College reunion

Blues trio goes way back

When James Montgomery arrived at Boston University in 1967 his mind was on more than the English degree he hoped to earn. Steeped in the music of his native Detroit and keenly aware of his new home’s burgeoning scene, he set out for Kenmore Square with a harmonica tucked in his pocket.

There he found guitarist Bob McCarthy playing 12-bar blues. Montgomery offered to jam; an instant friendship formed.

“Within two or three hours,” Montgomery said in a recent phone interview, “I had already found someone to play music with, and I continue to play with him to this day.”

McCarthy went on to make many Boston “best of” lists while appearing with Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Jonathan Edwards and others.

For his part, Montgomery kicked off a 50-year career by being the first Northern artist signed to Capricorn Records, label of the Allman Brothers and Marshall Tucker Band. The irony of the pairing wasn’t lost on him. “Grew up in Detroit, out of Boston, but somehow we were called Southern rock,” he told one interviewer. “Go figure.”

On May 21, Montgomery and McCarthy continue the bond formed that day at an acoustic show in Laconia, performing as a trio rounded out by bass player Billy Martin — who also shares a connection with Montgomery from those days.

“He was in my first college band,” he said. “We opened up for Paul Butterfield, and Buddy Guy and Junior Wells in upstate New York.”

It will truly be a BU reunion, Montgomery added. “I mean, we all did really go to school together and everything.”

After the pandemic canceled his 2020 shows, Montgomery, whom Peter Wolf once called “the John Mayall of New England,” is eager to get back on stage.

“I’m bringing the whole band, and we’ve all been vaccinated,” he said. “I’ve got a bunch of outdoor shows. … My July and August look like any other year.”

Their first gig back was April 23 in Franklin, Mass.

“We had a ball,” Montgomery said, though “some of the songs we couldn’t remember; it was like, ‘Does the bass solo come before or after that?’ There were some arrangement changes we made spontaneously on stage.”

For anyone on the fence about getting a shot, Montgomery had an answer with “Get Vaccinated,” a redo of “Intoxicated,” which originally appeared on his From Detroit to the Delta album.

“We made it multicultural, people from across the spectrum getting vaccinated,” he said of the video, released in late April. “One of the main reasons for putting it out was to try and encourage people to hasten that process so we can get back to full-capacity live music.”

Montgomery has been involved in several film projects over the past two decades, contributing the title song for Delta Rising: A Blues Documentary in 2007, a project that included narrator Morgan Freeman and musicians Mose Allison, Charlie Musselwhite and Willie Nelson. With partner Judy Laster, who runs the Woods Hole Film Festival, he co-founded the Reel Blues Festival in 2001.

Currently he’s nearing completion of a documentary that’s close to his heart: Bonnie Blue — James Cotton’s Life in the Blues. Cotton, a harmonica legend, shared a familial bond with Montgomery.

“When I’d call his manager, Jack would say, ‘Oh, your father wants to say hello,’” he said. “I met him when I was in my teens, and we were lifelong friends. Of course, we’d done a ton of work together.”

Most of the filming is complete, with post-production and song rights the remaining tasks. The latter is currently the focus of a fundraising effort.

“It’s a music film, so there’s going to be a lot of licensing stuff,” Montgomery said.

The finished product will be a star-studded affair.

“We got Steve Miller, Jimmy Vaughan, Buddy Guy, and I think we’ll get Charlie Musselwhite next,” Montgomery said.

A two-day shoot had harp players from across the country reminiscing, as both Cotton’s and Montgomery’s bands joined in.

“It was completely spontaneous playing, and chatting about him, which I’ve never seen in a documentary before,” he said. “It’s really cool footage.”

Acoustic Trio – Bob McCarthy, Billy Martin and James Montgomery
When: Friday, May 21, 6 p.m.
Where: Belknap Mill, 25 Beacon St. E., Laconia

Featured photo: Bob McCarthy and James Montgomery. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 21/05/13

Local music news & events

Join together: One sign that things are, as the song goes, closer to fine, is the return of Thirsty Thursday Jam. The event, hosted by Jay Frigoletto, will be outside for the near term, but it’s encouraging to see musicians to play together and network future endeavors. The musical options are wide open — blues, rock, country and soul all happen, and there is no age limit, so bring the family and enjoy a community again come to life. Thursday, May 13, 6:30 p.m., Auburn Pitts, 167 Rockingham Road, Auburn, 622-6564.

