Grumpy but grinning

Q & A with Rick Wakeman

Along with his work with Yes and a large catalog of solo albums, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Rick Wakeman has made music with everyone from David Bowie to Black Sabbath. He even played A&R man when he steered theatrical rockers The Tubes to A&M Records. At his upcoming show in Derry, Wakeman will perform and reminisce about his life, often reprising the standup comedy skills that made him a hit at Yes’s 2017 Hall of Fame induction. Wakeman spoke with the Hippo via Zoom from his home in England.

How did things go for you during the pandemic?

Well, it wasn’t good, but having said that, it wasn’t good for anybody…. I played the piano every day, but there were some days I thought to myself, how long is this going to go on for? I’m just playing the piano and I don’t know why…. The thing that brought everything home to me was … I lost 19 friends from Covid. That hit home very hard.

Will these shows be your first live audience experience since shutdown?

Yeah, they are [except for] a few weeks ago. When restrictions lifted here, I phoned my great friends at the Ronnie Scott club in London and said … I need to play in front of an audience, however small. … I didn’t plan anything to say; I walked on stage, went up to the microphone and without thinking I went, ‘Wow, there’s real people!’ [And] somebody shouted back, ‘Yeah, and there’s somebody on stage — it doesn’t get any better!’

Are you really grumpier this time around?

It’s grumpy but actually funny. … It won’t offend. There are a lot of things to be grumpy about [but] I’m not going to make a meal of the whole Covid thing. I want people to have fun. There will be a moment where I remember a few friends. It’s just going to be so great to walk out and play for my friends — pretty much everywhere I go in America I’ve got friends.

Tell me about working with Black Sabbath.

When they were putting Sabbath Bloody Sabbath together, we were in the same complex of studios. … Ozzy said we’ve got some synthesizer, mini-Moog lines we want, would you come and do it? I said I’d love to. So I went into the studio just after midnight. The entire band and engineers were comatose, they were completely out of it, there were quite a few bottles lying around. The taper was there, and was looking terrified. … He said, ‘I can play you the track; Ozzy said you’d know what to do,’ [and] I recorded it. Then Ozzy opened his eyes and looked at me. I can’t repeat the exact words he said, but he basically went, that’s perfect. He actually went, ‘That’s f-ing great!’

How are you choosing songs for this tour? 

I’m at the stage right now where I’ve got a short list [of 20 songs, and] 10 will have to go. Having said that … sometimes I can throw everything out the window…. It’s happened on a few occasions. I’m certain there will be a few I haven’t played before. It’s a mixture of certain pieces that people in the nicest sense like to hear when I come along, a few they might not expect, and a few total surprises.

What’s the status of Anderson Wakeman Rabin?

I’d like to think something over the next few years will happen for sure, because none of us are getting any younger and we all love what we do … I mean, I love playing Yes music, it’s my life, so obviously if the offers come in and Jon and Trev are up for it, yeah, I’m sure there will be stuff.

How’d you discover The Tubes?

I first saw them in the ’70s. I think it was Halloween and we had a night off in San Francisco. I went out to this club where the Tubes were playing. … There was a lot of drinking and noise. Not a lot of people were taking notice [and] I thought it was a shame that at the time people weren’t really listening to them. Fee Waybill walked off and I thought, is he gone? He came back on completely naked and sang the next song — yeah, that got their attention. He went, now you’re listening. And I thought, I liked you before, I love you guys now. After, I asked, who are you signed to? They said nobody will touch us, they’re all frightened of us. I said, I’ll get you a deal, I promise you. I flew down to L.A. and saw Jerry Moss [and] he said yeah, we know all about The Tubes. Everybody’s a bit frightened of them. I said they are fantastic, so so good. He said, I’ll tell you what, Rick, we’ll sign them, but the deal is you produce them. … Problem was, I’m solidly on tour with Yes [so] someone else came in. Of course, they had a massive album. We remain friends.

Rick Wakeman – The Even Grumpier Old Rock Star Tour

When: Thursday, Oct. 14, 8 p.m.
Where: Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry
Tickets: $55 and $60 at

Featured photo: Rick Wakeman. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 21/10/14

Local music news & events

Wicked funny: Headlining a standup comedy showcase, Nick Giasullo is a Boston funny man recently re-transplanted from Arizona after moving there a few years back during the hottest time of the year. A schoolteacher by day, he practices his craft on his students, then jokes about them in his set. Giasullo is a past winner of his hometown’s quick retort Snap Battles, so his crowd work is also first-rate; Mike Koutrobis features. Thursday, Oct. 14, 7:30 p.m., Millyard Brewery, 25 E. Otterson St., Nashua, $15 at

Island dude: After pivoting from baseball to reality television’s Love Island, Josh Goldstein is back home and part of a dance party at Manchester’s newest restaurant/bar. DJ Stixx provides the rhythms and beats, while Goldstein, who played second base for the team that went to the Division 2 World Series in Hawaii, whips up the house energy. It’s unclear whether his love interest from the show, Shannon St. Clair, will join him. Friday, Oct. 15, 8 p.m., Soho Bistro & Lounge, 20 Old Granite St., Manchester,

Local lights: An effort from the team that produced events at New England College, Pembroke City Limits offers two stellar area acts, NEMA-nominated Will Hatch & Co. along with rootsy Concord veterans the Dusty Gray Band; Derek Astles of Rippin’ E Brakes opens. It’s the first of many shows in the new space, an old barn with a layout that organizers insist “bleeds fun” — a bonfire is scheduled when twilight expires. Saturday, Oct. 16, 6 p.m., Oktoberfest, 250 Pembroke St., Pembroke, $10 donation requested.

