Full circle

John McEuen traces a musical path

Along with his musical prowess, John McEuen could give a master class in networking. Fifty years ago he asked his new friend, bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs, to work with his group The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on what became Will The Circle Be Unbroken, a record that brought together American roots music’s leading lights.

McEuen used that promise to bring the equally iconic Doc Watson on board. “I told him, ‘We’re making an album with Earl Scruggs, and I want to know if you want to be part of it,’” he recalled by phone recently. “We weren’t making an album yet — he’d just said he would record with us.”

One by one, an all-star cast of bluegrass legends joined up.

Its success led to two follow-ups, one in 1989 featuring John Prine, Rosanne Cash, John Hiatt and other country-folk stars, and a third volume in 2002, which had Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson, the latter singing “Goodnight Irene” with Tom Petty.

The Willie and Tom duet came together when McEuen heard Petty recording in another studio and again chose to be bold.

“I walked in and said, ‘Hey, Mr. Petty, I’m John McEuen from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and I have one question: Have you ever wanted to sing with Willie Nelson?’ It took him off guard. He said, ‘Well, yeah, I wanna sing with Willie Nelson’ and I said, ‘We’re recording him down the hall.’ He came right then.”

There will be more stories like that when McEuen and his group The Circle Band appear March 18 at Manchester’s Rex Theatre. During the interview, he recalled getting a private serenade from Linda Ronstadt at her “When Will I Be Loved” session, capturing an early take of Gregg Allman’s “It’s Not My Cross To Bear” in a Los Angeles studio, and recording an 18-year-old Kenny Loggins in McEuen’s Laurel Canyon home, before Loggins joined Jim Messina.

A few years later, McEuen and bandmate John Hanna turned down Messina when he pitched him a tune; Hanna didn’t think it was a hit. “It’s a teeny-bopper song,” he recalled him saying. “Anybody can write, ‘Your mama don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock and roll.’ I called up Jimmy the next day and said no. He said, ‘That’s OK; Kenny and I decided to put that out together.’ Good decision, huh?”

The show commences with early hits like “Mr. Bojangles” — the Dirt Band was the first act to have a hit with that song — and winds through gems like “Voila, An American Dream” and “Long Hard Road (The Sharecropper’s Dream).” Along with McEuen are bassist (and Dirt Band cofounder) Les Thompson, and Nashville guitarist Danny Knicely.

The bulk of the evening is devoted to McEuen’s best-known project, a recording that so powerfully documented the many threads of American acoustic music that a copy of the 1972 triple disc could have been sent to the Library of Congress at the same time it shipped to record stores across the country.

It’s a multimedia show, much of it centered on that first Circle album.

“My brother Bill was manager of the group; he also produced the record, and he shot photographs, so behind us on a screen will be a projection of the studio sessions, with us in front, playing the music,” he said, adding, “it’s really exciting to see myself 50 years ago; it helps keep me young.”

There are occasional divergences, McEuen continued.

“We do things that aren’t reflected by what’s on the screen when we get into some other music,” he said, then began to muse. “This is a strange job; you travel all this time so you can go work for an hour and a half. Well, I try to make it … maybe two hours depending on the audience. I hear that this room is really nice and I’m looking forward to it.”

Asked what fans can expect from the evening, McEuen was expansive.

“People should come if they want to see a night of music that takes them to a pleasant space that exists from 1860 to 2018,” he said. “ I like to tell stories about what’s going on before and after the songs, and we have a good time. We play hot, fast, sweet, smooth and all that. I hope people come out to hear us.”

John McEuen & The Circle Band
When: Saturday, March 18, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester
Tickets: $29 and up at palacetheatre.org

Featured photo: John McEuen. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 23/03/09

Local music news & events

Great pipes: Though their name is often confused with another band’s, the sound of Red Hot Chilli Pipers is oceans away from the SoCal alt-rockers — the nine-piece ensemble leads with bagpipes. In 2007 they won top honors on the U.K. TV talent show When Will I Be Famous and became a worldwide attraction, blending traditional songs like “The Flowers of Scotland” with bag rock covers of Queen, Coldplay and Snow Patrol. Thursday, March 9, 8 p.m., Colonial Theatre, 609 Main St., Laconia, $29 to $59 at etix.com.

Southern men: A couple of years after Lynyrd Skynyrd released “Free Bird,” The Outlaws’ debut album arrived with the epic “Green Grass and High Tides,” cementing their reputation as a top Southern rock band. It didn’t hurt that Ronnie Van Zandt aided them in getting a record deal. Founding member Henry Paul continues the triple guitar sound with new members; their latest album is 2020’s Dixie Highway. Friday, March 10, 8 p.m., Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, $35 to $45 at tupelohall.com.

Bottom drop: An evening featuring the best of New England’s bass music scene has Josh Teed topping the bill with a unique hybrid of violin and subwoofer blasting sound. Among Teed’s EDM influences are Charlesthefirst, CloZee and Govinda, with his classically trained instrumentation pushing things to the next level. Also appearing are Izzi, Camnah, Shacksies, Jacek and a night closing B2B set. Saturday, March 11, 8 p.m., Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester, $20 in advance at theticketing.co, $30 at the door.

Celtic crush: Now past its 25th year, Lúnasa is a supergroup whose members began in some of Ireland’s most acclaimed bands. Early on, Folk Roots magazine called them an “Irish music dream team,” and since, they’ve collaborated with Natalie Merchant, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Tim O’Brien and made high-profile appearances at Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall and the Glastonbury Festival. Saturday, March 11, 7:30 p.m., Dana Center for the Arts, 100 Saint Anselm Drive, Manchester, $45 at tickets.anselm.edu.

String thing: When daylight saving time ended last fall, High Range Band took the stage for the weekly bluegrass event at Nippo Lake, and now that DST has returned, perhaps for a final time, they’re back again. The New Hampshire-based group formed in the late ’80s, doing covers and originals on fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo, upright bass and drums, while releasing four albums in the 2000s. Sunday, March 12, 6 p.m., Nippo Lake Restaurant, 88 Stagecoach Road, Barrington, nippolake.com.