Celtic comic: For those wondering why Irish pubs serve Mexican food, Sean Finnerty has the same question, and many laughs on his way to an answer. The Longford, Ireland, born comedian moved to the U.S. four years ago and quickly hit, with his bemused tourist bit landing him on the Tonight show, a first for an Irish comic. Finnerty’s two-night Manchester run will be his first ever New Hampshire appearance. Friday, May 14, and Saturday, May 15, 8 p.m., Chunky’s Cinema & Pub, 707 Huse Road, Manchester, tickets $20 at

Soaring songs: Enjoy eclectic music in a bucolic setting as Red Tail Hawk performs on the porch of a country store. The multi-genre quartet, led by Ben Zanfagna on guitar, sax and vocals, is leaning in a funky direction these days; 2020’s Strokes offered “Rock Steady,” a groove-drenched affair, alongside the Santana-esque guitar journey “Run Run,” which also featured an infectious bass solo. Saturday, May 15, 4:30 p.m., Farm at Eastman’s Corner, 267 South Road, Kensington,

Capitol contest: The chance to play for a Market Days crowd later in the summer is the lure of Tandy’s Idol, which holds its first of four open auditions leading to a June 30 callback round. The karaoke singing competition is celebrating a 15th anniversary; audience members decide the ultimate winners, American Idol style. Wednesday, May 19, 6 p.m., Tandy’s Pub & Grille, 1 Eagle Square, Concord, 856-7614

At the Sofaplex 21/05/13

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street (PG)

I know Oscar the Grouch, Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Gordon, Luis, Mr. Hooper and Maria but one name I didn’t know from the early days of Sesame Street was Joan Ganz Cooney. Cooney, one of the talking heads in this charming documentary, was one of the major forces in bringing Sesame Street to life with the goal of using the techniques that so successfully sold children candy and cereal and got everyone singing ad jingles to sell letters, numbers, reading and basic concepts. This documentary is heavy on the early years — how the show came together in 1969 and recruited its core cast and crew, the public’s reaction to the show and the show’s revolutionary approach to teaching and talking with children. We also get discussion of the real-life death of Will Lee in 1982 and how it was handled by working the death of his character Mr. Hooper into the show and the documentary touches on the 1990 death of Jim Henson. The discussion of the ruling principles for how the show reaches children is fascinating and, if you’ve watched the show in more recent seasons, you can see how the child-respecting approach and concept-teaching ideas continue to direct the show even decades later. I always love the story of people making something; Street Gang offers a smart, affectionate look at the creation of something so fundamental to the childhoods of Gen-Xers and beyond. B+

The Courier (PG-13)

Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel Brosnahan.

And Merab Ninidze as Oleg Penkovsky, a Russian who passes secrets to the British and Americans in the early 1960s. Because Penkovsky is a high-profile official, the British send in an “amateur,” businessman Greville Wynne (Cumberbatch), who has already done some business in Eastern Europe. An ordinary salesman, looking to open a market in the Soviet Union, Greville ferries documents in and out of the Soviet Union until, of course, the Russians get suspicious.

The movie has a Bridge of Spies vibe but peppier, with Greville and Oleg forming a friendship even as they’re mostly just play-acting at “doing business” as cover for a passing of documents. Their work touches the Cuban Missile Crisis and is, apparently, based on a true story. It’s a suspenseful spy tale and Cumberbatch sells his “regular guy, extraordinary circumstances” situation. B Available for rent.

Golden Arm

Mary Holland, Betsy Sodaro.

Longtime best friends Melanie (Holland) and Danny (Sodaro) hit the road so Melanie can train for and compete in an arm wrestling competition in this lightweight but sweet movie that feels like a good Galentine’s Day watch. Melanie is a baker whose business could use an infusion of cash and who seems a little uncertain about the direction of her life after a recent divorce. Danny is an arm wrestling champ who loses her shot at that year’s national title after a fight with Brenda (Olivia Stambouliah), a take-no-prisoners competitor. This movie is part road-trip movie, part sports competition movie (complete with training montages) and part friendship movie that reminded me a bit of Bridesmaids with Holland’s Kristen Wiig energy and the way that female friendship is shown as a strong and resilient thing. B Available for purchase or rent.

Chadwick Boseman: Portrait of an Artist (TV-MA)

This 21-minute documentary looks at the work of Chadwick Boseman primarily through the lens of his Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom performance (which everybody assumed was going to win him a posthumous Oscar right up until the final moments of the award ceremony). Spike Lee, Danai Gurira, George C. Wolfe, Glynn Turman and other actors and directors who have worked with Boseman talk about his style and approach to a part. Perhaps most illuminating are the sequences with Viola Davis, Boseman’s Ma Rainey co-star and a fellow Oscar nominee for the film, who gives a window into not just how Boseman thought about his part but how all actors work to build a character, reading in part from his notes about the screenplay. It’s a short celebration of Boseman’s craft and it’s only available through, I think, this Saturday. B+ Available on Netflix.

Monster (R)

Kelvin Harrison Jr., Jeffrey Wright.

Also Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Ehle, Tim Blake Nelson, Nas, Rakim Mayers (known in his music career as A$AP Rocky) and a very young-looking John David Washington. According to Wikipedia, this movie, which

hit Netflix on May 7, premiered at the 2018 Sundance, and from a read of Washington’s Wikipedia page and late 2017 previews of the festival I get the sense that this movie was shot a good while ago. (Also credited on this film: Radha Blank, writer/director/star of the recent The 40-Year-Old Version, is listed as one of the screenwriters.) .
While not as strong as some of the cast’s subsequent work, this movie has some solid performances. Harrison plays Steve, a 16-year-old aspiring filmmaker who gets tangled up in charges related to a robbery in a neighborhood store that ends in the murder of the clerk. Steve is held in jail awaiting and throughout his trial and we see his shock and fear at being in this situation. Largely through flashbacks, we learn about Steve’s strong relationship with his parents (Hudson, Wright) and supportive teacher (Nelson) and his budding romance with a fellow student at his prestigious magnet school. Steve also has what he later calls an acquaintance but might be better described as a fascination with James King (Mayers), a guy from the neighborhood who eventually ends up as a co-defendant at Steve’s trial.
While Monster has good performances and an interesting story it also has a not-always-successful structural element in the form of a voiceover narration by Steve that frequently puts the setting in screenplay terms. The idea that the frightened, traumatized Steve might put his ordeal at the remove of watching it as though he were watching or shooting a movie makes sense (might even make more sense in a book, where we are more naturally in his head) but it frequently gets in the way and does an amount of “telling” when “showing” would have let the emotion of the story come through more. B- Available on Netflix.

WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn
Way back before the pandemic, if you can remember that far, financial news was obsessed with the saga of WeWork in late 2019 and its failed IPO. This Hulu documentary offers a (frequently gleeful) history of WeWork’s rise and fall, packed full of more Silicon Valley nonsense than, well, Silicon Valley or any other industry parody. Stories of extraordinary excess and mission statements about changing the way people live that sound, as several people observe, like a cult are juxtaposed with people reminding us that “for God’s sake, they’re renting [bleeping] desks.” B Available on Hulu

NH Jewish Film Festival
The New Hampshire Jewish Film Festival kicks off (virtually) Wednesday, May 19, featuring 11 films and a short film presentation.
The short film program, which will be viewable for free, is available anytime between Wednesday, May 19, and Thursday, June 10 (the closing day of the festival), and will explore food themes such as “the secrets of cooking artisan pastrami, the origins of chocolate soda ‘egg creams,’ and the reason why cheeseburgers are forbidden by Jewish dietary laws,” according to an event press release. The movie available on the first day is When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, a movie in German that is getting its U.S. release on May 21. This movie and all other festival movies are available for 72 hours after their festival date, starting at noon on that day. Buy a ticket for $12 to see one movie or get a $43 four-film pass or a $110 all-access pass. The festival will also feature post-film discussions with directors for five of the films and there will be a closing day event featuring a water cooler discussion in Red River Theatres’ virtual lobby.
See a schedule of the films and events and find more on purchasing tickets at

Wrath of Man (R)

Jason Statham is a man bent on revenge in a Los Angeles full of dubious accents, face-obscuring beards and excessive plot cleverness in Wrath of Man, a movie I saw in an actual theater.

Patrick Hill (Statham) is a new hire at an armored car company in Los Angeles where everybody gets a “fun” nickname like Bullet (Holt McCallany) and where guys like Terry (Eddie Marsan), the manager (and a Guy Ritchie regular) seem to be really reaching for that not-British accent, like yikes just let him have a British accent. Like a reality show contestant, Hill, whose fun nickname is “H,” is not at this armored car company to make friends and he quickly angers several of the other security guys, though lady security truck person Dana (Niamh Algar) likes him just fine. In H’s defense, all of the guys seem to dislike him primarily for the purpose of trading Guy Ritchie insults with him. But, after an attempted robbery of an armored truck ends with H taking out all of the assailants singlehandedly and saving Bullet, he does earn the respect and admiration of the men. Some, of course, are suspicious how a guy who was such a mediocre shot in his training could suddenly hit everything he aims at. Other random corporate dudes are not just suspicious but certain that “it’s him” — who “him” is and what his true aims are being unfolded in a series of flashbacks and flashforwards and flashbacks again as we see the incident that sets off the plot from multiple angles.

When you get to the end of this nearly two-hour movie, you find that there are a lot of little plot detours or character bits that are either completely unnecessary or could have been consolidated so that fewer bearded dudes cluttered the action. That and the many jumps to “three months ago” or whatever to see different elements of everybody involved in a crime and its planning and aftermath give the movie a kind of “too much, not enough” feel — too much story stuff, not enough attention to some of the main story threads. The movie drags and I felt like I did a lot of time-checking, with a lot of “gah, it’s only been five minutes? How?” reactions to the at times sluggish pacing.

If you’re not going to have Jason Statham playfully sparring with Dwayne Johnson in their Fast & Furious offshoot (or being an entertaining blowhard in Spy), this is a good speed of Statham. I just wish the movie had been as streamlined as his “single-minded man on a mission” character. C+

Rated R for strong violence throughout, pervasive language and some sexual references, according to the MPA on Directed by Guy Ritchie with a screenplay by Guy Ritchie & Marn Davies & Ian Atkinson (based on the French film Cash Truck), Wrath of Man is an hour and 58 minutes long and distributed by United Artists Releasing. For now at least, this movie is only in theaters.

Featured photo: Wrath of Man

The Five Wounds, by Kirstin Valdez Quade

The Five Wounds, by Kirstin Valdez Quade (W.W. Norton, 416 pages)

You may think that you have no interest in a story about a troubled family set in New Mexico, a story that, just two pages in, reproaches you for not remembering more of the two years of Spanish you had in high school.

You would be wrong. Not about the fact that you should know more Spanish — this is true — but about not relating to The Five Wounds, Kirstin Valdez Quade’s deeply affective portrait of a family that is likely vastly different from yours, but similar in profound ways. But first you have to get past the crucifixion.

