From the heart

Sons pay tribute in Ricky Nelson Remembered

Matthew and Gunnar Nelson formed their duo Nelson as the MTV era crested. Their video “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection” was ubiquitous when it came out in 1990, but like their father, Ricky Nelson, whose string of hits was cut short by The Beatles in 1964, his twin sons’ ascent was also stymied by a musical movement — Nirvana and grunge.

The brothers were accustomed to uphill battles, though. It took years for Geffen Records to take them seriously.

“We call it the world’s longest overnight success,” Matthew Nelson said in a recent phone interview. “We were the kings of waiting and starting and waiting.”

Even with a record deal, they received scant support; once, they busked in front of an elevator at a radio convention because the label wouldn’t spring for a hotel suite.

So the pair pressed on, touring with their hard-rock blood harmony sound and making new music. They’ve recorded six studio albums since their multiplatinum debut After The Rain, and a country rock project, First Born Sons, is currently in the works. But an evening playing their father’s songs wasn’t something they considered doing until a Japanese promoter suggested it in the early 2000s.

Initially they were skeptical about performing for U.S. troops at Yokosuka Naval Station.

“No one at that time knew who we were, let alone our dad. He said, it’s Japan, it’s for a good cause, and nobody’ll know if it’s horrible,” Matthew Nelson said. “This is pre-internet, so there was truth to that. We put together a little rockabilly show and by the first number my brother and I felt like idiots that we weren’t doing it sooner — the kids loved the music.”

Two decades later, they’re still doing Ricky Nelson Remembered; it hits Manchester’s Palace Theatre on Oct. 7. The show has evolved from its protean origins into a multimedia affair, an evening of music and storytelling. Hits like “Hello Mary Lou,” “Travelin’ Man” and “Garden Party” are mixed with Matthew and Gunnar’s memories, along with filmed interviews from artists who were influenced by their dad, including Paul McCartney and Chris Isaak.

Ricky Nelson starred with his family on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, a sitcom that ran from 1952 through 1966; the show launched a music career that sold half a billion records. His pivot from teen idol to singer-songwriter inspired a bevy of SoCal folk rock performers, from the Byrds to the Eagles.

“He was definitely in a very cool place at a very cool time,” Matthew Nelson said. “If he had any kind of albatross, it was that he was impossibly handsome with a television show [and] I think he came to represent something that had passed by.”

Undeterred, the elder Nelson formed the Stone Canyon Band in the late ’60s and kept playing, releasing “Garden Party” in 1972 with the wonderfully dismissive line, “if memories were all I sang, I’d rather drive a truck.”

Matthew and Gunnar were 18 when their father died in a plane crash, on New Year’s Eve 1985; two years later he was posthumously inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Matthew recalls a “great relationship” with their dad, marked by music, love and laughter. The tribute show reflects that.

“The best part about it is frankly representing our dad and honoring him — I still miss him every day,” Matthew Nelson said. “So for me on the selfish front, I get to visit with him whenever I do the show and relive some of those memories that are personal to me. We get to talk about him on stage.”

Ricky Nelson Remembered draws a multigenerational audience; some come to relive their past, others to discover a bygone era. However, the show goes beyond family nostalgia, insists Matthew Nelson.

“It’s especially a journey through music that wasn’t computerized or fixed in the mix … it’s live. I think that going back to basics is important for everybody — especially for musicians that can slap on a plug-in and tune their voices. You couldn’t do that back then. … People get something real, and that’s the most important thing.”

Ricky Nelson Remembered
Thursday, Oct. 7, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
Tickets: $45 to $55 at

Featured photo: Gunnar and Matthew Nelson. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 21/09/23

Local music news & events

It takes two: The romantic country pop of married couple Thompson Square has produced both CMA and ACM Vocal Duo of the Year Awards, drawing from the power of chart-toppers like “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” and “If I Didn’t Have You.” Their most recent album is 2018’s independently released Masterpiece. It arrived five years after the pair’s two major-label offerings, and critics praised its genre-spanning emotional punch. Go Thursday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m., Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, tickets $35 to $50 at

Indie laughs: An evening of standup presented by newcomer Grey Area Comedy Club includes headliner Josh Day, a New Hampshire native who rose in the Seacoast comedy scene and now lives in the Bay State. Also appearing is feature performer Dean Abbott, and the free show is hosted by Ken Higaonna, who helms the weekly Sunday Spins event. The effort adds another bright spot to the city’s burgeoning night life. Friday, Sept. 24, 8 p.m., Yankee Lanes, 216 Maple St., Manchester,

Join together: Many local performers chip in at Musicians for Meals on Wheels, a benefit for the Hillsborough County chapter of the charity organization. Slated are Rico Milo, Bobby Lane, Tequila Jim, Robert Allwarden, Jess Olson Band, Long Journey, Ebenezer Stone, Acoustically Speaking, Grayleaf and Stone Hill Station. There’s a raffle for a new guitar, along with gift certificates from local merchants. Saturday, Sept. 25, 11:30 a.m., Sherman’s Pit Stop, 944 Gibbons Hwy., Wilton,