Team Everything

Multiverse bagel, a dance battle song and other Oscar nominees worth rooting for

If I can find a “Team Pamela Ribon” jersey, I will be wearing that over my vintage Old Navy on Sunday, March 12, when the 95th Academy Awards start handing out Oscars (show starts at 8 p.m. on ABC).

As I’ve explained before, I’m a huge fan of Ribon’s work — she has writing credits on Moana and Ralph Breaks the Internet, she’s behind the comics My Boyfriend Is a Bear and Slam!, she’s a co-host on the excellent podcast Listen to Sassy. And add to that her animated short film, My Year Of D**ks, which is my favorite of a solid five-pack of animated films that utilize different animation styles to tell engaging stories. Her perfect look at teenage awkwardness and the sometimes opposing desires for romance and sex is a blend of animation styles itself and is a giddy delight. You can watch it on Vimeo or Hulu and in theaters as part of the presentation of Oscar shorts films.

Here are some of the other people and movies I’m rooting for (and where to find them):

Everything in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Ke Huy Quan (nominated for supporting actor), Michelle Yeoh (lead actress), Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu (both nominated for supporting actress), the Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), who are nominated for directing — even if I like other people in these categories I wouldn’t be mad if somehow all of these people won Oscars for their fun, moving film. Everything is also nominated in costume design, original score and original screenplay categories as well as, of course, best picture, where it would get my vote. The movie is streaming on Showtime/Paramount+ and is available for purchase.

Angela Bassett. As much as I would like Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu to bend the multiverse and both win supporting actress, my first choice in that category would be Bassett for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (available for purchase and on Disney+). She kills it as Queen Ramonda and brings a heft to the role and the movie overall. I’m also hoping that movie takes the prize for costume design, which not only repeated the first movie’s success at creating Wakandan looks but also crafted dazzling costumes for the Mesoamerican Talokan characters.

• “Naatu Naatu,” the song from RRR. I like Wakanda Forever’s nominee “Lift Me Up” but my favorite for the original song category didn’t even make the pre-nominations short list. I was rooting for “Marry Me” sung by Jennifer Lopez and Maluma in the delightfully silly movie Marry Me. Since that didn’t make it and since there is no Oscar category rewarding the accomplishments of overall soundtracks (the whole Wakanda Forever “Music from and inspired by” album is solid), I’d like “Naatu Naatu” the dance battle song to win just because it feels like the chaotic everything of RRR deserves some sort of recognition. This movie (available on Netflix) is more than three hours, has the aforementioned dance battle (which is a commentary on colonialism? and also contains character development?), a buddy adventure, human-on-tiger fights, a guy throwing what looked like a leopard at a British soldier, pretty great cinematography, a whole lotta slo-mo balletically choreographed fight scenes and an end credits dance number that features odd Soviet-propaganda-esque visuals.

Turning Red. This was a solid year for animated feature nominees: Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (Netflix) is weird but very spooky-beautiful; Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (Showtime and for purchase) is sweet and funny and just a little heartbreaking in the best way; Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (available for purchase) is solid Dreamworks fun, and The Sea Beast (Netflix), a surprisingly smart movie about sea creatures and the humans hunting them. But my favorite is Turning Red (Disney+) — whose “Nobody Like U” would also have made a solid best song nominee. This story about a 13-year-old girl working out all her 13-year-old-girlness while also dealing with a family heritage of becoming a large red panda when she experiences big emotions is absolutely excellent storytelling with very pretty visuals.

Top Gun: Maverick for visual effects — and nothing else. This movie has some cool shots of airplanes; actually cool shots of airplanes is all I remember of Maverick (Paramount+ and for rent or purchase). So I don’t mind if it wins for putting us in the cockpit when the pilots do twisty divey things. But this isn’t otherwise a good movie; it would bum me out if it took adapted screenplay from Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Netflix), which is goofy fun, or Women Talking (for rent or purchase), which is sad and beautiful and so good (it’s maybe my No. 2 of the 10 best picture nominees).

The Banshees of Inisherin for something — original screenplay?A weird dark funny little movie, The Banshees of Inisherin (HBO Max, rent or purchase) deserves some kind of recognition and I’d be fine if it took this category (assuming Everything gets awards everywhere). It also has a shot at Colin Farrell in lead actor, a win I would be fine with. I also wouldn’t be mad if Tár (Peacock, rent or purchase) got the win for screenplay, since Cate Blanchett (nominated for lead actress) will probably lose to Yeoh. I feel like this might be where The Fabelmans (rent or purchase) could also score a win; Steven Spielberg’s best picture entry just doesn’t feel like it’s winning much else.

Let Avatar: The Way of Water and Elvis battle it out for production design. The only Best Picture nominee still exclusively in theaters, Avatar: The Way of Water does a good job at putting action under the water and still making it eye-catching. Elvis (HBO Max, rent and purchase) is nutty-bananas and the look is part of putting you in its bonkers world of young and eventually old Elvis (played by Austin Butler, who probably also has a decent shot at lead actor if the good will people have toward Brendan Fraser, nominated for The Whale, which is available for purchase, doesn’t trump all). This is the only category I’d want either of those movies to win in, though.

Whomever to win in documentary feature and international feature. Other than international feature nominee All Quiet on the Western Front (Netflix), which is up for best picture as well as other awards, I haven’t seen any of the international or documentary nominees this year. But all of the documentaries and most of the international films are now available for home viewing, so once somebody wins I’ll know where to start. The documentary hopefuls are All that Breathes (HBO Max), All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (rent or purchase), Fire of Love (Disney+ or rent or purchase), A House Made of Splinters (rent or purchase) and Navalny (HBO Max). The other international features are Argentina, 1985 (Amazon Prime Video), Close (rent), EO (rent or purchase) and The Quiet Girl (which will be available for purchase but doesn’t yet have a date).