The central character is Amadeo Padilla, an unemployed man who lives with his mother and drinks too much. Padillo is 33, “same as Our Lord, but Amadeo is not a man with ambition.” But when he is chosen to portray Jesus in a re-enactment of the Passion, Padilla suddenly finds hope. It is, he thinks, a role he was born to play, and he throws himself into preparation for the Good Friday ceremony with an energy that he has never before assigned to any task, including parenting.

This is painfully clear when, on Holy Week, he comes home to find his 15-year-old daughter, heavily pregnant, waiting for him. Angel lives with her mother, and he hadn’t seen her in more than a year. To Amadeo, the arrival is supremely ill-timed; he is busy being Jesus, and has neither time nor desire to do the onerous chores of parenting, such as helping his daughter get to school on time. World-weary Angel, who had a fight with her mom, has nowhere else to go, however, and had hoped to get some mothering from her grandmother, if not her father, for whom she has no expectations of competency.

But the grandmother, Yolanda, isn’t there — for her own heart-rending reasons later disclosed. So, for a few days, Angel is thrust into being a parent to herself and to her dad, who has decided that, after the upcoming crucifixion, he will make his fortune with a do-it-yourself windshield repair business with a kit he ordered for $1,199. “Amadeo images windshield repair is a trade Jesus might get behind. It is, essentially, carpentry for the 21st century,” Quade writes.

The novel seamlessly switches perspectives, from Amadeo to Angel to Yolanda, who arrives home (memorably described as “an adobe-style house soiled pink with iron bars on the windows”) on Easter day, planning to break the news of a life-altering diagnosis. Instead, she is plunged into assorted family dramas in which she has to assert matriarchal control: her warring adult children, her soon-to-deliver granddaughter, who has not even had so much as a baby shower, just a load of used baby clothes that haven’t even been washed, “as though [the] home were a Goodwill dumpster.”

“Having children is terrifying, the way they become adults and go out in the world with cars and functioning reproductive systems and credit cards, the way, before they’ve developed any sense or fear, they are equipped to make adult-sized mistakes with adult-sized consequences,” Quade writes.

The novel continues to build on small but volcanic things: Yolanda’s increasingly worsening health, Amadeo’s budding business and relationship with his daughter’s godmother and teacher; and, of course, the birth of the baby, which is the beating heart of the story, in fact, in some ways, of all of life.

The child, “unplanned and unwanted, dreaded and bemoaned,” turns out to be the saving of them all. “No child has ever been as needed, as necessary and beloved,” Amadeo thinks as he desperately tries to navigate a crisis late in the waning pages of the book.

The Five Wounds is a novel that builds slowly, set in a region of the United States that does not get a lot of literary attention. Nor, it could be argued, do the novel’s themes. The book takes seriously an unusual expression of religious faith — the live Passion plays that are popular in Mexico and in other places heavily influenced by Hispanic culture.

It begins and ends on Holy Week, one year apart, and as Amadeo reflects on his successor in the role of Jesus, he observes that the suffering of a man 2,000 years ago, “suffering that was newly astonishing, but also just like the suffering of the men crucified beside him, just like the suffering of every person before and after.” So, too, this strangely absorbing story. A

In January a widely publicized open letter dubbed “No book deals for traitors” demanded that no current or former member of Donald Trump’s team find a home in mainstream publishing. The effectiveness of that effort was recently revealed in news that Kellyanne Conway, Mike Pence and William Barr all have book deals. (Pence got a two-book deal from Simon & Schuster, also Conway’s future publisher.)

Right now, however, the political book that is getting all the attention is Elizabeth Warren’s Persist (Metropolitan Books, 320 pages), despite lackluster reviews. NPR drubs it as “a series of stories, then plans,” and, equally damning, “campaign-trail Warren, in book form,” nothing Warren will want to use as a jacket blurb.

Then again, it seems unfair to demand that politicians also be compelling writers.

Meanwhile, for an examination of why one of our most compelling authors was successful, check out The Artful Dickens, by John Mullan (Bloomsbury, 448 pages). Mullan promises to reveal “the tricks and ploys” of the beloved author. One is that to fully embrace Dickens’ genius, you need to read his writing out loud. A literary critic and English professor in London, Mullan organizes his thoughts into 13 essays. Dickens fans will be especially interested to learn the specifics of how the author arrived at the memorable names of his characters, such as Scrooge and Pecksniffian.

After that, check out last year’s The Mystery of Charles Dickens, by A.N. Wilson (Harper, 368 pages), published in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of his death at age 58. Part literary analysis, part biography, the book is also the author’s personal reflection of what Dickens meant to him. Wilson maintains that of all the great novelists, Dickens was the most mysterious, then does his best to open the veil.


Author events

SUZANNE KOVEN Author presents Letter to a Young Female Physician, in conversation with author Andrew Solomon. Hosted by The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Tues., May 18, 7 p.m. Virtual. Tickets cost $5. Visit or call 436-2400.

MEREDITH TATE AND CAMERON LUND Tate presents Shipped. Lund presents Heartbreakers and Fakers. Hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Virtual, via Zoom. Thurs., May 20, 7 p.m. Registration required. Visit or call 224-0562.