Vineyard haven: Enjoy local wine and music from Heat, a mostly instrumental jazz combo weaving elements of R&B, funk and soul into their sets. Formed during the pandemic with D. Heywood on keyboard and saxophone, lead guitarist Dan Sullivan and a rhythm section of bass player Dee Kimble and drummer-percussionist Steve Furtado, the group often adds a vocalist or another guest musician. Sunday, Sept. 26, 1 p.m., Averill House Vineyard, 21 Averill Road, Brookline,

Ubiquitous sound: A fixture on the regional music scene, NEMA nominee Justin Cohn plays familiar favorites with a growing catalog of original songs. His voice powered the Rocking Horse Music Club gospel gem “Everywhere Is Home” in 2019, and he’s readying a debut album for release. Late last year he previewed the new record with the single “On The Other Side Was You,” and this spring he followed it up with “Lie To Me.” Wednesday, Sept. 29, 8 p.m., Stumble Inn Bar & Grill, 20 Rockingham Road, Londonderry. See

At the Sofaplex 21/09/23

Nightbooks (TV-PG)

Krysten Ritter, Winslow Fegley.

Upset after nobody comes to his horror-themed birthday party, 11-ish-year-old Alex (Winslow) runs off to burn all the scary stories he’s ever written, which are both his beloved hobby and the thing that he thinks has painted him as a weirdo to other kids. On the way to his family’s apartment building incinerator, he passes the open door of an apartment where his favorite movie (Lost Boys) and a piece of pie entice him inside. He passes out after a bite of the pie and awakens to learn that he’s been trapped in the apartment by Natasha (Ritter), a full-on fairy-tale cackling witch. She decides to let him live, for a little while at least, if he can tell her one new scary story a night. He reads from his Nightbooks, what he calls his scary story collection (with each story rather cutely presented in the movie as its own mini B horror film), and, with the help of fellow captive Yasmin (Lidya Jewett), tries to write new ones, which leads him to the witch’s spectacular library — and possibly clues on how to escape.

This is a fun adventure horror tale that is based on a book by J.A. White that Amazon labels as being for 8- to 11-year-olds. I’d put this movie at about the 11- to 12-year-old-and-up age range, as there are some scary images and story elements here. The movie does have nice messages about believing in yourself and your unique abilities and interests as well as some fun magicy visuals and Ritter’s wonderfully hammy performance. B Available on Netflix.

Being James Bond

This documentary is essentially a 45-minute commercial for the overall concept of Daniel Craig as James Bond and perhaps as a reminder that, despite some two years of trailers, you really are excited for No Time To Die, which is (at least, as of mid-September) scheduled for a theatrical release on Oct. 8. The movie is largely behind-the-scenes footage of all the Craig Bonds, including some footage from a screen test, with discussion by Craig and producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. The movie goes into some of the creative decisions made for this stretch of the series and some of the difficulties faced during Quantum of Solace and Spectre. The movie appears to be basically free to watch via Apple and is definitely worth your time if you are at all interested in Bond; I think it even made me want to revisit the previous films before Craig’s final outing is released. B Available on Apple TV.

Lady of the Manor (R)

Melanie Lynskey, Judy Greer.

As well as Justin Long, Tamara Austin, Wallace Jean, Luis Guzman and Ryan Phillippe, going full popped-collar “do you know who my father is?” entitled adult-brat. Tanner (Phillippe) is the last in a long line of Wadsworths, the family that has owned historic house Wadsworth Manor for generations. Hannah (Lynskey) meets Tanner when she is particularly down on her luck: she has just lost her (illegal) job as a marijuana delivery person due to a mix-up between Ave. and St. — a mix-up that also got her arrested in a To Catch a Predator-style sting and led to her breakup with the guy she was living with. Tanner, about to get cut off from the family allowance because he fired the guide (for not wanting to date him) at the Manor (a popular tourist site), hires Hannah, who happily takes the job. In addition to giving guests facts about the Manor, the guide also dresses up as the 1870-lady of the house, Lady Elizabeth Wadsworth. Hannah knows nothing about the Manor, the Wadsworths or being a lady — something pointed out by a visiting history professor, Max (Long). But she charms him into letting her “this is ye olde living room” presentation slide.

Not willing to let historical inaccuracy or a potty mouth slide is Elizabeth Wadsworth (Greer), who shows up regularly to interfere with Hannah’s attempts to get high and have drunken trysts with Tanner. Elizabeth is patronizing and annoying and very dead — which leads Hannah first to try to get rid of her via a good saging but then to start to figure out what it is ghost Elizabeth is sticking around for. Elizabeth offers to give Hannah lady lessons to help her keep her job.

This slight, dopey movie has a lot of fart-related humor. And if that’s a pass (sorry) for you, then this is not your movie. I laughed a big dumb laugh at the first fart joke and I’m sorry to say they were never not funny. Not brilliant-comedy funny but, like, “some part of me is still in the fifth grade” fart-joke funny.

I like Melanie Lynskey and Judy Greer. I wish they had sharper, smarter material, but I also didn’t mind just seeing them do this silly blend of very broad humor plus ghost jokes plus a little light mystery-solving. B- Available for rent or purchase.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (PG-13)

A teenager living in Sheffield, England, and dreaming of a future of fabulousness pursues his desire to become a drag queen in the musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, a joyous movie about figuring out who you are, with original songs

Jamie New (Max Harwood) is an out, proud and happy-seeming teen, even if he does have some family difficulties — his dad (Ralph Ineson) doesn’t keep in contact — and he’s the object of some bullying from schoolmates, including popular kid Dean (Sean Bottomley). But Jamie has a supportive best friend in Pritti Pasha (Lauren Patel), whose headscarf and nerdiness have also made her a bullying target, and a supportive mom, Margaret (Sarah Lancashire).