Celtic circle: The Capital City’s most music-centric location has acoustic Irish music to start the week, with guitars, pennywhistles and bodhrans. Other than trivia on Tuesdays, each day is tuneful, with a midweek open mic night, Thursday drum circle and Saturday afternoon jam. Weekend nights always include local performers — upcoming is blues from Road House on Friday and Mr. Nick on Saturday. Monday, Oct. 18, 7 p.m., Area 23, 254 N. State St., Unit H (Smokestack Center), Concord,

Guitar hero: After a stint in the band Citizen Zero, guitarist Sammy Boller went solo, releasing the all-instrumental LP Kingdom of the Sun in 2020. His playing prowess was established in 2012, when Joe Satriani named Boller the winner in Guitar Center’s Master Satriani competition. He headlines a show that includes Afterimage, Wired for Sound, The New Noise, Defined Perspective, Earthmark and Abel Blood. Wednesday, Oct. 20, 7 p.m., Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St, Manchester, $12 at

No Time To Die (PG-13)

No Time To Die (PG-13)

Daniel Craig appears to be having some actual fun as James Bond in the long pandemic-delayed No Time To Die, allegedly his last time out as the character.

I’ll admit that at some point fairly early in this movie I stopped trying to follow the plot and decided to just enjoy the ride — the zippy European cars, the well-choreographed fights, the handsome Daniel Craig. And I think that’s fine; something about Craig’s performance here is looser and more energetic than, say, Spectre, this movie’s predecessor from 2015. The movie doesn’t need you to think very hard about who this guy is and how he’s connected to that guy from the previous movie to be in and enjoy the moment. Craig’s performance plays into this; he sells some of the jokes and dry humor of Bond better than in previous movies. He gets more fight scenes that seem to have some visual wit and show off his super agent abilities without making him seem like an unharmable robot. When Ana de Armas shows up as an agent on a mission with Bond, she feels just right, just this side of silly, and with a kind of buddy/mentor-mentee/fan chemistry with Bond.

Also, the plot here, like the plot of so many Bond movies, is kind of a jumble of: ridiculously fortified yet easy to breach compounds, shadowy people pulling the strings, not one but three villains, at least two shadowy international organizations whose evil scheme is overly complicated, strife within and between intelligence agencies, moments when Bond has to Go It Alone and a song by a current big deal pop star (Billie Eilish). All the standard Bond stuff. The movie has nice little callbacks to this-iteration-of-Bond characters past, like Vesper (Eva Green) and original M (Judi Dench). There are some fun surprises that aren’t super surprising, there are some fun shots of Bond in beach locales.

More specifically (but still very roughly): The movie opens with Bond and Madeleine Swan (Léa Seydoux), his love interest from Spectre (and yes I did have to look that up because vague familiarity is all that registered for me), on a sunny holiday in some sunny seaside European town. Actually, the movie opens with a flashback of a traumatic event from Madeleine’s childhood and then the sunny European vacation, all cars on cliffside roads and swanky hotels. But then Bond is nearly killed — first by a bomb and then by a bunch of hitmen, one of whom helpfully drives a motorcycle, allowing him to get kicked off his motorcycle and Bond to do some fun motorcycle stunts. Spectre is behind this, which he knows because they have literally left a card with their symbol on it, and Bond is certain that Madeleine is working for them and has helped to trap him. He decides to trust her just enough to get her safely on a train but not enough to ever see her again.

Five years later, Bond seems just fine with his new retirement life in what I think is Jamaica when American CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright, always fun) shows up to tempt him into One More Mission. Felix and the CIA but not British intelligence are looking for a scientist, Obruchev (David Dencik), who has developed a scary weapon and was kidnapped from/sold-out MI 6 (or maybe a little of both). They think Spectre has him in Cuba and they know that Bond is still hot to bring down Spectre, still in operation even though big boss Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) is in prison. Bond isn’t interested — or at least he isn’t that interested until a lady whom Wikipedia tells me is named Nomi (Lashana Lynch) seems to pick Bond up at a club but is really just there to tell him that she’s MI 6 and that he needs to stay out of this whole Cuba/Obruchev thing. Naturally, that’s when Bond decides to get involved.

(Without giving away too much about Nomi — like the reason why I didn’t remember her name — she adds a really fun element to the story and becomes a strong part of the adventure.)

It’s not important to know too much more going in. My favorite Bond Scooby gang of M (Ralph Fiennes), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), Q (Ben Whishaw) and Bill Tanner (Rory Kinnear) is back. We get the assistant to the regional manager villain in the form of Primo (Dali Benssalah), who occasionally tips over the line into goofy but it’s fine. In addition to Blofeld, we get another Big Bad in a character played by Rami Malek. There are some fun locations — aforementioned vacation Europe, London of course, Jamaica, Cuba, a forest in northern Europe, a no-holds-barred bad guy lair that combines an almost futuristic minimalism with mid-century Soviet stylings, on an island.