A fun surprise. What would be a fun surprise? Maybe Paul Mescal winning lead actor for the bittersweet Aftersun (rent or purchase) or Bill Nighy winning for Living (rent or purchase and in theaters), a contemplative movie with a surprising charm. Or, much as I want Wakanda Forever to win costume design, it would be kind of fun if Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (Peacock, rent or purchase), a sweet movie about the power of a beautiful dress, took home the Oscar. I guess it would be OK if best picture nominee Triangle of Sadness (rent or purchase) won something that wasn’t best picture. And I wouldn’t be mad if cinematography-only nominees Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (Netflix) or Empire of Light (HBO Max or rent or purchase) walked away with a prize.

Creed III (PG-13)

Creed III (PG-13)

Adonis Creed fights childhood trauma in Creed III, a thoroughly engaging entry in the Creed offshoot of the Rockyverse.

After finally beating Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew), his opponent from the first movie, Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan) retires from boxing and lives a happily family-centered life in Los Angeles. He spends time at his gym building up the next generation of boxers and takes care of his elementary-school-age daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent), including dressing up as a dragon or something for a tea party while wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) is working on the music she writes and produces. He seems content — until childhood friend Damian “Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors) comes to visit him. Dame has been in prison for nearly two decades but before that he and Donnie were as tight as brothers when they lived in a foster care group home together. They still hung out after Apollo Creed’s widow, Mary-Anne (Phylicia Rashad), adopted Donnie, though apparently she didn’t think much of the friendship since we see a young Donnie (Thaddeus J. Mixson) sneaking out to hang out with young Dame (Spence Moore II), who at the time is a promising young boxer.

In the present, Dame’s presence pushes Donnie back into the headspace of his younger self, remembering the physical abuse he suffered at the group home and the incident that led to Dame’s incarceration. When Dame, who is older than Donnie, tells him he wants to get back to boxing, Donnie knows it’s a bad idea but he reluctantly helps his friend get a fight, out of guilt and obligation. As everyone around Donnie realizes faster than Donnie does, Dame isn’t just trying to recapture past glory; he has some serious grudges to work out.

The beats of this movie are all pretty much what you expect them to be. And there aren’t a lot of surprises in the arcs of the characters either. But everybody here — Jordan, Thompson, the suddenly everywhere Majors — is so compelling, so engaging to watch even when they’re working with some fairly familiar material, that I was pulled in even if this movie doesn’t have the spark of the first Creed. (And while this movie is plenty warm-hearted, I missed the squishy bear hug that Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky brought to these movies.) Nevertheless, I was in and I enjoyed this movie that is a smarter, well-finessed version of the boxing movie standard. B

Rated PG-13 for intense sports action, violence and some strong language, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by Michael B. Jordan with a screenplay by Keenan Coogler & Zach Baylin, Creed III is an hour and 56 minutes long and distributed in theaters by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures.

Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre (R)

Jason Statham does a goofy riff on James Bond-ish spy adventure with the Guy Ritchie-directed and co-written Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, a movie that really feels like someone’s hoping to make it a part 1.

And I feel like, were this on Netflix and available for watching while you sipped your cocktail of choice and dozed on the sofa some Friday night after a long week, it would be a perfect part 1 for a perfectly moderately entertaining series.

Orson Fortune (Statham), a contract government spying-and-stuff type, is charged by his handler Nathan (Cary Elwes), who has been charged by British government official Knighton (Eddie Marsan, doing quality “exasperated”), to find a thing. What thing? It’s called “The Handle” and nobody knows what it is or what it does but it was stolen from a lab, it’s being sold by arms dealer Greg Simmonds (a delightfully sleazy Hugh Grant) and all the wrong sorts of people want it. So Nathan and his team of Orson, Sarah (Aubrey Plaza) and JJ (Bugzy Malone) have to get it back before any of the bad people get it. Unfortunately, someone has clearly tasked a competing team led by Mike (Peter Ferdinando) to do the same, so the two teams — who have professional rivalries with each other — are constantly getting tangled in each other’s operations.

Eventually, the Nathan-Orson team lands on a means of getting close to Greg Simmonds that involves enlisting the help of/blackmailing into service Greg’s favorite actor, Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett). The gang jumps around Europe, to Los Angeles and eventually to Turkey, pulling off assorted capers along the way to try to track down The Handle, which is such a McGuffin that I was a little disappointed when we actually learned what it is.

There are several more characters — a house full of shady types, a pair of sketchy tech types, an assortment of henchmen and women — I haven’t mentioned yet, the tonnage of which also gives the movie a feel of a two-episode pilot packed full of the characters we’ll bump into throughout the season. It also means that no one character, not the actor-y Danny or hacker Sarah or tough guy Orson (who has this whole character thing about liking fancy wine that just never really goes anywhere), gets time to really develop. Operation Fortune stuffs in a whole lot of a whole lot — fights, chases, Aubrey Plaza wackiness that feels a bit like her Parks and Recreation character doing a computer hacker a la Janet Snakehole — into its not-quite two-hour run time and yet it feels more like it’s stocking up on plot business than telling a complex story. I often felt like somehow in all this too much, there was not enough — not enough choreographed-action wows or sparky intra-character chemistry or general funness. Some of the action even hit that spot of movie white noise, where I felt myself having to work extra hard to stay awake — not a fatal flaw for a movie you watch on your couch where you can rewind but not ideal for a movie you put on hard pants to see. B-

Rated R for language and violence, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by Guy Ritchie with a screenplay by Guy Ritchie and Ivan Atkinson & Marn Davies, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre is an hour and 54 minutes long and distributed in theaters by Lionsgate.

Featured photo: Creed 3.

Hidden Mountains, by Michael Wejchert

Hidden Mountains, by Michael Wejchert (Ecco, 256 pages)

Granite State residents are used to hearing about rescues — from the 180 or so people who have to be rescued from outside adventures gone wrong each year, to the seven loons trapped in lake ice in February. As such, there is an underlying debate about assumed risk and the escalating costs of rescue — not so much the financial cost, but the potential of injury and loss of life of those doing the rescue.