It’s Margaret who buys Jamie the sparkly pair of red pumps he’s been saving for as a birthday present — and she gives him the card and cash that she says is from his dad. Though Jamie is clearly worried about what people — the kids at school, his dad — will think, he uses the shoes as a springboard to more fully develop a drag queen persona with the intention of debuting her at the school prom. It’s this plan that takes him to a drag queen clothing store and its owner, Hugo Battersby (Richard E. Grant), who on stage is the warrior queen Miss Loco Chanelle. Hugo helps to school Jamie in the art of being a drag queen and in also his history, particularly in late 1980s and early 1990s England.

Grant really brings it in that particular song, which captures the joy of his performance days and the struggles of that particular time in history. It’s one of many times when, even if the movie is being very on the nose, it’s nonetheless deeply moving and really captures the emotions of the characters. There are times here that reminded me of the scene in the recent movie CODA, when the teen learning to find her singing voice describes what music means to her in sign language, which is presented as her most precise way of expressing her emotions. Similarly, this movie uses song to really get to what things like performing in drag means to Jamie — and to the hurt of his relationship with his father. The movie also does a good job of making us understand what the power of a drag persona means to Jamie and how he wields it and has to learn to wield that power with care.

Strong relationships also help to sell this story, despite its fantasy elements of lunch room dance numbers and high school hallway as runway. Even though most of Margaret’s scenes are about Jamie, Lancashire is able to give us so much of her life and what she’s going through — particularly the very relatable parental heartache of putting all her energy into supporting Jamie with the knowledge that success means he’ll one day leave her behind. Likewise, we get glimpses of Pritti’s inner life and even some of the more antagonistic characters get layers. This is a sweet, good-hearted movie but it lives in the realm of reality, in terms of the way its people relate to each other, which helps all the joyful aspects of it have even more impact.

And the music and dancing — including some really spectacularly choreographed and production design-having big-cast dance numbers — are universally great too.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a brightly colored, big-hearted, delight-filled movie. B+

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, strong language and suggestive material, according to the MPA on Directed by Jonathan Butterell with a screenplay by Tom MacRae (and based on the stage musical of the same name), Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is an hour and 55 minutes long and is distributed by Amazon Studios via Amazon Prime Video.

Cry Macho (PG-13)

Clint Eastwood dons a very Clint-Eastwood-y cowboy hat to play a very Clint-Eastwood-y old-man cowboy in the Eastwood-directed Cry Macho.

It’s 1979 and Mike (Eastwood) is a fading horse trainer living in Texas. After a clunkily exposition-filled but wholly unnecessary opening scene where he is fired, we see that same former boss, Howard Polk (Dwight Yoakam), hire Mike a year later to go to Mexico to get Howard’s teenage son Rafael. Howard gives Mike, who has never met Rafael, who goes by Rafo (Eduardo Minett), a picture of the boy when he was like 6 (Rafo is now like 13) and some cash and mentions that Rafo’s mother, Leta (Fernando Urrejola), is nuts and that he (Howard) can’t go himself because he has vague legal troubles in Mexico.

Sure, this should all work out fine.

Mike first goes to see Leta, a cartoonishly Bad Mother, at her mansion, where a fancy party is taking place. She drunkenly tells Mike to take Rafo if he can find him — Rafo is wild and lives in the streets, taking his rooster to cockfights. And indeed Mike does find Rafo and his rooster, Macho, on the streets. After some convincing, Mike seems to get Rafo to agree to go with him to Texas, but later Leta threatens Mike that she will send the Mexican authorities after him if he tries to take Rafo. Mike seems to give up on the whole endeavor and drives away but then he finds Rafo has stowed away in his car and eventually agrees to take the kid north.

Because there is now a certain amount of peril involved in their journey — both from the police and from Leta’s henchmen — the duo takes back roads, running in to various types of difficulty. Eventually they end up in a small town where Marta (Natalia Traven), a widow raising her four granddaughters and running a restaurant, shows them kindness.

Cry Macho is not as aggressively offensive as 2018’s The Mule (which, rereading my review, I was way too nice to) but it is generally unpleasant and unfun to watch with regard to everything it does with its Mexican characters. Not that the two Texan characters come off much better, in terms of development and believability, but everything with the Mexican characters has a real hacky stereotype quality that I did not enjoy. The movie’s two female characters are painted with extravagant lack of subtlety as saint (the generous Marta, who finds Mike and Rafo when she goes to light candles in the shrine of the Virgin Mary) and devil (the boozy Leta, whose villainy is so over-the-top it doesn’t really make sense). It’s all so “ugh” that it gets in the way of whatever emotional story it’s trying to build about Mike and his mentor-y relationship with Rafo.

This movie is also clunky and inartful in its plot mechanics and its dialogue. You can see every seam of how this story was put together and the dialogue often feels like a first draft rough sketch of the ideas you’re trying to convey in a scene, not something the characters would actually say. These people never read as humans, only as characters and sometimes only as character types, which also makes it hard to judge whether the performances are any good.