KEVIN KWAN Author presents Sex and Vanity. Hosted by The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Thurs., May 27, 7 p.m. Virtual. Tickets cost $5. Visit or call 436-2400.

ANNETTE GORDON-REED Author presents On Juneteenth. Hosted by The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Thurs., June 3, 7 p.m. Virtual. Tickets cost $5. Visit or call 436-2400.

Call for submissions

NH LITERARY AWARDS The New Hampshire Writers’ Project seeks submissions for its Biennial New Hampshire Literary Awards, which recognize published works written about New Hampshire and works written by New Hampshire natives or residents. Books must have been published between Jan. 1, 2019 and Dec. 31, 2020 and may be nominated in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, children’s picture books, middle grade/young adult books. All entries will be read and evaluated by a panel of judges assembled by the NHWP. Submission deadline is Mon., June 21, 5 p.m. Visit

COVID POETRY ANTHOLOGY New Hampshire residents are invited to submit original poems for review and possible publication in COVID Spring Vol. II,an anthology of poetry about the pandemic experience in New Hampshire, to be edited by New Hampshire Poet Laureate Alexandria Peary and published by Hobblebush Books this summer. Youth age 18 and under may also submit original poems to be considered for the anthology’s new youth section. Submit a poem or poems (up to three) by Sun., May 23, through the online submission form at Poets will be notified of the editor’s decision by June 15.

Book Clubs

BOOKERY Online. Monthly. Third Thursday, 6 p.m. Bookstore based in Manchester. Visit or call 836-6600.

GIBSON’S BOOKSTORE Online, via Zoom. Monthly. First Monday, 5:30 p.m. Bookstore based in Concord. Visit or call 224-0562.

TO SHARE BREWING CO. 720 Union St., Manchester. Monthly. Second Thursday, 6 p.m. RSVP required. Visit or call 836-6947.

GOFFSTOWN PUBLIC LIBRARY 2 High St., Goffstown. Monthly. Third Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. Call 497-2102, email or visit

BELKNAP MILL Online. Monthly. Last Wednesday, 6 p.m. Based in Laconia. Email

NASHUA PUBLIC LIBRARY Online. Monthly. Second Friday, 3 p.m. Call 589-4611, email or visit

Featured photo: The Five Wounds

Album Reviews 21/05/13

Rain Rabbit, Rain Rabbit (self-released)

So some guy from Chicago named Kyle Brauch sent me a random email to try to get some attention for his new, totally done-it-himself album. Usually I only focus on such things when it’s a local band, but what got me was his politely excited overuse of exclamation points (“Don’t hesitate to contact me if there’s anything else I can provide!”). Enthusiasm is always just grand, isn’t it, folks? No? Well, it’s better than when newbie bands tell me they’re trying to “garner reviews from great writers such as yourself.” I want to ask them, “‘Garner’, you say? Are you an awesome band, or are you literally trying to ‘raise my ire’?” But regardless, this is actually a decent album, sort of an advanced approach to ’80s radio-pop, starting with opener “Holding On” and — well, everything else. There’s a Hall & Oates/Aldo Nova side to this stuff that was believed extinct. At least by me, I mean. Oh, you get the picture. It’s great for what it is. A

Bedroom, Stray (self-released)

Droopy but basically palatable weird-beard-pop album from Noah Kittinger, who launched this project when he was 16. The main selling point is Kittinger’s voice, which touches on Grizzly Bear and whatever other Beach Boys-dipped Aughts-era album you might be able to stomach, but his go-to vocal sound is more akin to that of Junip’s José González (who I believe is much more renowned for guesting on Zero 7’s 2007 album The Garden, not that I’d ever fight someone over it), or, if you’re old, Gilbert O’Sullivan (of the 1972 mega-hit “Alone Again [Naturally]”). That’s a nice sourball sound, and it literally rescues something like half of these songs, which are glitch-chill with not enough glitch. I mean, it’s fine with me if an artist wants to interrupt songs with irritating demonstrations of beginner-level synth-edginess, but that stuff doesn’t increase its shelf-life, not when there are plenty of bands that go all-out with it and still remain melodic. May I be excused now? B-


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• May 14 is the next general CD release day, and so I must depart the safety and people-shunning zen of my underground lair and venture out once again into the realm of new albums, in the hope of locating some music that isn’t refried, remixed, derivative, contrived or just plain awful. There are many hipsters afoot this week, so let’s first stop and try to gauge what Akron, Ohio-based garage band Black Keys are trying to accomplish with Delta Kream, their upcoming 10th album! Ah, it is a collection of “hill country blues” cover songs, which makes sense. I mean, if you were a skinny jeans-wearing, Reddit-browsing band from Ohio, really the only music you would be familiar with is music from America’s hill country, a region of northern Mississippi bordering Tennessee, am I right? No? Whatever, let’s just go with it; I’m seeing semi-famous names being bandied about here, such as R. L. Burnside’s guitarist Kenny Brown, as well as separate entries from Junior Kimbrough and his bassist Eric Deaton. What, you haven’t heard of them either? OK, that’s a win-win, let’s wrap this up quickly, then, but remember, old songs about mud and snakes and whatever are really cool, because — well, you know, because. There are covers of John Lee Hooker songs, including his version of “Crawling Kingsnake,” which is pretty awesome as far as throwback-chill-blues go. The video was filmed in front of Jimmy Duck Holmes’ Blue Front Café, which is the oldest active juke joint in America. You don’t care? Well that isn’t very awesome of you, but OK, moving on.