What else could you want from a Bond movie? This movie is two hours and 43 minutes long and I saw it in (totally unnecessary) 3D and I still had fun.

Maybe Craig was struck with some “leave it all out on the field” burst of excitement for this character, maybe this movie leaned in to all the best parts of Bond and wasn’t encumbered by trying to build some ongoing story, maybe that Bond documentary available via Apple (Being James Bond — it’s about 45 minutes long and worth a watch) actually helped me get excited about the franchise again. Whatever combination of movie magic and the pandemic-related drought of big event movies gave this movie its sparkle, the result is a long but highly watchable mix of action and nostalgia helmed by a thoroughly engaging leading man — and a solid final chapter to an overall strong run of Bond films. B+

Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, brief strong language and some suggestive material, according to the MPA on Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga with a screenplay by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Cary Joji Fukunaga and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, No Time To Die is two hours and 43 minutes long and is distributed in theaters by MGM. Want more Craig as Bond? The four previous films 2006’s Casino Royale, 2008’s Quantum of Solace, 2012’s Skyfall and 2015’s Spectre — are all available to rent or own. Spectre and Skyfall are also streaming on Hulu. Paramount + currently has Skyfall.



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

Chunky’s Cinema Pub
707 Huse Road, Manchester; 151 Coliseum Ave., Nashua; 150 Bridge St., Pelham,

The Music Hall
28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth

O’neil Cinemas
24 Calef Hwy., Epping

Red River Theatres
11 S. Main St., Concord

The Strand
20 Third St., Dover


Poltergeist (PG, 1982) part of the Film Frenzy $5 Classics series at O’neil Cinemas with multiple daily screenings through Thursday, Oct. 14.

House on Haunted Hill (1959) screening on Thursday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m. at Red River Theatres.

Night of the Creeps (R, 1986) at The Strand on Thursday, Oct. 14, 7 p.m. Tickets cost $6.

Small Engine Repair(R, 2021) screening at The Music Hall in Portsmouth on Thursday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $15.

21+ Trivia Night for Hocus Pocus at Chunky’s in Manchester on Thursday, Oct. 14, at 7:30 p.m. Reserve a seat with the purchase of a $5 food voucher.

Bergman Island (R, 2021) screening at Red River Theatres Friday, Oct. 15, and Saturday, Oct. 16, at 1, 4, & 7 p.m. and Sunday Oct. 17, at 4 and 7 p.m.

Lamb (R, 2021) at Red River Theatre Friday, Oct. 15, through Sunday, Oct. 17, at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m.

I’m Your Man (R, 2021) screening at Red River Theatres Friday, Oct. 15, through Sunday, Oct. 17, at 4:30 p.m.

Beetlejuice (PG, 1986) screening at The Strand on Friday, Oct. 15, 7 p.m. Tickets cost $6.

Dead Alive (R, 1992) screening at The Strand in Dover on Friday, Oct. 15, 9 p.m. Tickets cost $6.

Falling For Figaro (NR, 2020) screening at The Music Hall on Saturday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $15.

Disney Zombies (TV-G, 2018) at The Strand on Saturday, Oct. 16, 3 p.m. Tickets cost $6.

Raphaell Revealed (NR, 2020) screening at Red River Theatres on Sunday, Oct. 17, at 1 p.m.

National Theatre Live Cyrano de Bergerac, a broadcast of a play from London’s National Theatre, screening at the Bank of NH Stage on Sunday, Oct. 17, at 12:30 p.m. Tickets $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 Shining (R, 1980) part of the Film Frenzy $5 Classics series at O’neil Cinemas with multiple screenings Monday, Oct. 18, through Thursday, Oct. 21.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (PG, 1993) at the Rex Theatre on Monday, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m.

Tickets cost $12.

The Silence of the Lambs

Fathom Events will hold 30th anniversary screenings of 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs from director Jonathan Demme starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins on Sunday, Oct. 17, and Wednesday, Oct. 20. The film will screen at Cinemark Rockingham Park in Salem at 3 p.m. and Regal Fox Run in Newington at 3 and 7 p.m. on Oct. 17 and at both theaters on Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. Get tickets via Fathom at

Featured photo: No Time To Die. Courtesy photo.

Chasing Eden, A Book of Seekers by Howard Mansfield

Chasing Eden, A Book of Seekers by Howard Mansfield (Bauhan Publishing, 216 pages)

Sy Montgomery and Howard Mansfield, who live in Hancock, are the first couple of nonfiction in New Hampshire, really in all of New England.

Montgomery is a naturalist known for her books on animals and the people who love them, to include an octopus at the New England Aquarium (Soul of an Octopus) and a Wilbur-like pig that she raised (The Good, Good Pig). Her latest, The Hummingbird’s Gift (Atria, 96 pages), introduced Brenda Sherburn, a California woman who rescues and rehabilitates hummingbirds.