This movie does look good, even if it leans on the dusty landscape to do most of the heavy lifting in that regard. Cry Macho isn’t as off-putting as The Mule — but it also isn’t the graceful The Old Man and the Gun (Robert Redford’s allegedly final acting turn), the movie Cry Macho most made me think of, with its nostalgia-filled “give it up for Your Favorite Actor, ladies and gentlemen” vibe. C

Rated PG-13 for language and thematic elements, according to the MPA on Directed by Clint Eastwood with a screenplay by Nick Schenk and N. Richard Nash (based on the book Macho by N. Richard Nash), Cry Macho is an hour and 44 minutes long and is distributed by Warner Bros. It is in theaters and streaming on HBO Max through Oct. 17.



Bank of NH Stage in Concord
16 S. Main St., Concord

The Flying Monkey
39 Main St., Plymouth

Red River Theatres
11 S. Main St., Concord

Rex Theatre
23 Amherst St., Manchester

Wilton Town Hall Theatre
40 Main St., Wilton, 654-3456


The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PG-13, 2021) screening at Red River Theatres in Concord Friday, Sept. 24, through Sunday, Sept. 26, at 12:30, 3:30 and 6:30 p.m.

Blue Bayou (R, 2021) screening at Red River Theatres in Concord Friday, Sept. 24, through Sunday, Sept. 26, at 1, 4 and 7 p.m.

National Theatre Live Follies,a broadcast of a play from London’s National Theatre, screening at the Bank of NH Stage in Concord on Sunday, Oct. 3, at 12:30 p.m. Tickets $15 ($12 for students).

National Theatre Live Cyrano de Bergerac, a broadcast of a play from London’s National Theatre, screening at the Bank of NH Stage in Concord on Sunday, Oct. 17, at 12:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15 ($12 for students).

Frankenweenie (PG, 2012) at the Rex Theatre on Sunday, Oct. 17, at 7 p.m. with a portion of the proceeds going to Motley Mutts Rescue. Tickets cost $12.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (PG, 1993) at the Rex Monday, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m. with a portion of the proceeds going to Motley Mutts Rescue. Tickets $12.

The Phantom of the Opera (1925), a silent film starring Lon Chaney, with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, on Thursday, Oct. 21, at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey in Plymouth. Tickets start at $10.

Nosferatu (1922), a silent film directed by F.W. Murnau, on Thursday, Oct. 28, at 7:30 p.m. at the Rex in Manchester, featuring live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis. Admission $10.

Featured photo: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Courtesy photo.

Mellencamp, by Paul Rees

Mellencamp, by Paul Rees (Atria, 320 pages)

John Mellencamp hasn’t been a reliable hitmaker since the 1980s, back when he was known as John Cougar. Generation Z would be hard-pressed to name five of his singles, even though “Jack & Diane” and “Pink Houses” still get play on oldies stations.

Mellencamp himself could qualify as an oldie, as he’s about to turn 70 next month. So why would anyone but his biggest fans read a book about his life?

Billed as the definitive biography of the rough-hewn rocker from a small town in Indiana, Paul Rees’ Mellencamp works because it’s written by Paul Rees, a longtime British music writer immersed in the industry and gifted with the elegant prose common in magazines like GQ and Vanity Fair. He takes a local-boy-makes-good story and adds a touch of mystery, making Mellencamp a surprisingly engrossing story even for people who are only vaguely aware of Mellencamp’s music.

Even more surprising is that he’s helped by the subject himself, a profane and rough-edged product of an often dysfunctional house who seems unable to utter a sentence without dropping an f-bomb. Prudes, cover your eyes. The direct quotes from Mellencamp in this story wouldn’t make it past TV censors, even as loose as their standards have gotten lately.

Mellencamp uses profanities as casually as the rest of us use verbs and admits to having a high-voltage temper that lost him jobs early in his career. He came by it honestly: His father was an angry man who once beat his teenage son savagely and violently cut off his hair. That’s the sort of thing that would land a lot of people in therapy for decades, but Mellencamp grew up as tough and defiant as his dad and, astonishingly, says he has good memories of his childhood, which he paints in vaguely Ozzie-and-Harriet terms. Theirs was a church-going family which, for fun in the evenings, would have “bongo parties” in which grown-ups would gather around the gramophone, singing boisterously to artists like Woody Guthrie while someone kept the beat on a bongo drum. “These were happy, rowdy affairs,” Rees writes.

In retrospect, there was no sign in Mellencamp’s teen or early adult years that he would be able to support a family let alone become a famous musician. When he was 18, he got a 21-year-old woman pregnant, then secretly married her but continued to live with his parents. The secret was exposed the night he went to the prom — with another girl — and was congratulated on his marriage by someone who had seen something about it in a local paper. That’s the sort of wild story that populates this book; whether or not you’re a fan of Mellencamp’s music, or his style of living, he has led an utterly fascinating life, and the story that Rees skillfully teases out of these early anecdotes is ultimately more about determination than talent.