Into this conversation comes a compelling book by North Conway resident Michael Wejchert. Hidden Mountains — subtitled “Survival and Reckoning After a Climb Gone Wrong” — is a deep dive into a 2018 climbing accident in a remote part of Alaska, and its aftermath.

The people involved — two couples from Boston, ranging in age from 29 to 40 — were experienced climbers; the accident that befell Emmett Lyman was apparently just freakish bad luck. (In one analysis, “loose rock” was deemed the cause.) Out of the sight of his partner, Lauren, he fell about 30 to 40 feet, hitting his head so hard that his helmet came off.

Wejchert describes how Lauren intuited what happened: “She felt the rope [that connected them] come tight and knew that on the other side Emmett was falling, though she couldn’t see him. Rock and debris flushed down the snow gully to her left so forcefully that it caused a small avalanche. … Somewhere in this, ‘I heard a human sound,’ she recalled. ‘It wasn’t words. It was just a sound of … maybe surprise and dismay.’”

Although the couples had been trained in what to do in emergencies and were well-prepared and well-equipped, the situation was precarious, not just for Lyman but for all of them. Lauren, Lyman’s girlfriend, was still attached to him with a rope; they were on steep rock in a national park 90 miles from civilization, in territory not accessible by road. That was one reason they were there. The Hidden Mountains of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve are one of the most inaccessible places for climbers in the world; they expected to be the first humans to have climbed this particular mountain, which they dubbed Mount Sauron after the tower in The Lord of the Rings.

Lauren was able to text the other couple for help, and they immediately set out to find their friends, but they had to endanger themselves by descending laterally in emotional turmoil. The story of how they got to this point is harrowing enough; then comes the rescue by helicopter nine hours later — all the while, without knowing whether Lyman was alive or dead.

While there was news coverage of the accident at the time it happened, for those who are unfamiliar with the story Wejchert smartly structured Hidden Mountains as a thriller, and I won’t betray his efforts by saying what happened during and after the rescue. Suffice it to say the story raises challenging questions and endeavors to answer what for me is the biggest one: Why anyone would take up a sport that required (literally, for Lauren) a 10-page contingency plan that listed potential dangers (e.g. river crossing, sliding snow, falling rock, bears) for each day of the trip, based on the forecast and where they would be, and specialized insurance from a company that swoops in and rescues the likes of journalists caught in war zones. (That company, Global Rescue, is based in Lebanon, N.H.)

Wejchert, a climber himself, tries to make clear the allure of the sport, which draws so many adventurers to the White Mountains and elsewhere. He writes of “dreamy summits” and moving along “perfect alpine granite, thousands of feet of snow and ice and quiet looming beneath us,” of “plumbing the depths” of our personal limits. But just as honestly he writes of a friend who was nearly killed by an avalanche, of being asked if the risk of climbing is worth it and answering “no.”

Rock and ice climbing — “vertical movement” — doesn’t seem to be something people casually fall into, but more of an urgent calling. After going to a New York climbing area called “the Gunks” as a newbie, Emmett had said, “Oh my God. This is where I want to live. This is what I want to do with my life. And we just started climbing all the time.”

And one of his climbing partners, Alissa Doherty, had vowed to become a mountaineer — while she was in a convent — after reading Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air. That book was about a 1996 climbing disaster on Mount Everest, so for people without the mountaineering gene, it’s hard to see how reading that would attract anyone to the sport.

And of course, Krakauer’s other masterpiece, Into the Wild, was about Chris McCandless dying alone in the Alaskan wilderness. It’s a certain kind of person who says “sign me up!” for both Alaska wilderness and remote climbing, and it doesn’t appear to be me. But the people who do sign up are fascinating people whose stories make for fascinating reading. And Wejchert, who is chair of the all-volunteer Mountain Rescue Service in North Conway and knew Emmett before the accident, was exactly the person to tell it. He does so with expertise and with heart. B+

Album Reviews 23/03/09

Treedeon, New World Hoarder (Exile On Mainstream Records)

Recently I watched an interview with former Black Sabbath singer Ronnie James Dio. In it, he said that it was “ridiculous” for a band to take a couple of years to finish an album. I’m reminded of that owing to the fact that this German sludge-metal band hasn’t put out an album in five years. I suppose there are reasons for that; making albums sure isn’t a way to make money if you’re unknown, but come on guys, five years? So, given the circumstances, I expected Melvins- or Boris-level mud-rock from this one, but that’s certainly not what this is. OK, maybe there’s a little Boris in there, but that’s not what they’re aiming for, it’s more a Neurosis-meets-Sunn(((O))) trip. It’s super-slow, made of white noise, bliss ringouts that last forever, and some schlocky vocal effects that made me think of the sort-of-funny devil scenes in that old show Sleepy Hollow, to be honest. It is most decidedly meh. B

Kiji Suedo, Hosek (Hobbes Music)

The tuneage of this Osaka, Japan-raised techno DJ cater to an adult audience, but not quite as mature as his most common (and definitely overused) Recommended-If-You-Like comparison, Theo Parrish, whose Detroit “beatdown” style has more soul to it. Some less refined listeners will probably write this off as a bit too noisy, but if you’re not tired of the same-same 20-year-old house-bomp sounds that have lately been microwaved for use by Britney Spears and all those people, you might want to re-evaluate your taste as it is. On the other hand, if you can deal with glitch (or acid jazz, while I’m at it), you should pick this up right away, as the overall feel is elite-level deep house with electronic ratchets, clonks and fat-but-not-too-fat bass lines all coming together to produce euphoric rhythms that are only barely robotic. The grooves morph as they go, evoking fractals moving in slow motion; this is truly advanced stuff. B