• Mind the rocky terrain, Rocinante’s Fail, my backside already hurts from this quest for decent music, and in fact if you’ll stop for some nice water and oats or whatever donkeys eat, I’ll investigate more hipsterism, from this new Chills album, Scatterbrain! These guys are a jangle-pop indie band from New Zealand, and they break up pretty often, which means they are good, because jangle-pop bands should break up as often as possible. What’s this then, the latest single is called “Destiny.” In a nutshell, it’s Belle & Sebastian but with whatsisname’s masculine, half-whispered voice. At least it’s analog, but then again, who could make sleepy Buddy Holly-sounding music with digital equipment, am I right? It would accidentally sound like Tiesto, I think, don’t you?

• I know I just recently talked about a Juliana Hatfield album in Retro Playlist, but she has a new one coming out soon, titled Blood. Yes, she is cool, because she was in The Lemonheads and she’s done records with Paul Westerberg, but let’s listen to the new single, “Mouthful Of Blood” and check in! Well wow, it is an OK song, jangly and mildly riot-grrrl-ish. No, she doesn’t actually sound very edgy, but if you like bands like Dinosaur Jr. or whatever, you’ll probably like this.

• Wrapping up the week is Seattle indie-schlub Damien Jurado’s new LP The Monster Who Hated Pennsylvania, led off by a single called “Helena!” This guy looks like an accountant and sings like one too; this is shuffle-y folkie chill, sort of like Sun Kil Moon but more awkward and accountant-y.

Retro Playlist

Exactly 10 years ago this space was focused on a bunch of new albums, including Give Till It’s Gone, which at the time was the new one from weird-beard-culture icon Ben Harper. Putting all snark aside, I tried to assure my readership that the album “was totally not rushed out to help pay Harper’s legal bills in his divorce from pointy-nosed David Lynch muppet Laura Dern,” because if I’d said it actually was rushed out in order to pay some L.A. lawyer, people would have started distrusting the entertainment industry, maybe even taken a long look at why anyone would buy a Ben Harper album in the first place (“The hard-rockin’ Neil Young-inspired kickoff single “Rock N Roll Is Free” highlights the Joey Ramone aspects of Harper’s voice, because you should always put your weakest foot forward.”).
But all was not baseless trolling of unfairly popular indie-folk-whatevers that week. The main thrust involved two albums, one of which was an emo thing, Yellowcard’s When You’re Through Thinking Say Yes. My review of that one was a random jumble of hatred for their usual freshly showered “power pop” (I really need to take a few minutes someday and just write a quick software program that writes reviews of emo albums, all of which would be variations on what I said about this one: “… there is, as always, little to say about this sort of album aside from ‘at least such-and-so is a good song’). My one-line closer was pretty good, though, if I say so myself: “Beach music for future stars of Teen Mom.”
There was also an arena-dinosaur band on tap, namely old Scottish butt-kickers Nazareth, with Big Dogz. I think this was the band’s last LP before singer Dan McCafferty died, and it was a valiant effort, if a bit too (predictably) bluesy, like the fellas were trying to recapture the non-magic of the muddy, truck-drivin’ bar-band nonsense of their (not awesome) older albums, the ones they made before (the totally awesome) Hair Of The Dog. Nevertheless, McCafferty did turn in a couple of badass rockouts (OK, actually one, “Lifeboat”), and in the end it’s a nice, messy, caterwauling effort.

California Bordeaux

A look at American takes on French-style blends

While blending of grape varietals is not new to California winemaking, Thomas Jefferson would be pleased with some of the latest refinements to this exercise in creating nuanced and complex wines.

A lover of all things French, Jefferson was a true champion of the Bordeaux style of making wine. His favorite red wines came from the left or west bank of the Gironde River, where the blends consisted of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot. His favorite white wines came from the Entre-Deux-Mers region that lies between the Gironde and Dordogne rivers, with sauvignon blanc as the dominant grape. From Jefferson’s day to today, French wine has been the standard by which all wines are judged. When the blind tasting of the Judgment of Paris, formally known as the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, rated a California chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon best in each category, that standard was questioned. So is it odd that winemakers from California still try to emulate the French manner of blending grapes? Not at all, as blending adds much to the structure and complexity of the wine.

Our first wine, a 2013 Carte Blanche Proprietary White Wine (originally priced at $39.99, reduced to $12.99 at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets) is a classic white Bordeaux, inspired by the blend of 68 percent sauvignon blanc and 32 percent semillon. The sauvignon blanc grapes come from the Blau Vineyards of Knights Valley, an AVA name that is incongruous, as this AVA is at a high elevation between Napa and Sonoma counties. The semillon grapes come from the DeLorimier Vineyard of Alexander Valley, an AVA immediately west of Knights Valley. The higher elevations and cooler climates of the Knights Valley allow for slow ripening, coaxing a full range of flavors that result in this vibrant and full-bodied wine.

