mix. It’s a mystery of science.

Featured photo: Happy Thanksgiving. Courtesy photo.

In the kitchen with Melinda Sergi

Melinda Sergi of Concord is the owner of The Cannoli Stop Cafe & Bakery (239 Loudon Road, Concord, 224-9706, find them on Facebook), which opened in its current location in January after being in business for nearly two years a mile down the road. In addition to featuring a full pastry case of cheesecakes, cupcakes, chocolate-dipped Oreos and more than 30 types of homemade cannoli fillings, the shop has expanded its offerings since reopening to include subs, calzone turnovers, soups, pastas and other homemade dinners to go. All cannolis are made fresh to order — you can simply choose a small or large-sized shell, then pick your fillings and toppings. Fillings run the gamut from traditional and chocolate chip to caramel, blueberry, pumpkin and cotton candy.

What is your must-have kitchen item?
I use rubber spatulas for everything. We have piles of them.

What would you have for your last meal?
I’d probably say just a slice of pizza. I love pizza with sausage and onions.

What is your favorite local restaurant?
Vinnie’s Pizza in Concord.

What celebrity would you like to see ordering from your shop?
Sandra Bullock.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?
The cannolis top everything. I love the orange zest flavor and the chocolate-dipped shell. We’ve had orange zest from the beginning.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?
Takeout is the big thing right now, [like] subs, sandwiches, pizza, that kind of stuff.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?
I love to make a full meal for the family, like a shepherd’s pie or a turkey dinner.

Photo courtesy of the Cannoli Stop Cafe & Bakery.

Chocolate-dipped Oreos
From the kitchen of Melinda Sergi of The Cannoli Stop Cafe & Bakery
1½ pounds chocolate of choice (milk, dark or white)
1 bag of Oreos (any flavor)
Toppings like sprinkles, coconut shavings or chopped candies (optional)
Melt chocolate using a double boiler and dip in Oreo flavor of choice. While chocolate is still wet, add any optional toppings. One and a half pounds of chocolate yields about 30 Oreos, which make great dessert trays for events.

Featured Photo: Melinda Sergi

When life gives you lemons, bake cookies

Salem’s Fabrizia Spirits launches line of limoncello-infused baked goods

Fabrizia Spirits Baking Co. Photos by Mark Feldman.

When Fabrizia Spirits co-owner Phil Mastroianni started to look ahead to what is normally a quiet winter season for the Salem limoncello producer, he turned to his younger brother Nick with an ambitious idea.
“We’ve been cooking and baking with our limoncello for years,” he said. “When we first started Fabrizia 11 years ago, we would do tastings at some of the liquor stores … and I would bake a limoncello cake and give out samples of it. So I said to Nick that we should start a baking company with our limoncello, and from there it didn’t take too much convincing for him.”
The Fabrizia Lemon Baking Co., which launched on Nov. 5, will feature a full selection of baked goods infused with Fabrizia limoncello that will be introduced over time. The company started with Italian limoncello cookies made from a family recipe, followed by limoncello whoopie pies. More lemon-flavored goodies like cakes and biscotti are expected to be added soon.
Utilizing space the company had recently acquired during a production expansion, Fabrizia added a commercial oven and received a food service license from the Town of Salem.
The cookies are baked fresh every day with all-natural ingredients, including real cane sugar, butter, eggs and lemon zest from freshly squeezed Sicilian lemons. The alcohol from the limoncello that’s used is baked off, making the cookies suitable for consumption of all ages, according to Mastroianni. They come in packages of six, each one weighing individually just over three ounces, and are available for online ordering and shipping.
“We wanted it to be kind of a luxury treat item and not just another run-of-the-mill cookie,” he said. “People really like the crispy exterior and the soft inside. … The lemon zest also makes it unique. When you’re able to use fresh lemon zest, it makes a great difference.”
Shortly after debuting the cookies, Fabrizia introduced lemon whoopie pies. Those feature a lemon cake with the limoncello worked right into the batter, while the cream filling is made from a combination of confectioner’s sugar, marshmallow and finely chopped lemon zest. Each ¼-pound whoopie pie is wrapped individually and can last frozen for up to a year.
By early December, Mastroianni said, the company expects to roll out limoncello biscotti integrated with almonds, a recipe inspired by the two brothers’ grandmother. The baked goods add to Fabrizia’s growing product line, which includes multiple types of limoncello flavors and ready-to-drink canned limoncello-infused cocktails.
From each order placed on Fabrizia’s new baking website, $1 will be donated to Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks across the country.

Fabrizia Lemon Baking Co.
Visit, find them on Facebook and Instagram @fabrizialemonbakingco or call 458-1745 to purchase products, which include limoncello cookies, whoopie pies and other infused baked goods.

Featured photo: Fabrizia Spirits Baking Co. Photos by Mark Feldman.

Stay in the loop!

Get FREE weekly briefs on local food, music,

arts, and more across southern New Hampshire!