Living off his new wife’s income, young Mellencamp bounced from job to job, showing little evidence of ambition. (In another of those bizarre anecdotes, he once got fired from a job at a telephone company after accidentally disconnecting an entire town from its service.) But he kept coming back to his music and at some point developed a steely resolve that allowed him to leave Indiana for the first time and go to Manhattan to go door-to-door at music companies, leaving demo tapes. This went on for a while. He papered a door in his home with rejection slips. But then magic happened. He got a call from a manager who liked what he heard and told him he was sending him a plane ticket and he should return to New York the next day. That would be Mellencamp’s first plane ride.

It would take years, however, before Mellencamp found success, and when it first came it was, ironically, in the U.K., where his first hit, “I Need a Lover,” took off before it hit the airwaves in the U.S. In those difficult years, in which Mellencamp’s first marriage was unraveling, Rees gives us a glimpse into the pop-music industry, as Mellencamp crosses paths with a star-studded roster of antique rockers, to include The Cars and The Eagles. For all his bravado, Rees writes, Mellencamp struggled to maintain belief in himself and his product, as he listened to these bands recording their now famous songs in nearby studios. “I’d walk by their room and hear all of those beautiful songs coming out. Then I’d listen to what I was doing and it was a … joke. It got to the point where I didn’t want to go to the studio,” Rees quotes Mellencamp as saying.

How the singer overcame his doubts, foul mouth and hot temper to ultimately have 28 hit singles and sell more than 60 million albums worldwide is as interesting as what he does now, which is … paint. Didn’t see that coming, but the singer sells his work on, and to this untrained eye, it’s quite good.

Before Rees gets there, however, he answers many questions you didn’t know you had, such as how “Jack & Diane” came about, and what was up with the ever-changing name. (A manager insisted he debut as Johnny Cougar, which Mellencamp hated. And even Mellencamp wasn’t the family’s original name. A great-great-grandfather who emigrated from Germany Americanized Mollenkamp.)

There is also a satisfying amount of crude philosophy from the rocker who says, “Happy is not a normal way to be.” Happiness, according to Mellencamp, is a “very small commodity.”

“We live to work. And we should toil like galley slaves and try to find happiness in our work. That’s what life is about,” Rees quotes him as saying.

Them’s fighting words to hedonistic America, but Mellencamp has always been a rebel with a punch at the ready. B+

Book Notes

Earlier this year the Macmillan imprint Feiwel & Friends announced that it would be publishing a handful of classics with a twist: The beloved characters of books like Little Women and Wuthering Heights would be of different ethnicities than the original and as such would experience the world differently. Otherwise, the plot and themes would be roughly the same.

The first of the series, called “Reclaimed Classics,” came out this month. It’s a retelling of Treasure Island called A Clash of Steel, written by C.B. Lee (Feiwel & Friends, 432 pages), and the main characters are Asian girls sailing the South China Sea.

Also out this month is a reboot of Little Women, with Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy March portrayed as Black. Called So Many Beginnings (Feiwel & Friends, 304 pages), it’s written by Bethany C. Morrow.

Yet to come are reimaginings of Robin Hood and Wuthering Heights.

Meanwhile, the finalists for the National Book Awards in fiction were announced last week. You’d have to read more than one a week to get all 10 read by Nov. 17, the day the winner is announced, but with enough coffee it’s definitely possible.

And the nominees are:

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (Scribner, 640 pages, release date Sept. 28)

Matrix by Lauren Groff (Riverhead, 272 pages)

Abundance by Jakob Guanzon (Graywolf, 328 pages)

Zorrie by Laird Hunt (Bloomsbury, 176 pages)

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers (Harper, 816 pages)

The Prophetsby Robert Jones Jr. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 400 pages)

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura (Riverhead, 240 pages)

The Souvenir Museum: Stories by Elizabeth McCracken (Ecco, 256 pages)

Bewilderment by Richard Powers (W.W. Norton & Co., 288 pages, released this week)

And finally, noteworthy if only for its title, Hell of a Book by Jason Mott (Dutton, 336 pages)

Book Events

Author events

EMMA PHILBRICK Author presents Arkivestia. Barnes & Noble (1741 S. Willow St., Manchester, Sat., Sept. 25, 1 p.m.

DAVID SEDARIS Humor writer presents. Capitol Center for the Arts (44 S. Main St., Concord,, Sun., Sept. 26, 7 p.m. Tickets start at $49.

ARCHER MAYOR Author presents Marked Man. Mon., Oct. 4, 6:45 p.m. Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord). Visit

MELANIE MOYER AND CHARLIE J. ESKEW Virtual author conversation presented by Toadstool Bookshops of Nashua, Peterborough and Keene. Sat., Oct. 9, 11 a.m. Visit

DIANNE TOLLIVER Author presents Life Everyone Has a Story. Barnes & Noble (1741 S. Willow St., Manchester, Sat., Oct. 9, 10 a.m.

ARCHER MAYOR Author presents Marked Man. Virtual event by Toadstool Bookshops of Nashua, Peterborough and Keene. Tues., Oct. 12, 6 p.m. Visit

HOWARD MANSFIELD Author presents Chasing Eden: A Book of Seekers. Thurs., Oct. 14, 6:30 p.m. Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord). Visit

Book sales

MULTI-BOOK CHILDREN’S AUTHOR SIGNING AND SALE A Freethinker’s Corner(652 A Central Ave., Dover, 343-2437,, Sat., Sept. 25, noon to 4 p.m.