Less prolific as a writer but equally engaging is her husband, Mansfield, whose books cover a wider range of topics. His body of work includes a book entirely about sheds (and, of course, simply called Sheds), a collection of essays called Summer Over Autumn, and books about landmarks (The Bones of the Earth) and the strong lure of our homes (Dwelling in Possibility). Mansfield plumbs history to tell obscure stories, while exploring our attachment to places and things. His latest is Chasing Eden, A Book of Seekers, released by Peterborough’s Bauhan Publishing. He pivots here to study people: the strange and stubborn characters of American history who took advantage of the Founding Fathers’ urging to pursue happiness, even when to the rest of the world they might look a little bit crazy.

“We are all a little wild here with numberless projects of social reform,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote to a friend in 1840, and Mansfield uses the quote to explain the restless searching of Americans in the 19th century. Of course, it didn’t end with the new century. “Our agitation has not ceased; it has taken different forms,” Mansfield writes, noting that at any given time 500,000 people are on planes. The world is full of “tourists, travelers, voyagers, sojourners, pilgrims.” Some of us are traveling for work or family obligations, yes. But others, he argues, are looking for more existential things; we are seeking to reclaim our own personal Eden.

In three sections — one on freedom, one on peace, one on God — Mansfeld introduces a disparate band of Eden-chasers, from a disheveled, smelly group of zealots known as the “Vermont Pilgrims” to the Tennessee abolitionist dubbed “the accidental Moses” to the better-known (and presumably better-smelling) Pilgrims who famously dined with the Wampanoag tribe and unknowingly gave us Thanksgiving (and Black Friday sales).

It was a daunting task, to gather these unconnected acorns of history and find the common, exhilarating theme, but Mansfield does so masterfully, and with each chapter, leaves the reader wondering, how did I not know that before?

How did I not know about the Mummyjums, the religious sect that did not believe in changing their clothes or bathing but somehow managed to poach followers from other small cults as they traveled around the country? (“The mayor of Cincinnati, concerned about the spread of smallpox, asked that they camp a mile from the city,” Mansfield writes.)

How did I not know about the Black doctor, Albert Johnston, who practiced for much of his life in New Hampshire, by “passing” for white, until his racial background was revealed when he tried to join the Navy just before the U.S. joined World War II? The story will make your blood boil, especially when the Navy sends a letter suggesting he join the war effort as a fireman or carpenter.

And how did I not know that iconic “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper stickers have been around since the 1930s and that then they were “a badge of honor in an era when radiators overheated on the way up and brakes overheated on the way down.” And that people from all over the world write and request new stickers when theirs wear out.

But for all of Mt. Washington’s fame, the time people spend at the summit reveals something a bit disturbing about our Eden-chasing. Mansfield interviewed Howie Wemyss, general manager of the auto road, who told him that the average stay at the top is 45 minutes.

“That’s a lot for an American,” Mansfield replied. Especially for the site of the “world’s worst weather.”

The staff has tried promotions designed to coax visitors into staying a while longer, even just an hour. But then people ask, Wemyss said, “Do we have to stay an hour?”

Eden, apparently, has a short shelf life, even when people spend hours or days to get to it. But Mansfield doesn’t dwell on this. Instead, he peels back these and other hidden bits of American history in his easy-going, what’s-the-hurry style that probes every corner of a story Chasing Eden is a thoroughly New England book, even when it ventures outside the region, perfect for fall evenings by a fire. A

Book Notes

The 1993 movie Hocus Pocus, against all odds, has become a Halloween cult classic, and a sequel is being filmed for Disney+ in Massachusetts.

So I know you’re thinking: But is there a cookbook?

Amazingly enough, there is. The Unofficial Hocus Pocus Cookbook (Ulysses Press, 144 pages) by Bridget Thoreson is a testament to American capitalism. It appears to be heavy on the pumpkin recipes, seasonal treats (squash ravioli and baked apples) and clever titles (“I Smell Scrod!” and “Blood of Owl Soup”).

“This book is a celebration of Hocus Pocus, its characters, and of course, its big musical number for no apparent reason,” Thoreson writes. As they say, if you like this kind of thing, you will love this sort of thing.

As for other seasonal fare, there’s not much new out except for Witches, Then and Now (Centennial Books, 192 pages), edited by Shari Goldhagen, which looks to be a thin history of witch lore.

Dolly Alderton’s Ghosts (Fig Tree, 336 pages) looked promising, until the synopsis revealed there’s nothing spooky about it. It’s a novel about a thirty-something food writer who gets ghosted by a man who said he wanted to marry her.

For an actual ghost story revisit 2020’s The Regrets (Little, Brown & Co., 304 pages), which is a strikingly original novel by Amy Bonnaffons about a man who dies in an accident but is sent back to Earth because he is deemed “insufficiently dead.” He’s given a list of instructions, all supposed to keep him from incurring regrets. “Ghost falls in love with a human” has been done, but rarely as hauntingly as this.

Finally, 2018 gave us What October Brings: A Lovecraftian Celebration of Halloween (Celaeno Press, 332 pages), a satisfying collection of stories and verse about the spooky season from the pen of the late H.P. Lovecraft.