• Like every Friday, March 10 will be a day for new albums to appear like magic, bringing messages of joy and hope and melodic mediocrity to the masses! It feels like longer than two years since we’ve heard anything from melancholia-pop chanteuse Lana Del Rey, but there it is, this thing here says Blue Banisters came out in 2021, and her upcoming ninth album, Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Boulevard, is indeed coming out this week. Nothing remarkable about this one; Jack Antonoff (a.k.a. Bleachers) is involved, as always, and there are curveball guests again, such as Jon Batiste (the creative director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem), SYML (formerly of the indie band Barcelona), Riopy, Father John Misty and rapper Tommy Genesis. In 2019 Billboard included Del Rey’s smarmy 2011 song “Born to Die” as one of the 100 songs that defined the 2010s (seems incredibly far away already, doesn’t it, like the music industry could already do a rebirth movement just to see if anyone had been paying attention in the first place). Anyhow, here we are, staring down the barrel of this album’s title track, which finds our heroine plumbing the lower echelons of gloom with a slow piano line, some sexlessly torchy stream-of-half-consiousness vocalizing, and all the other ingredients that will lead to her eventually contributing a title song for a James Bond film. (No, knock it off, there’ll be another James Bond movie, you can’t seriously believe they won’t, just try not to forget that Adele did the best one.) (And no, Lana Del Rey is no Adele, and never will be.)

• But wait, there’s another Rey, but this one’s a “Ray,” namely Fever Ray, with their new full-length, Radical Romantics! Ray is of course the stage name of Swedish singer Karin Elisabeth Dreijer, a long-standing trip-hop/electropop fixture who tends to bore people to tears, for instance the poor sap who had to sit through the film Dirty Diaries, “a collection of feminist pornographic short films,” which they soundtracked. “Appropriate but repetitive,” said the writer from Swedish newspaper Smålandsposten, in between snores, but that’s all water under the bridge, let’s just check out this new set of songs, specifically the single, “Kandy,” the video for which features Ray wearing Riff Raff makeup. The song is sort of a tribal-electro thing, basically bereft of any melodic direction, but do go add it to your Spotify if you don’t like nice things.

• Barf barf barf, it’s all-time fedora-rock champion Van Morrison, with Moving On Skiffle, his first album since oh who cares, may I remind you people that this human is fully responsible for the song “Brown-Eyed Girl,” also known as the national anthem for corporate human resources personnel who can’t dance. I know that I will not like his new single, “I’m Movin’ On,” but nevertheless I’ll — wait a second, this isn’t all that bad, actually, sort of like a cross between Bo Diddley and the “Banana Boat” song, like, someone’s playing a rasp, and Van is singing like he’s casually looking for big black tarantulas in his bowl of fruit.

• Ha ha oh come on, Miley Cyrus has a new album, titled Endless Summer Vacation, and I, a seasoned journalist, am supposed to talk about it? Here? Yep, looks like that’s how we’ll wrap up this week’s column, by talking about a Miley Cyrus record. Right, so is she trying to be Metallica again, or is she back to being an emotionally cracked pop diva again? Well, somewhere in the middle, it looks like: “Flowers” is your basic Lorde tuneage with a sample from “I Will Survive.” Why do people encourage this, seriously?

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).

bruschetta with drunken figs and ricotta

Bruschetta is a wonderful appetizer for a gathering. You assemble all of the toppings but leave your guests to build their own snacks. This means less work for you, as well as letting your guests choose which toppings and how much of each they want.

For this bruschetta recipe, there are a few ingredient notes. For the dried figs, you can use whatever variety you prefer. Both mission and calimyrna work well. Next, the wine needs to be on the dry side so that you don’t have an appetizer that tastes more like a dessert. Finally, store-bought ricotta is 100 percent fine, but if you’re seeking total indulgence, try homemade. (I have a recipe on the Think Tasty website.)

The most important part of this recipe is the figs. Everything else can be tweaked slightly. Have walnuts on hand? Go ahead and replace the pecans. Craving sourdough? Cut it into smaller slices and forget the baguette! Need to make the figs in advance? That’s totally fine. Add a little extra liquid to the storage container, and they’ll be delightfully moist when it’s time to serve them.

Now, give this recipe a try and see how well dried figs work in an appetizer!

Bruschetta with drunken figs and ricotta
Makes 20

1/2 cup dried figs
1 cup dry red wine
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 sprig rosemary
1/3 cup pecans
1 cup ricotta
20 baguette slices

Remove stems from figs, and cut into quarters.
Combine wine, sugar and rosemary in a small saucepan over high heat.
Once boiling, reduce heat to low, and add quartered figs.
Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While figs simmer, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Chop pecans roughly, and place on a baking sheet.
Bake for 6 to 10 minutes, giving the pan a shake after 4 minutes.
Transfer pecans to a small serving bowl.
Place baguette slices in the oven, and toast for 5 minutes or until golden brown.
When figs are done simmering, remove rosemary.
Transfer all of the figs and some of the liquid to a serving bowl.
To assemble: top 1 baguette slice with a spoonful of ricotta, a few figs and a sprinkle of pecans.

Featured photo: Bruschetta with drunken figs and ricotta. Photo by Michele Pesula Kuegler.

In the kitchen with Tony and Laurie Lomuscio

Tony and Laurie Lomuscio of Goffstown are the owners of TOLA-Rose Italian Eats (704-906-8894, rigatony288@yahoo.com, and on Facebook @tola1228 and Instagram @tolaeats2018), a food trailer offering authentic Italian options like meatball subs, sausage subs with peppers and onions, chicken or eggplant Parmesan, chocolate chip cannolis and more. The trailer gets its name by combining the couple’s first names along with that of Tony’s mother Rose, whose box of Italian recipes they regularly use in creating menu items. Now through March 30, find them at Pats Peak Ski Area (686 Flanders Road, Henniker) on Fridays from 4 to 8 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. More public appearances in New Hampshire are in the works for the spring and summer seasons, including at Monarch Motorsports (208 Rockingham Road, Derry). This interview was mostly conducted with Laurie Lomuscio, who provided us with both her own and her husband’s answers.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

I would say our flat-top grill. Tony came up with a good one: his own two hands to make the meatballs.

What would you have for your last meal?