FRIENDS OF BROOKLINE PUBLIC LIBRARY TWO-DAY BOOK SALE Featuring hardbound and paperback books of all fiction and nonfiction genres, plus CDs, DVDs and audio books, for sale. 4 Main St., Brookline. Saturday, Sept. 25, and Sunday, Sept. 26, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visit

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

Album Reviews 21/09/23

Chet Doxas, You Can’t Take It With You (Whirlwind Recordings)

Minimally accessible but solid jazz album, a straightforward mixture of progressively minded post-bop loaded with curveballs, the 12th full-length from Doxas, a New York-by-way-of-Montreal saxophone guy. A guy who has some pretty cool friends, I should elaborate; the professed theme here is inspiration, most specifically thoughts that came up while Doxas was on tour in Europe with the band Riverside and wound up sitting in a van “with the cool kids,” Carla Bley and Steve Swallow. Bley asked him why he didn’t just form a trio, et voila, it was done, so this is Doxas with pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer Thomas Morgan. The title track is as nice and friendly as it gets, and then comes the first of many self-indulgent moments in “Lodestar,” dedicated to Lester Young, one of far too many legendary saxophonists whose genius wasn’t enough to keep him from succumbing to self-destruction. Noisy noodling on “Cheryl and George”; some spazzy bumblebee-ness on “Soapbox.” Not something I’d recommend to anyone other than someone who really wanted to see inside Doxas’s head. B-

David Duchovny, Gestureland (Westbound Kyd Records)

No, you shut up, we’re doing this and that’s final. Yes, it’s the guy from The X-Files, and this is his third album. I’ll cut him some slack because he’s not one of the mega-famous Hollywood Vampires guys; he’s just a schmo with enough money and leisure time to make an album with some guys who probably help him clean up after pool parties. No, I kid, he’s still the man to all us alien-goth heads, and hey, the first song is almost OK, like Neil Young but with Mulder singing, and holy crow is the guitar solo awful, whichever one of these guys did this is a terrible human being. Ah, then there’s a mellow bit, “Holding Patterns,” boasting a guitar melody you’d imagine your uncle writing during off-hours from his accounting job. It’s kind of Tom Petty-ish I suppose — wait, “Chapter And Verse” is a monstrosity, maybe inspired by early Traffic from the 1960s. Good lord, I can’t take another minute of this. D


• Here it comes, Sept. 24, with a freshly baked basket of new album releases, some of which might actually be good — I haven’t even looked yet, because I am afraid to. When I check my Metacritic list, the “gig” acts are all in bold print, while the small fry are all non-bolded. I think it should be the other way around. Smaller acts should be bolded and more established bands should be in really small print, to give the smaller releases a chance to make a few bucks instead of all the money going to Eric Clapton’s mansion, or the Hollywood Vampires clubhouse, where the money is instantly converted to gold coins and sealed in a vault that’s guarded by a dragon that knows all the Beatles and Rolling Stones guys and just lets them scoop out piles of gold coins to buy a random Walmart or whatever for no reason at all. Anyway, I’m looking at the list and — um, guys? Why on earth is Flux, the new album from crazed shock-metal chick Poppy, not bolded? What, did they think I wouldn’t see that there was an actual cool album in the list just because it was in normal font? Poppy is a local Boston girl and had a sneak appearance a few months ago on the Grammys or whatever it was, and she makes Billie Eilish look like Marie Osmond. Talk about edgy; the only band she rips off as far as I’ve noticed so far is Meshuggah, meaning she makes music for breaking stuff, or at least she did until now. She was a bubblegummer at first, then she just wanted to freak people out, and now she’s back to bubble-pop, to go by the title track of this album. It’s basically Avril Lavigne but obviously influenced by A Perfect Circle. It’s pretty disposable, and it will definitely alienate all the fans that liked her gore-metal phase. Girl really needs to make up her mind.

• The guys in English reggae/ska band The Specials are all one million years old, but they still like to kick out the jams, or whatever I’m supposed to call it nowadays in order to fake that I’m young and can only speak in short-shelf-life crutch phrases. Yes, the same band that brought you “A Message To You Rudy” may be older than Neanderthal bones, but they know that protest music is important, especially in these final years of human existence. The band’s new LP, Protest Songs 1924-2012, is exactly what it looks like, a collection of old protest songs that tried to inspire people to Do Stuff to fight oppression and make our world a better place (no, there are no Justin Bieber songs on here). One of the covers is a drummy, rattley version of the Staple Singers’ 1965 tune “Freedom Highway.” It is not bad for a band whose members are so old they used to keep trilobites as pets.

• Oh how lovely, another album from an actor who probably should have stuck to acting instead of barfing random albums into my to-do list. This time it’s Caleb Landry Jones, with his second full-length, Gadzooks Vol. 1, which probably means I’ll have to deal with a Vol. 2 at some point. No, ha ha, I’ll just ignore it next time, but for now, sure, why not, let’s see if the guy who played Banshee in X-Men: First Class sings like a dachsund and whether or not the reviewers who gave his last stupid album an average rating of 7.5 were paid to do it. Hmm, this single looks interesting, “The Loon.” Oh geez, come on, it starts off with one of those French café accordions, so of course in the video he’s dressing up like a stupid clown, and then the song starts ripping off Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage.” We can mark this one as done, yes?