Lovecraft was a New Englander who wrote science fiction and horror that didn’t become widely popular until after his death at age 46 in 1937. His work is now cult classic, like Hocus Pocus, but also beautiful: “The palette of Fall roars against the dark hills, the trees still clothed in finery, hanging on, perhaps, for the ball, the festival, All Hallow’s Eve.”

It’s a paperback, but still a great coffee-table book for the season.

Book Events

Author events

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 or call 224-0562.

R.A. SALVATORE AND ERIKA LEWIS Authors present The Color of Dragons. Tues., Oct. 19, 6:30 p.m. Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord). Tickets cost $5. Space is limited, and registration is required. Visit or call 224-0562.

WENDY GORTON Author presents 50 Hikes with Kids: New England. Virtual event hosted by The Toadstool Bookshops of Peterborough, Nashua and Keene. Via Zoom. Sun., Oct. 24, 2 p.m. Visit

RAVI SHANKAR Author presents Correctional. Virtual event hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Wed., Oct. 27, 7 p.m. Via Zoom. Registration required. Visit or call 224-0562.

CATHERYNNE M. VALENTE Author presents Comfort Me With Apples. Virtual event hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Fri., Oct. 29, 7 p.m. Via Zoom. Registration required. Visit or call 224-0562.

KEN FOLLETT Author presents Never. Virtual event with author discussion and audience Q&A, hosted by The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Sun., Nov. 14, 1 p.m. Tickets cost $36 and include a book for in-person pickup at The Music Hall. Visit or call 436-2400.


DOWN CELLAR POETRY SALON Poetry event series presented by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. Monthly. First Sunday. Visit

SLAM FREE OR DIE Series of open mic nights for poets and spoken-word artists. Stark Tavern, 500 N. Commercial St., Manchester. Weekly. Thursday, doors open and sign-ups beginning at 7 p.m., open mic at 8 p.m. The series also features several poetry slams every month. Events are open to all ages. Cover charge of $3 to $5 at the door, which can be paid with cash or by Venmo. Visit, e-mail or call 858-3286.

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.

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

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

Album Reviews 21/10/14

Shakespeare & the Blues, Rhapsodic (Nouveau Electric Records)

This was presented to me as an example of avant trip-hop; I really didn’t hear much in the way of traditional trip-hop until “Wanton Phrases,” the third song on this full-length from a New Orleans trio comprising Cassie Watson Francillon on concert harp, Cam Smith on drums and electronics and Bryan Webre (Lost Bayou Ramblers and Michot’s Melody Makers) on bass and electronics. Anyway, that song is more of a Portishead trip, which was what I’d expected the whole set to be, but that’s where the “avant” comes in. These folks are big on jazz and start off the album with a bright, showery and very busy shoegaze-ish joint called “Past Is Prologue,” then proceed to reinvent early-years Yes with “Emerald Glowing Figure.” None of these people sing, which is usually a red flag to me, but there’s no denying that they have great chemistry and can concoct accordingly. “The Mechanics Of Distance” is really good, almost an organic idea of Aughts dubstep, Francillon’s harp fleshing it out to terrific effect. A+

Spencer Cullum, Coin Collection (Full Time Hobby Records)

This burgeoning pedal-steel legend is a semi-obscure commodity only because, you know, he’s a pedal steel guitarist. But he’s been around the block quite a bit, contributing to records from Deer Tick, Kesha, Miranda Lambert, Dolly Parton and of course his own duo, Steelism. Cullum has free rein to do whatever in this album, and that’s basically what you get, a lot of whatever. I’d been led to expect some prog-rock, and there’s a little of that, but this guy is more into krautrock and park-bench folk, so the stretch of antique techno that shows up on “Dieterich Buxtehude” (and thus thankfully provides a very welcome break from the mostly Beatles-in-Norwegian-Wood-mode self-indulgence) is missed the minute it’s gone. He’s got a girl singer who sucks, if that appeals to you, which it might of course; in other words what you get here is Sufjan Stevens with a few random attempts at Kraftwerk, some dissonant boy-girl duetting and, you know, some cool but not terribly complicated pedal steel runs. Enjoy, or whatnot. B


• All ahead flank, ye swabs, to Oct. 15, when we will spy new albums coming straight at us from somewhere on the starboard side, and some of you will ignore everything I say and actually purchase some of these albums, which will get you keel-hauled for disobeying my direct orders to avoid them like radioactive whales! No, I’m kidding, if that money’s burning a hole in your pocket, please spend it on rock ’n’ roll albums instead of shoving it in a big coffee can in your basement or donating it to the homeless, because buying bad albums is your constitutional right. You even have the right to be a little rascal and buy Coldplay’s new album, Music Of The Spheres, and there’s nothing I can do about it, but I’ll go through the dutiful motions regardless and go listen to the trailer. Ah, how cute, it steals from Flock Of Seagulls, and Gary Glitter and LMFAO. This is so awful, but I will blame it on their producer, Max Martin, who has been spread super-thin for years now, writing literally half the Billboard hits that the other two or three go-to guys didn’t (Katy Perry stuff, The Weeknd stuff, Taylor Swift stuff, all of it) (no, I’m not kidding, music is hopelessly commercialized, and the big record companies believe the public is too stupid to appreciate tunes that weren’t written by a small handful of songwriting hacks). This is all wrong in so many ways that I’m almost left speechless, but the punchline is that this is some sort of concept album, because the guys “wanted to create their own solar system” and put that into music. Are you with me so far? Do you understand how bad this is for music and art? No? OK, then, carry on.