We both came up with the exact same answer. Lobster and steamers with corn on the cob.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

We have two. The Lobster Boat in Merrimack … and then every Sunday after work we go to the Wa Toy Chinese restaurant here in Goffstown. We always get either the house rice or the house lo mein, and then Tony likes the spare ribs on the bone and I like the Peking dumplings.

What celebrity would you like to see ordering from your food trailer?

The Boston Bruins. [We’re] huge fans [and] season ticket holders. I would say them, and Elton John.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

The meatball sub. Tony’s mother has the best recipe ever, and the most unique recipe that I’ve ever seen.

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

We said charcuterie [boards] and tapas.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Tony said his mother’s pork chops with vinegar peppers. Mine would be my award-winning chili. … I use bison instead of ground beef, and then I use three kinds of beans, lots of onions, brown sugar, mustard and a lot of spices. And real tomatoes, not tomato sauce.

Italian sausage subs
From the kitchen of Tony and Laurie Lomuscio of TOLA-Rose Italian Eats

4 large-sized sweet Italian sausages
4 8-inch sub rolls
Red and green bell peppers
Garlic butter

Slice the peppers and onions about 1/4 inch thick. Place on a baking sheet. Place the sausages on top. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until the sausages are cooked through. Butter the rolls with garlic butter and grill in a saute pan until golden. Assemble and enjoy.

Featured photo: Tony and Laurie Lomuscio, of TOLA-Rose Italian Eats. Courtesy photo.

Going green

Corned beef and cabbage, Irish desserts and more special eats for St. Patrick’s Day

Ready for St. Patrick’s Day? Whether you’re looking to enjoy that ceremonious corned beef and cabbage dinner or you want to know where all the Guinness is being kept, check out this list of St. Paddy’s Day-related specials and happenings across southern New Hampshire’s bars and restaurants. Some are choosing to celebrate on the day itself — Friday, March 17 — while others are making an entire weekend out of the festivities with live music, comedy shows and more. For those who would rather celebrate at home, we’ve included details on some takeout specials for dinners and sweets being offered by area eateries and bakeries.

Alpine Grove Banquet Facility (19 S. Depot Road, Hollis, 882-9051, alpinegrove.com) will host a special St. Patrick’s Day dinner and Irish comedy show on Friday, March 17. The doors open at 6 p.m., with a buffet to be served from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. — items will include corned beef and cabbage quesadillas, Irish nachos and grilled cheese bites, potato skins, Reuben sliders, Irish soda bread, corned beef and cabbage-infused macaroni and cheese, Baileys mint chocolate chip brownies and cupcakes, and more. The comedy show kicks off at 8 p.m., with appearances by Andrew Della Volpe and Al Ghanekar. Tickets are $55 and include dinner and the show.

Atkinson Resort & Country Club (85 Country Club Drive, Atkinson, 362-8700, atkinsonresort.com) will serve corned beef and cabbage all day on Friday, March 17, at both Merrill’s Tavern and the Stagecoach Grille, beginning at 11 a.m. Call to make a reservation or place a takeout order. A special Irish comedy show will be held at 7:30 p.m. that evening, featuring comedians Steve Sweeney, Ken Rogerson and Rob Steen. Tickets are $35.

Auburn Pitts (167 Rockingham Road, Auburn, 622-6564, auburnpitts.com) is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with corned beef dinners on Friday, March 17, and live entertainment from singer-songwriter Crazy Steve at 2 p.m.

Averill House Vineyard (21 Averill Road, Brookline, 244-3165, averillhousevineyard.com) will serve a special four-course mystery dinner and wine pairing for St. Patrick’s Day on Friday, March 17, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $59 (the event is 21+ only) and must be purchased in advance online.

The Biergarten at Anheuser-Busch Brewery (221 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack, 595-1202, biergartenevents.com) will hold a special St. Patrick’s Day Happy Hour celebration on Friday, March 17, from 3 to 8 p.m. Food will be available for purchase from the Sammich NH food truck, and live music from Dan Fallon will be featured from 4 to 8 p.m.

Bonfire Country Bar (950 Elm St., Manchester, 217-5600, bonfiremanch.com) is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day all day long, opening early at 1 p.m. with drink specials and live music from Maddi Ryan (at 1 p.m.), Fat Bunny (at 5 p.m.) and the Eric Grant Band (at 9 p.m.).

Buckley’s Market & Cafe (9 Market Place, Hollis, 465-5522, buckleysbakerycafe.com) is taking orders for St. Patrick’s Day dinner boxes for two, featuring slow-braised corned beef with potatoes, cabbage, turnip and carrots, whole-grain mustard and horseradish sauces, Irish soda bread and chocolate Guinness cupcakes with Baileys frosting for dessert. Order by March 10. Pickups will be on Friday, March 17.

Casey Magee’s Irish Pub & Music Hall (8 Temple St., Nashua, 484-7400, caseymagees.com) is hosting a St. Patrick’s Day celebration on Saturday, March 18, featuring food and drink specials and live music from the Workin’ Stiffs Band from 8 to 11 p.m.

City Hall Pub (8 Hanover St., Manchester, 232-3751, cityhallpub.com) will open at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 17, and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day all day long with a special Irish Reuben.

Cruzin Cakes Shop (150 Broad St., Nashua, 882-1666, cruzincakesshop.com) is taking orders for “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” cake pop boxes, as well as other themed sweets and treats, like platters of green velvet whoopie pies, brownies, sugar cookies and chocolates. Order for pickup on Friday, March 17.

The Derryfield Restaurant (625 Mammoth Road, Manchester, 623-2880, thederryfield.com) will open at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 17, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day all day long with corned beef and cabbage dinners, Reuben sandwiches and other Irish-themed food and drink specials. Live music will be featured by D-Comp at 5 p.m. and Last Kid Picked at 9 p.m.

Elm House of Pizza (102 Elm St., Manchester, 232-5522, elmhop.com) will open at its normal time on Friday, March 17, at 11 a.m., celebrating St. Patrick’s Day all day long with a special corned beef and cabbage plate.