• Finally, it’s New York post-hardcore band Quicksand, with their latest album, Distant Populations! Album-opener “Inversion” is pretty cool, like early Mastodon but with Jane’s Addiction’s singer, you might like it.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

Pumpkin time

Why these seasonal brews are hard not to like

I know I get all indignant about pumpkin beers, specifically that they arrive too soon each year, but the reality is, I like them. Labor Day hits and wham, it’s pumpkin time.

OK, honestly, I usually make it until later in September, but this year I was ready early. It was a strange summer and I think I was ready to turn the page.

When it comes right down to it, the complex, sweet, earthy flavor of this giant squash actually does go well with beer.

Yes, I do think you can run into pumpkin beers that are too sweet, too syrupy and maybe more pumpkin pie spice than pumpkin, but I also think you’re starting to see a greater array of really good pumpkin beers, particularly as craft brewers jump on board with this style.

While I dare to say the cinnamon-sugar-rimmed glass shouldn’t be shunned as it so often is by beer enthusiasts, there’s just more to pumpkin beer now than simply sugar and spice. Brewers are roasting locally grown pumpkins — or using fresh — to develop a rich, sweet, complex flavor that creates delicious, interesting beers.

You are seeing pumpkin beers run the gamut, from big, heavy stouts and porters with a pumpkiny, malty backbone to super light, crisp brews that accentuate the sweetness of pumpkin — and everything in between. So you have plenty of choices.

Despite being awfully sweet and syrupy, the Southern Tier Pumking is an explosion of flavor. Shipyard has taken a step past its popular Pumpkinhead with its Smashed Pumpkin, which is, well, a lot more intense with its 9 percent ABV.

Local craft brewers are experimenting with pumpkin, not satisfied with the more mass-produced beers, pairing pumpkins with yams, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, molasses and more. They’re pairing pumpkin with an array of seasonal flavors and many are experimenting with barrel-aging and souring.

As beer drinkers, we’re the real winners here. If you do like pumpkin beers, it’s an exciting time. Here are four pumpkin beers to enjoy this fall.

Pumpkin Ale by Smuttynose Brewing Co. (Hampton)

This is a longtime favorite of mine: hearty, not too sweet and just a little spicy. Although, honestly, I haven’t had it in a few years, more by accident, so I’m looking forward to it this year to see if its taste or my palate has evolved. My memory says the pumpkin is very present, but not so overpowering.

Toasted Pumpkin Ale by 603 Brewery (Londonderry)

I love this beer. The brewery makes this with real organic pumpkin and then ages the brew on Madagascar vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks. This is just exploding with flavor.

Post Road Pumpkin Ale by Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, New York)

I think this is a perfect pumpkin brew: pumpkin-forward with just a little spice, it’s warming and sessionable. I grabbed one of these recently after a long day of yard work and, well, that was just the right move.

Pumpkin Patch Ale by Rogue Ales and Spirits (Newport, Oregon)

They grow their own pumpkins. That’s just pretty cool and indicative, again, of brewers’ commitment to this style. Vanilla, orange peel, cardamon, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg together make this a spice-forward pumpkin beer. If you’re going to go spice, you might as well not hold back. This beer certainly doesn’t.

What’s in my fridge

Islands IPA by Mast Landing Brewing Co. (Westbrook, Maine)
I’ve got to say I’m yet to try a beer by this brewery that I don’t love. I feel like they’re just meeting me on my level time and time again. I find an inherent drinkability with all their beers. This is a double dry-hopped IPA brewed with Azacca, Simcoe and Centennial hops that delivers a fresh, clean and tropical punch. This is one you’re going to return to over and over. Cheers!

Featured photo: Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale is a classic. Courtesy photo.

Thyme and brown sugar apples

It’s fall in New Hampshire, which likely means you’ve been apple picking or at least stopped by an orchard. You now have more apples than you know what to do with. After you’ve made apple pies, apple muffins and caramel apples, I have a recipe that will use those apples for a dinner side dish.

This recipe is perfect for a dinner on a busy fall night for a multitude of reasons. First, only four ingredients are required. Second, from start to finish these apples are ready in 10 minutes or less. Third, between freshly picked apples and thyme, this dish smells and tastes like fall.

I have a few notes about the apples in this recipe. As you may notice, I don’t specify the type of apple. This recipe is pretty flexible, so you can use whatever you have on hand or whichever you prefer. Also, these apples don’t need to be peeled for two reasons: It streamlines the recipe and saves time, and the apple peel adds a nice amount of texture to the dish.

You need to keep a careful eye on the apples while you cook them. You want to saute them until they are fork tender, but you don’t want them to become soggy. Be sure to stay attentive. Once they get just the least bit tender, add the thyme and brown sugar, saute quickly and transfer to a serving dish.

If you haven’t been to an orchard yet, this recipe is all the reason you need.

Michele Pesula Kuegler has been thinking about food her entire life. Since 2007, the New Hampshire native has been sharing these food thoughts and recipes at her blog, Think Tasty. Visit to find more of her recipes.