Nicolas Allen Wines, the maker of this exceptional white wine, is based in the Carneros region of Sonoma County, but the family that makes this wine has been in business for nearly a century. Carte Blanche is a label from the fourth generation of vineyard owners, the first being Clarence Dillon, an American financier who purchased Chateau Haut-Brion in Bordeaux, the only first-growth Bordeaux owned by Americans, the first of several other French wineries he acquired over the course of years.

At 8 years old, this is an older version of a white wine, which may contribute to its dark straw-like color and floral, yeasty nose. The semillon calms the familiar citric or grassy notes one usually encounters with a sauvignon blanc. To the tongue it is soft and buttery like a croissant. Also, in another departure from traditional American sauvignon blanc that is fermented in stainless steel tanks, this wine was barrel aged for 10 months in 20 percent new oak manufactured by the famous Taransaud barrel makers. At only 150 cases, this is an extremely low-production wine. When chilled it can stand alone,or be enjoyed with a salad or grilled fish on the patio.

Our second wine, a 2016 Petite Cote Napa Valley Red Blend (originally priced at $49.99, reduced to $22.99 at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets) honors the heritage of Bordeaux’s finest Right Bank wines that is based on a blend of 75 percent merlot, 15 percent cabernet sauvignon and 10 percent petit verdot. Created for restaurants, the wine has a subtle nose of plum and blackberry. To the tongue it is full of notes of vanilla and chocolate, lasting in a long finish. Its tannins are present with a light, dry sense of leather. This is a wine to be enjoyed with grilled steak and will complement lamb well. It can be cellared for a few years and still retain its rich fruit.

Produced from vineyards throughout the Napa Valley with its warm days and cool nights, and with great blending skill, this wine can stand up against any production-focused Bordeaux red. Created by Jean-Charles Boisset, the Boisset Collection of wines counts among 15 California-based wineries and 13 French wineries, a true blending of cultures and expertise.

These two perfectly balanced wines are to be enjoyed with the onset of warmer weather, relaxing in the afternoon, or over an early evening dinner on the patio.

Little Pink Houses

I have a theory that the greater the classic rock anthem, the less objective sense it makes.

Remember in seventh or eighth grade? That school dance? It was probably the third or fourth one that you had gone to, but this was the first time you were brave enough to dance with someone. And, of course, you waited until the very last song, which was — obviously — “Stairway to Heaven.”

It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman. Or whether you were a boy or a girl at the time. Even if you haven’t thought about that moment in years, it is etched in your memory. As are a series of questions you had at the time:

Geez, how long is this song? (Just over eight minutes.)

Is there something special I’m supposed to do with my feet? (No. You’re 13. Just stay upright.)

Can this person see how much I’m sweating? (Yes.)

What’s with this weird bit at the end, where the music goes from slow, to fast, then back to slow, just long enough to make dancing incredibly awkward? (Art.)

And most importantly:

What does that whole line about a bustle in your hedgerow and the May Queen mean? (Nobody knows.)

Great song.

No objective sense, whatsoever.

While this isn’t universal, I refer you to the entire catalog of Paul Simon — or for that matter, Toto.

All of which is pretty irrelevant, except to say that this week, when I saw a little pink house, it seemed important to memorialize it. And my faded youth.

Little Pink Houses

100 grams strawberries — fresh are good, but frozen might be even better; they break down better in a drink.

4 grinds black pepper

2 ounces gin

5 to 6 ice cubes

¼ ounce white balsamic vinegar — regular balsamic will work too, but your drink will end up looking a lot like root beer.

1 ounce strawberry syrup or 2 Tablespoons strawberry jam

~3 ounces plain seltzer

Muddle the strawberries and pepper in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. If you are using frozen strawberries, you might want to let them thaw slightly first.

Add gin, stir, then walk away for five minutes. This will give the gin time to extract some of the flavors from the berries and pepper.

Add ice, vinegar and syrup/jam.

Shake thoroughly.

Pour, unstrained, into a tall glass.

Top with seltzer, and stir gently.

Garnish with songs from your playlist that will drive your children from the house.

This is a refreshing, spring-like drink. It’s not too sweet, and the notes of black pepper and balsamic vinegar keep it from tasting domesticated. It’s an outstanding Zoom meeting book club drink, but also excellent for sitting on the porch and watching the bird bath. As John (still “Cougar” then) Mellencamp would say:

Aw, but ain’t that America for you and me

Ain’t that America, somethin’ to see, baby

Ain’t that America, home of the free, yeah

Little pink houses for you and me

Oh yeah, for you and me, oh

Great song. No objective sense.

Featured photo: Little Pink Houses. Photo by John Fladd.