Fody’s Great American Tavern (9 Clinton St., Nashua, 577-9015; 187 ½ Rockingham Road, Derry, 404-6946; fodystavern.com) will open at noon on Friday, March 17, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day all day long with traditional corned beef and cabbage dinners, Reuben sandwiches and Reuben fries, in addition to drink specials, giveaways and a full schedule of live music throughout the afternoon and evening. The restaurant’s Derry location, meanwhile, is opening at 8 a.m. with an Irish breakfast and will also have live music, boiled dinners, drink specials and more.

Frederick’s Pastries (109 Route 101A, Amherst, 882-7725; 25 S. River Road, Bedford, 647-2253; pastry.net) is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with all kinds of seasonally inspired sweets and treats, like Guinness cupcakes and tortes, mint chocolate chip cupcakes, Irish flag shamrock cookies, Baileys Irish cream tortes, pot-of-gold cakes and — new this year — cookie kits with shamrock-shaped butter cookies.

The Goat Bar and Grill (50 Old Granite St., Manchester, 844-603-4628, goatnh.com) is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day all weekend long, with featured brunch specials from Friday, March 17, through Sunday, March 19, plus Irish coffee, green beer, live music, and a chance to win a trip to Ireland, sponsored by 97.5 WOKQ Radio (registrants must enter by 11 a.m. on Friday, March 17).

Great North Aleworks (1050 Holt Ave., Unit 14, Manchester, 858-5789, greatnorthaleworks.com) will host a special post-St. Patrick’s Day celebration on Sunday, March 19, from 12:30 to 5 p.m., featuring live music from The Pop Farmers and a kitchen pop-up from The Potato Concept, serving their loaded twice-baked potatoes in a variety of seasonal flavors. The brewery is set to release its Nitro Dry Irish stout on tap that day.

Holy Grail Food & Spirits (64 Main St., Epping, 679-9559, holygrailrestaurantandpub.com) is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day all day long on Friday, March 17, with live music from Max Sullivan (from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and Penhallow (from 3 to 6 p.m.), in addition to a kitchen party with Irish-inspired food and drink specials from 7 to 10 p.m.

Jamison’s (472 Route 111, Hampstead, 489-1565, jamisonsrestaurant.com) will offer several seasonally themed specials for St. Patrick’s Day on Friday, March 17, including boiled corned beef and cabbage dinners, Guinness beef stew, Irish nachos with corned beef, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing, Reuben egg rolls and shepherd’s pie.

LaBelle Winery Amherst (345 Route 101, Amherst, 672-9898, labellewinery.com) is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with a special five-course whiskey pairing dinner in its Great Room on Friday, March 17, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., featuring cocktails made with Roe & Coe Irish whiskey. Courses will include mini duck “Reubens,” deconstructed Scotch eggs, crushed luxardo and orange-sweetened sorbet, beef Wellington with a potato and chive puree, roasted Brussels sprouts and a dark cherry demi glaze, and chocolate stout cheesecake for dessert. LaBelle’s chef and staff will also be on hand to provide insights into each course and the cocktails they are paired with throughout the dinner. Tickets are $110 per person (event is 21+ only) and registration is required.

LaBelle Winery Derry (14 Route 111, Derry, 672-9898, labellewinery.com) has a Cooking With Wine class on Wednesday, March 15, at 6 p.m. that will dabble in Irish recipes, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Attendees will learn how to make everything from Reuben-inspired hot dip appetizers to Guinness-braised short ribs, Irish soda bread and Guinness chocolate desserts. The class is $35 per person and registration is required. The following evening, on Thursday, March 16, LaBelle Winery’s Derry location will host a special St. Patrick’s Day concert featuring the Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki Trio, performing traditional Celtic music — doors open at 7 p.m. and the performance begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35.

McGarvey’s Saloon (1097 Elm St., Manchester, 627-2721, mcgarveysnh.com) will open early at 10 a.m. for St. Patrick’s Day, celebrating all day long with a corned beef plate and other food and beverage specials.

Milano’s House of Pizza (1 Broad St., Nashua, 883-6610, milanospizzanashua.com) will open at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 17, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day all day long with corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie egg rolls and $3.17 priced drinks.

New England’s Tap House Grille (1292 Hooksett Road, Hooksett, 782-5137, taphousenh.com) is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day all weekend long with several food specials, available from Friday, March 17, through Sunday, March 19. In addition to traditional boiled dinners of corned beef and cabbage with carrots, turnips and red bliss potatoes, other specials will include panko-crusted Reuben balls, Guinness stew, beer-battered fish and chips, house-made Guinness cake and Baileys Irish cream cheesecake. The eatery’s Burger of the Month for March is a Reuben burger, featuring a four-ounce Angus beef patty topped with sliced corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing on a fresh pretzel roll.

North Side Grille (323 Derry Road, Hudson, 886-3663, hudsonnorthsidegrille.com) is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day all weekend long with an Irish-themed menu, along with family-sized meals of corned beef and cabbage, from Tuesday, March 14, through Friday, March 17. Dine-in meals and takeout orders are available.

The Peddler’s Daughter (48 Main St., Nashua, 821-7535, thepeddlersdaughter.com) will open at 8 a.m. on Friday, March 17, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with a special kegs and eggs Irish breakfast, along with a variety of other food and drink specials available throughout the day. A full schedule of live music is also planned, including performances by the Ramblin’ Rogues band (from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), the Jim Coyle and Joe Kessler band (from 3 to 7 p.m.) and The Pop Farmers (from 7 p.m. into the night). The Peddler’s Daughter keeps the festivities going with a “hangover” brunch on Saturday, March 18, at 11 a.m., and a “Sunday Funday” brunch on Sunday, March 19, featuring house mimosas and bloody marys.