Thyme and brown sugar apples
Serves 4

2 apples, approximately 1 pound total
1 Tablespoon salted butter*
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
1 Tablespoon brown sugar

Slice the apples into quarters, and remove the core from each section. (Do not peel the apples)
Cut each apple quarter into six evenly sized slices, so that you have 24 long slices per apple.
Then cut all of the slices in half.
Place a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat.
Melt butter, and add apple slices.
Saute for 4 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Sprinkle the apple slices with thyme and brown sugar, and cook for an additional minute.
Serve immediately.

*If using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt along with the thyme.

Photo: Thyme and brown sugar apples. Photo by Michele Pesula Kuegler.

In the kitchen with Cheri Coco

Cheri Coco of Londonderry is the owner of Feed Your Fitness (, and on Facebook @feedyourfitnessofficial), a meal prep business she launched last October that offers a rotating menu of locally sourced options. New meals are posted to her website on Sunday night and usually feature dishes with chicken, beef and fish, as well as a breakfast item like overnight oats. Recent meals have included Buffalo ranch chicken stuffed peppers with brown rice; a barbacoa beef burrito bowl with rice, beans and homemade salsa; and pistachio-crusted salmon with broccoli and quinoa. Everything is made fresh out of Creative Chef Kitchens (35 Manchester Road, Unit 9, Derry), with online ordering available from Monday through Wednesday at 2 p.m. In addition to curbside pickups at the commercial kitchen space, meals can be delivered on Thursdays within a few-mile radius.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

I would have to say my pressure cooker, or my garlic press.

What would you have for your last meal?

Pizza. Probably just a plain cheese pizza, a garden salad with Italian dressing, and definitely a nice red wine.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

It depends on the meal. If it’s breakfast, then it’s Talia’s [Breakfast & Eatery] in Londonderry, and if it’s dinner, it’s Sabatino’s North in Derry.

What celebrity would you like to see trying one of your meals?

I would have to say Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.

What is your favorite meal to make?

I don’t offer anything I don’t like to eat myself, but I think right now the chicken cacciatore is my personal favorite. I serve that with zucchini and brown rice. I rotate it out — it pops up probably every five weeks.

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

Not necessarily just right now, but in the last couple of years, food trucks have been huge. I’d love to have one myself.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Definitely marinara sauce, [with] meatballs, sausage or pasta and Italian bread.

Pumpkin spice overnight oats
Courtesy of Cheri Coco of Feed Your Fitness

½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup almond milk (or own preference, dairy or non-dairy)
3 ounces Greek vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
Pinch of sea salt
¼ cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Combine all ingredients in a glass jar or bowl with a lid. Refrigerate overnight. When you’re ready to eat it, give it a good stir and enjoy either cold or warm.

Featured photo: Cheri Coco. Courtesy photo.

The Weekly Dish 21/09/23

News from the local food scene

Crushing it: Join Black Bear Vineyard & Winery (289 New Road, Salisbury) for its annual Harvest Weekend, happening the weekend of Saturday, Sept. 25, and Sunday, Sept. 26. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about how the vineyard’s grapes are destemmed and crushed before its juices are used to make the wines. Food trucks will also be on site, as well as live music performances outside between 1 and 5 p.m. each day. Reservations are not required, but bringing your own chairs is recommended. With seven wine varieties grown on site — four reds and three whites — and about 18 acres of rolling hills, Black Bear is one of the largest vineyards in the Granite State. Visit

Italian festivities: Tuscan Market (9 Via Toscana, Salem) will host Passeggiata: Walk of Wine, an annual festival, at its newly unveiled location on Saturday, Sept. 25, from 1 to 4 p.m. The event will feature more than 40 Italian and world wines available to taste, along with several stationary and passed appetizers and live music. Bottled wines of featured selections at the festival will also be available for purchase. Tickets are $30 per person. Tuscan Market will also be holding its annual Toscana Fest on Saturday, Oct. 3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., featuring local food vendors, face painting, pumpkin painting, carnival games and raffles, with all proceeds to benefit Lazarus House Ministries in Lawrence, Mass. Visit

Brothers Cortado coming to Concord: True Brew Barista recently announced the sale of its shop at 3 Bicentennial Square in Concord, which will reopen under new ownership as Brothers Cortado. Brothers and Loudon natives Ian and Chuck Nemiccolo plan to open by October, and their shop will feature a variety of coffees and espresso drinks. Renovations are currently underway — follow their progress on Facebook and Instagram @brotherscortado.

WineNot Boutique reopens: Specialty wine retail shop WineNot Boutique reopened on Sept. 15 in its new space at 25 Main St. in Nashua, it recently announced. The newly renovated location is less than a half mile up the road from its former storefront at 221 Main St., with all of its weekly complimentary wine tastings and special events transitioning there. WineNot’s temporary hours are Wednesday through Saturday, from noon to 7 p.m. Visit

Brews for a cause: Red, White & Brew, a craft beer and wine festival presented by Veterans Count, returns to Funspot (579 Endicott St. N., Laconia) on Saturday, Sept. 25, with a VIP hour from noon to 1 p.m. and general admittance from 1 to 4 p.m. In addition to multiple craft beer and wine options, the festival will feature local food vendors, a classic car show, raffles, an auction and live music from The Bob Pratte Band. General admission is $35 and VIP admission is $50. Admission for all attendees includes sampling tickets and a commemorative glass while supplies last, and proceeds benefit local service members and their families. Military discounts are also available. Visit

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