• Ha ha ha ha, I can’t believe it, it’s my ancient nemesis, The Darkness, with some stupid new album! The only reason these British numskulls ever got a record contract in the first place was that some record company executive became convinced by The Darkness’ manager that after several years of awful Strokes clone bands, what the public needed was a really bad Led Zeppelin imitation, which is exactly what The Darkness is. But somehow, even though we critics tried to stop you, people bought their albums, and things rapidly snowballed out of control, and the next thing you knew we had something even worse than The Darkness: Wolfmother! But we are here on business, specifically the new Darkness album Motorheart, so let’s get this out of the way as quickly as we can, by listening to the title track! Lol, lol, holy moley, I can’t stand it, first it sounds exactly like Spinal Tap, then Dillinger Escape Plan for 10 seconds, and then comes some horrible, lame riff, and the guy sings in this really stupid high-pitched falsetto. You have to hear this, it’s literally the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.

• Wait, a new album from old hippy-Latin-rock band Santana? Let me see if Carlos Santana is even still alive, because this could just be a tribute thing, like the Count Basie Orchestra, stand by. Huh, yes, he is. He’s only 74; I thought he was a lot older, because he literally played at the first Woodstock festival, back when electricity came from dinosaurs running on treadmills. The new full-length is Blessings And Miracles, and its single, “Move,” is basically a retrofitted version of his 1999 hit “Smooth.” It’s OK I suppose.

• We’ll finish all this nonsense with Lately, the new LP from Nashville country-folk-rock singer Lilly Hiatt! If this sounds exactly like Sheryl Crow we’re done for the day. Nope, just boring and kind of amateurish, so we’re still done.

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).

Santa Lucia sips

This California region’s wines deserve a closer look

When one thinks of American wines, what first come to mind are the Napa and Sonoma valleys. While they produce exceptional wines, consideration should also be given to the Santa Lucia Highlands.

Proclaimed as its own American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1991, this is an area of east-facing terraces of the Santa Lucia Mountain range, to the south of the breezy Monterey Bay. An area approximately 18 miles long and 1 to 2 miles wide, the 22,000 acres of the AVA are planted in 6,400 acres to primarily pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, the balance of the AVA being an unplantable mountainside.

Cloudy mornings, midday sunshine with strong winds, and evening fog create a cool climate, allowing for a long growing season, resulting in gentle ripening that ensures intense flavors with balanced acidity in the grapes.

What better place to sample some of the best chardonnays and pinot noirs than to check out Morgan Winery’s production of Santa Lucia Highlands wines? While I hardly need an excuse to enjoy two of my favorite varietals, the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlet’s current sale of 15 percent off 12 or more bottles of chardonnay and pinot noir (running through Oct. 31) is certainly an incentive to seriously look them over.

Dan Morgan Lee came from a small town in California’s Central Valley. He had prepared initially for the study of veterinary medicine at the University of California, Davis, but while at college he discovered enology (the study of wines) and enrolled in the graduate program. Upon graduation in 1978 he became a winemaker at Jekel Winery in Monterey County. In 1982 Dan and his wife, Donna, opened the doors of Morgan Winery. Initially producing wines from purchased grapes, in 1996 Dan and Donna realized their dream by purchasing their own vineyard, named the “Double L” for their Double Luck twin daughters. Today Morgan Winery is known to produce consistent award-winning wines.

Our first wine, the 2019 Morgan Metallico Un-oaked Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay (originally priced at $18.99, reduced to $16.99), is light and bright and a great way to start this great trilogy of finely crafted wines. This is chardonnay in its purest form, unadorned by oak. The grapes are primarily sourced from Morgan’s “Double L” and mixed with grapes from three other vineyards. The grapes are cold tank fermented and not allowed to go through a secondary malolactic fermentation, thus keeping the bright crispness of pineapple and vanilla to the nose, with pear and some mild lemon citric flavors, producing a long finish to the tongue. This bright acidity is perfect for pairing with shellfish and light fare.

Our second wine, the 2018 Morgan Highland Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay (originally priced at $23.99, reduced to $20.99) focuses on classic crème brûlée, walnuts and butterscotch. The grapes for this cuvée come from the Double L vineyard and two of its neighbors. After pressing, the grapes were barrel fermented in 26 percent new French oak, with partial malolactic fermentation imparting a wonderful creamy richness, with a slight acidity to the tongue. To the nose the wine has slight citric notes, countered by caramel. The creaminess to the tongue is enhanced by apple and pear. This is a wine that is perfectly matched to cream-sauced pasta or pork.

Our third wine, the 2018 Morgan Twelve Clones Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir (originally priced at $31.99, reduced to $27.99), portrays the finesse of a great pinot noir with its aromas of blackberries and herbs. The grapes for this wine come from the original pinot plantings of the “Double L” estate, joined by grapes of neighboring vineyards. To the tongue the red and black berry fruit is complemented by dark plum and a bit of leather from the nine-month aging in toasted French oak barrels, of which 35 percent are new. This is a wine that can span a pairing of grilled chicken or salmon to beef or lamb.