Rambling House Food & Gathering (57 Factory St., Nashua, 318-3220, ramblingtale.com) will host “Tales from the Seanchai,” an Irish storytelling dinner with humorist and author Simon Brooks, on Sunday, March 12, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Featured entrees during the dinner will include lamb stout stew, fish and chips and vegetable hand pie and potato leek soup, along with apple cake for dessert, specialty event cocktails and full beer and wine lists on tap. Brooks will be the event’s seanchai (pronounced shan-a-key), or a storyteller tasked with keeping Irish myths, folklore and legends alive. Tickets are $70 per person and include dinner and dessert (due to adult themes, the event is not suitable for children). Reservations are required.

The Shaskeen Pub and Restaurant (909 Elm St., Manchester, 625-0246, shaskeenirishpub.com) will open its doors at 5:30 a.m. on Friday, March 17, for St. Patrick’s Day, serving its first pints at 6 a.m. and breakfast until 11 a.m. Other Irish-inspired food and drink specials will be offered throughout the day, and live music from several local artists will be held from 3 p.m. until closing time.

Sky Meadow Country Club (6 Mountain Laurels Drive, Nashua, 888-9000, skymeadow.com) is throwing a St. Patrick’s Day Bash on Friday, March 17 — doors open at 5 p.m., with an optional buffet to be served beginning at 6 p.m. and live entertainment until 11 p.m., including from DJ Chip and Irish step dancers from the McGonagle School of Irish Dance. Admission is free and the cost of the optional buffet is $50. Book your spot by filling out the attendance form online.

Strange Brew Tavern (88 Market St., Manchester, 666-4292, strangebrewtavern.net) will open the doors early at 9 a.m. on Friday, March 17, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day all day long with food and drink specials and a full schedule of live entertainment, including music from David Rousseau (from 9 a.m. to noon) and Jake Pardee (from 2 to 5 p.m.), as well as Irish step dancing from the McGonagle School of Irish Dance (from 4 to 4:45 p.m.) and music from Waking Finnegan (8 p.m. to midnight). Strange Brew Tavern will also open early at 10 a.m. on Sunday, March 26, ahead of the annual Manchester St. Patrick’s Day parade.

The Wild Rover Pub & Restaurant (21 Kosciuszko St., Manchester, 669-7722, wildroverpub.com) is opening early at 6 a.m. on Friday, March 17, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day all day long with a special Irish breakfast, followed by corned beef and cabbage plates and other seasonally inspired food specials.

Featured photo: Corned beef and cabbage from The Shaskeen Pub and Restaurant in Manchester. Courtesy photo.

Fire and ice

Amherst chili cook-off and ice cream social returns

Although initially postponed a month due to pandemic concerns, last year’s Amherst Fire & Ice was able to return in person to resounding success, drawing more than 200 attendees to taste scratch-cooked chilis from local restaurateurs and home cooks. Now the friendly chili cook-off and tasting — which also features live entertainment, a kids’ coloring contest and a table of make-your-own ice cream sundaes — is back for a seventh year, returning to Amherst Middle School on Friday, March 10.

The Amherst Lions Club organizes the competition as a fundraiser for local charity organizations. Following a pre-recorded “virtual” cook-off that took place in 2021, in which viewers could purchase chili recipes from each entrant, last year’s event marked the return to its traditional format.

“You get to taste a lot of different varieties of chilis, and then you also get to make your own ice cream sundae if you want one,” Amherst Lion and cook-off publicity coordinator Shirley Flowers said. “All of that is included in one entry price.”

Chili makers compete in three categories: individuals, restaurants and Lions Club members. Winners of the individuals category will be determined by cook-off attendees, while a panel of judges deliberates on those in the restaurant and Lions Club categories. They’ll rate each entry on a scale of 1 to 5 on criteria such as taste, smell and heat. Dan DeCourcey, pitmaster of the Merrimack-based Up In Your Grill barbecue food truck, is returning as a judge, as is David Mielke of Smokehaus Barbecue, himself a 2019 Amherst Fire & Ice champion.

This year’s restaurant contenders include Moulton’s Kitchen & Market of Amherst as well as Union Street Grill and Cafe On the Oval, both of Milford. Flowers noted that there is a greater than normal number of participants in the individuals category.

“When we first started Fire & Ice, it was just [Lions] Club members, and then we started inviting community members to come in,” she said. “So that’s one thing that’s different this year.”

While it’s usually a surprise to see what types of chilis the entrants come up with, Flowers said attendees can expect a diverse showing of traditional and non-traditional options. Moulton’s, for instance, took home last year’s restaurant award for its tri-tip steak and portobello mushroom chili, while Bill Swift, a multi-year champion in the individuals category, made a Cincinnati-style chili, with spaghetti as an added option. Flowers said at least one meatless chili is also available, one that she usually makes herself, in addition to hot dogs for non-chili eaters.

Judging will be completed by 6:30 p.m., with the winners announced around 6:45 p.m. Entrants with the most points in each of the three categories receive bragging rights for a year, in addition to a special traveling trophy.

After sampling chilis, attendees can head to the make-your-own ice cream sundae table, choosing from vanilla, chocolate or cookies and cream-flavored ice creams. Additional toppings like strawberries, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, cherries and sprinkles will also be available.

Other ongoing happenings during the evening will include live performances from members of Amherst Middle School’s music department, animal balloon demonstrations from Amherst’s Krickey the Clown, and free eye screenings offered by the Amherst Lions Club. A kids’ coloring contest is also returning, with prizes awarded to winners in three brackets: ages 11 to 15, 6 to 10 and 5 and under. Flowers said the coloring pages can be downloaded in advance online and entered into the contest on the night of the event, or kids can color them onsite.

Seventh annual Amherst Fire & Ice
When: Friday, March 10, 5 to 7 p.m.
Where: Amherst Middle School, 14 Cross Road, Amherst
Cost: $8 per person or $25 per family of four. Children under 5 receive free admission. Tickets can be purchased in advance online or at the door. Cash, credit or debit payments are accepted.
Visit: e-clubhouse.org/sites/amherstnh

Featured photo: Contestants from last year’s Amherst Fire & Ice. Courtesy photo.

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