Beth Vine

Beth Vine of Derry, also known as The Mad Baker ( and on Facebook and Instagram @themadbakernh), offers fresh items baked to order like focaccia bread, butter bread, cinnamon rolls and bread bowls for soups and chowders. A self-described “stress baker,” Vine began accepting orders for her cinnamon rolls and breads last October. Orders can be placed online through the website or by emailing, with pickups at an arranged time on Fridays at The Grind (5 W. Broadway, Derry). Vine will be participating in the Derry Homegrown Farm & Artisan Market, to be held at 1 W. Broadway on Wednesdays from 3 to 7 p.m., beginning June 2.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

I always have a pastry scraper, because it cuts nicely through the dough. But I like it mostly because I use it on a pastry board that was given to me by my grandmother-in-law, who was a master pie maker in the 1950s and ’60s.

What would you have for your last meal?

Scallops in Pernod, from Street & Co. in Portland, Maine. That is the best dish that I’ve ever had in my entire life.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

I’d probably go with the East Derry Tavern. It’s right around the corner from us — I walk down there a lot with my kids. Their tandoori nachos are delicious.

What celebrity would you like to see trying something that you’ve baked?

This is sort of terrifying, but my top choice would probably be Gordon Ramsay. I’m a huge fan of his. His Thanksgiving turkey [recipe] is such a glorious way to eat a turkey, and I don’t do it any other way now.

What is your personal favorite menu item that you offer?

My favorite is definitely the focaccia bread. A fresh focaccia out of the oven is about as good as you can get.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?

I would say cooking at home, especially during the pandemic.

What is your favorite thing to cook or bake at home?

Honestly, I like just baking with the kids. Nothing too complicated, just cookies or brownies or whatever. It can be messy and disorganized, but it’s always a great experience and builds memories.

Beth’s “One arm chicken Parm”
Courtesy of Beth Vine of The Mad Baker in Derry (entire recipe can be made while holding a baby on one arm, as Vine, a mother of four, can attest)

Thinly sliced chicken breasts or tenders
1 egg
½ cup milk
2 cups Italian-style breadcrumbs
½ cup vegetable oil
1 jar of your favorite tomato pasta sauce
Shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Whisk egg and milk together. Dip chicken in egg mixture, then dredge in breadcrumbs. Lightly fry chicken pieces in vegetable oil, just until breadcrumbs are crispy. Place in an oven-safe dish and cover with sauce. Top with shredded cheese. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbling. Serve over your favorite type of pasta.

Featured photo: Beth Vine

Flavors of Naples

Gusto Italiano Market coming to Bedford

Pizza pies cooked in an imported Italian oven — and prepared by a fifth-generation pizza chef from Naples — will soon be available at a new spot coming to Bedford.

Gusto Italiano Market, on track to open in the coming weeks, will also be offering a variety of imported Italian items for sale, plus prepared meals, desserts and a selection of Italian wines.

The new market is the latest venture of husband and wife Matteo Ronzio and Francesca Dallora, who were both born and raised in Italy. The couple has also owned Real Italian Gusto Ristorante & Pizzeria in downtown Medford, Mass., since its October 2015 opening.

According to Dallora, she and Ronzio originally came overseas to the United States while on vacation in 2014, touring and falling in love with New England. They first settled in the Boston area before later moving up to Manchester in the summer of 2019.

“We were living in North Reading, [Mass.,] but New Hampshire was really our first love,” she said. “We were thinking also about having a second location once we moved up here.”

Last fall, Ronzio said, they came across the vacant building space on Wallace Road in nearby Bedford, a spot most recently occupied by The Wine’ing Butcher before its closure in 2019.

Unlike the couple’s Massachusetts location, which operates as a traditional dine-in Italian restaurant, the new space in Bedford will follow more of a grab-and-go concept. Imported items like cheeses, boxed pastas and bottled wines and olive oils will be available for sale out of a retail space. Ronzio said scratch-made meals like meatballs, lasagna and eggplant Parmigiana will also be prepared at Real Italian Gusto and brought up to Bedford for sale to go.

But Gusto Italiano Market will make a number of other items in house too, among them the Neapolitan-style pizzas. Plans are in the works to bring in a Valoriani-brand dome oven from Italy not available for sale in the United States, according to Ronzio. Ciro Langella, Real Italian Gusto’s chef, will come up to Bedford to help with the market’s opening once the oven arrives.

“Ciro is a fifth-generation pizza maker from Italy,” Dallora said. “He actually already had another place in Beverly, [Mass.,] where he was making pizzas before he joined us.”

Through a connection with the True Neapolitan Pizza Association in Naples, Dallora and Ronzio are also hiring Giovanni Russo, himself a third-generation pizza maker, to work with the oven.

Gusto Italiano Market’s pizza menu will be similar to that of its Massachusetts predecessor — the traditional margherita pizza, for instance, features fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil, while other options will include an Italian meatball lover’s pizza with ricotta, mozzarella, arugula and cherry tomatoes, and a pizza with grilled eggplant, peppers and zucchini. Dallora said a special pizza topping will also likely be created just for the Bedford space.

A few bar seats will be available by the pizza oven, with additional seating outdoors expected during the summer months. Ronzio said third-party delivery will also likely be an option soon.

Gusto Italiano Market
An opening date is expected in the coming weeks. Visit their website or email them for updates.
Where: 254 Wallace Road, Unit B, Bedford
Hours: TBA
More info: Visit, or email

Featured photo: Margherita pizza. Courtesy photo.

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