These wines are inventoried throughout the state stores, waiting to be appreciated.

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

The Secret Exit

The first time I made my new commute, I used a GPS app to get to work and spent my time worrying about whether I was driving fast enough but not too fast and whether the guy in the truck with all the bumper stickers actually hunts that much big game or this is all some sort of elaborate role-playing for him.

The second time I drove there, I vaguely remembered that I needed to take Exit 9 off the highway. As I drove past Exit 10, I made a mental note to keep my eye out for signs for the next exit.

Somehow, I found myself at Exit 8.

That’s odd, I thought, I must have really lost myself in singing along to that Lionel Richie cover. I couldn’t be very far from where I wanted to get off the highway, so I decided to take the exit, then circle back if I needed to.

But it turned out to be the exit I actually wanted. Weird though, how I missed Exit 9. I decided to look for it on my way home that night.

I missed it again. This time I blamed Whitesnake and visions of Tawny Kitaen dancing on the hood of a Jaguar.

I didn’t see Exit 9 the next day. This time, I blamed the podcast I was listening to. Not to go into too many details, but it turns out that pigeons are fascinating.

As one week turned into the next, though, even I couldn’t be absent-minded enough to forget about Exit 9 every single time.

It turns out, there is no Exit 9, southbound or northbound. Just a suspiciously uninteresting stretch of highway. I wondered if this was one of those no-13th-floor-in-a-hotel things, but I had vague memories of other Exit 9s on other highways so that probably wasn’t it.

I started to research the missing exit, but I stopped short when I realized that any answer I found would be a dry, profoundly boring, bureaucratic answer that would strip away another layer of my rapidly diminishing sense of childlike joy and wonder. It would have something to do with zoning, or population density, or a ballot referendum or something.

In other words, exactly the sort of cover story the government would cook up to cover the secret entrance to a covert military base, or an academy for mutants, or the entrance to an underground facility where they train sexy kung fu accountants or something. In other words, something I’m probably better off not knowing about.

But, you might ask, would the government actually be dumb enough to go to all that work and still mess up on the exit’s numbering?

Have you met our government?

It’s enough to make a vigilant citizen need a cocktail.

The Secret Exit

This is a riff on a classic drink called a Missing Link. It’s extremely simple, but also suspiciously difficult to remember the details of.

What was I supposed to pick up at the liquor store?, you might ask yourself. I really like that new drink and I’ve used up all the … all the … you know, the stuff that’s like triple sec, but not triple sec?

Almost like an agent in a black suit had hypnotized you, or something.


2 ounces really good rum – the best you’ve got

¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

¾ ounce orange curaçao

5 drops rose water

Wet a martini glass and put it upside-down in the freezer to frost.

Add all ingredients, with ice, to a shaker. Shake, until unbearably cold.

Strain into your frosted glass.

This is one of those drinks that is at its best when you start with it blisteringly cold. At the first sip, it might seem the slightest bit too acidic. You might wonder if you should have added some simple syrup or something to mellow it out. Subsequent sips will taste more and more well-rounded, though, as it warms up and the rose esters start to hit your palate. You will make a mental note to make this drink more often.

Let’s see if you can remember to.

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

Apple pie cookies

Looking at the name of this recipe, you may think, “Now I know what I will do with all the apples from my recent trip to the orchard!”

Well, you could use your freshly picked apples for this recipe, but you’d have to slice and dry them first. If you want to spend less time making these cookies, you will want to start with store-bought dried apple slices.

Dried apples are key to this recipe for one very important reason: They have less moisture. Fresh apple chunks are going to release their juices in a hot oven. The cookies will then transform from moist and chewy delights to overly spread out and disappointing cookies.

Besides dried apples, there are two other items to consider. First, you may not think of oatmeal when you think of apple pie, but it adds texture to the dough that makes the cookies reminiscent of pie crust. Make sure you use old-fashioned or rolled oats for that textural note. Second, it may seem silly to stop baking to add the cinnamon and sugar topping. Trust me, it adds a delightful sweetness to the cookie that is worth the baking interruption at the midpoint.

Make a batch of cookies, serve them a la mode if you like, and then enjoy a piece of pie, cookie style.

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.

Apple Pie Cookies
Makes 4 dozen

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups diced dried apple
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine butter, 1 cup brown sugar, and 1 cup granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer
Mix on speed 2 for 4 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated and scraping sides, if necessary.
Add vanilla, baking soda, salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and flour, mixing until combined.
Add oatmeal and apple to dough, stirring until combined.
Scoop heaping teaspoons of dough onto a parchment paper-lined tray, placing 2 inches apart.
Bake for 7 minutes.
Combine 1/3 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl, while cookies are baking.
Remove cookies from oven, and sprinkle a small amount of the cinnamon-sugar mixture on each cookie.
Bake for another 7 minutes.
Allow to cool for 2 minutes on tray, then transfer to baking rack to cool completely.

Photo: Apple Pie Cookies. Photo by Michele Pesula Kuegler.

In the kitchen with Victoria Mellen

Victoria Mellen of Derry is the owner of Mama V’s Kitchen (, and on Facebook @mamavskitchennh), a weekly meal prep and delivery business she started last year that specializes in home-cooked keto and low-carb options. New menus are posted to her Facebook page every Monday, with ordering open through that Friday. Items rotate but will always include a few breakfast options like quiche, as well as a soup, stew or chili, and a few entrees and desserts. Mellen prepares everything fresh out of Creative Chef Kitchens (35 Manchester Road, Derry) and offers free deliveries for meals on Sundays within a 15-mile radius of Derry. For a flat fee of $5, the delivery radius can be expanded to 25 miles.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

A spoon, because I’m constantly mixing and tasting everything.

What would you have for your last meal?

A bacon-wrapped filet, cooked medium rare, with cheesy asparagus and waffle fries.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

Having five kids, I don’t really get out to eat much, but when I do it’s usually breakfast. I love MaryAnn’s [Diner], right here in Derry.

What celebrity would you like to see trying something you have cooked?

Giada De Laurentiis. I absolutely love her.

What is your favorite thing that you’ve offered on one of your menus?

My homemade manicotti. I grew up in a large Italian family, and it just reminds me of my grandmother.

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

Delivery and takeout. People seem to be doing a lot more meals to go these days.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Breakfast. I love to get my kids in on making different flavors of pancakes. They love it.

Three meat and cheese quiche
Courtesy of Victoria Mellen of Mama V’s Kitchen in Derry

Pie crust (optional)
10 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup cooked chopped bacon
¼ cup cooked sausage
¼ cup diced ham
1½ cups shredded cheese of choice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
2 Tablespoons parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add cooking spray to a pie pan and line with the crust. Fill the pan with the bacon, sausage, ham and cheese. Mix eggs, heavy cream and seasonings together with a whisk. Pour the egg mixture over the meat and cheese, using a rubber scraper or spatula to clean the bowl. Gently use a fork to incorporate the egg into the meat and cheese mixture. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a knife can be inserted into the middle. Let sit and enjoy.

Featured photo: Victoria Mellen. Courtesy photo.

Bagels and beyond

Simit Cafe opens in Nashua

Remzi Kahya grew up working at his father’s shop, the Bagel Cafe on Hanover Street in Manchester. He learned how to make New York-style bagels from scratch and, as an adult, eventually expanded the family business to a second Bagel Cafe in Bedford.

Now Kahya is building on his success even further — Simit Cafe, which opened on Sept. 21, brings his handcrafted bagels to Nashua while adding espresso drinks, tea shakers, cold-pressed juices, smoothies and all kinds of pastries and baked goods to the menu.

At around 3,000 square feet, the space is the largest of the three storefronts, inspiring Kahya to introduce a full-service cafe concept. Like at its predecessors, bagels here are prepared in multiple batches throughout the day to ensure their freshness.

Courtesy photo.

“Simit is a Turkish name for a bagel,” said Kahya, who came to the United States with his family from Turkey when he was 7. “We like to steam our bagels. … I think that’s better for making a sandwich. You still get that crust that you want, but it’s not too hard, either.”

Simit Cafe features all the traditional bagel flavors from plain and everything to sesame and onion, plus a few more decadent options like French toast and jalapeno cheddar. They can be ordered with cream cheese; with a spread like butter, Nutella or jelly; or as a breakfast or lunch sandwich, all of which are available all day. If you want to order bagels to go, you can mix and match up to a half-dozen of any flavor per package.

“I try to get premium ingredients for everything … rather than going for the cheapest option,” Kahya said. “So, like when you order a bacon, egg and cheese [sandwich], you’re getting free-range eggs on a real grill, not microwaved or anything. … We make our own cream cheese in five different flavors, and you can taste the difference.”

Bagel sandwiches encompass a variety of palates, from a BLT and a turkey club to a grilled pastrami sandwich with Swiss cheese and deli mustard. A new option exclusive to the space, Kahya said, is a chipotle chicken sandwich with a spicy mayonnaise, avocado, tomato and onion.

While both Bagel Cafe shops offer drip coffee, Simit Cafe takes the options a step further with a full line of hot and iced espresso drinks, featuring Peet’s Coffee brewed on site with a La Marzocco Italian espresso machine. Through Peet’s Coffee’s sister company, Mighty Leaf Tea, there are also multiple flavors of iced tea shakers, made with real fruit purees, some freeze-dried fruits and Kahya’s own freshly squeezed lemonade.

“The strawberry hibiscus [tea shaker] has been a really big hit,” he said.

The cafe is currently open until 3 p.m. seven days a week, but Kahya said those hours will likely be extended in the future, as he continues to add more menu items and works out the kinks of his new online ordering system. An outdoor patio is planned for next summer.

Simit Cafe

Where: 262 Amherst St., Suite A, Nashua
Hours: Daily, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.; expanded hours likely coming soon
More info: Visit, find them on Facebook and Instagram @simitnashua or call 204-5141

Featured photo: Courtesy of Simit Cafe.

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