Mood music

The honey-limned soundscapes of Cowboy Junkies

Every Cowboy Junkies album delivers a fair share of emotional truths, dark reflections and melancholy, and Such Ferocious Beauty, released last June, is no exception. There are echoes of the Louvin Brothers on the spare “Hell Is Real,” with its refrain “Jesus is coming, ready or not” more a stern warning than a promise of salvation. Another stellar track, “Knives” admonishes that “hope is fear in disguise.”

What’s different about the new record is that Michael Timmins, who writes lyrics for his ethereal-voiced sister Margo to sing, tapped into the mood of his family on many songs. Tragically, it extends the tenor of their previous release Ghosts, an eight-song cycle that processed the death of their mother in 2018. Their father passed in 2020, succumbing first to dementia and finally to old age.

Drummer Peter Timmins is the third sibling in the band, but there are three others who aren’t musicians, and each was included in a decision to reveal why the songs were written. This made it both his and his family’s artistic process, Michael Timmins shared by phone recently.

“It wasn’t just my story; it was all our story,” he said. “With these songs and albums, there was something we’d all gone through together. We felt it was something that made sense for our audience and for us personally. That’s how we came to that decision.”

Timmins’ songwriting approach didn’t change.

“There’s always something personal…. The songs are not only supposed to work if you know what they’re about,” he said. “Hopefully, they evoke something in you that goes near what I’m trying to express.”

Anyone who’s experienced a loved one battling Alzheimer’s will feel the gut punch of “What I Lost,” which leads off the album. It’s written from the point of view of Timmins’ dad, as his memory erodes and he holds on to the shards of his past — piloting a plane over Quebec, listening to jazz in a nightclub, missing his wife.

“I woke up this morning, didn’t know who I was,” he cries, and Margo sings, “You ask me how I am / what am I supposed to say / when this is what I lost.”

It’s often said that when a parent dies, each child loses a different person. Thus, one wonders if Michael’s emotions were re-shaped in any of these songs when Margo sang his words back to him.

“That’s a good question,” he said, and began to describe how a typical song comes together. “It’s the ‘frog in boiling water’ process…. [First] I’m writing and it’s a very personal thing; it’s all about me. The next stage, I’m thinking in terms of structuring it for Margo. Then she begins to get involved with her vocals and the way she’s expressing the words. And the lines are coming back at me differently.”

The musical vibe of Michael and Peter Timmins and bass player Alan Anton is major mojo for every one of the band’s songs. Michael describes this crucible as nearly alchemic.

“That’s a whole other thing … by the time we’re finished, the songs are very much beyond where I may have thought they were going to be,” he said. “Or maybe they’re exactly the same, but I’ve kind of forgotten what my initial thoughts were; it’s become a Junkies song. I pay attention all along the way, but I’m very happy to let things be pushed in a direction that I wasn’t expecting.”

On another standout track, music came before words. “Flood” is an edgy song that scoffs at “all this useless talk of turning tides,” and sounds like drowning might feel.

“Alan sent me a very cool bass and piano line … that’s the core,” Michael said, adding he wrote atop that foundation, crafting lyrics and then fleshing it out with scraping, chaotic electric guitar. “Once I had the words, the themes, the ideas and the desperation of the characters, I realized I needed another element in there to express that musically.”

Since forming in the mid-’80s, Cowboy Junkies have recorded and toured constantly, with no hiatuses or lineup changes. When the world paused in early 2020, the group was able to experience down time. “In some ways, it turned out good,” Michael said. “We’re always playing because it’s very important for us to do that, and it’s what we’ve always done. But this was sort of this little forced break to get off the road.”

He spent his time writing and recording, finishing Such Ferocious Beauty, and when live music returned he found himself frequently going to see other artists when he wasn’t performing. “I gotta be more active about this,” he remembers thinking. “I gotta get out there and start going to shows again, because it’s just such a great feeling.”

A few days prior to this interview, he’d seen Nick Cave’s stripped-down solo show at Toronto’s Massey Hall. A fan since Cave’s angsty Birthday Party days, Michael discerns commonality in their career arcs. “He’s had quite a journey,” he said. “We’ve gone through various stages, and as we’ve grown older our outlook on the world is growing different. I hope that we have a similar sort of relationship with our audience.”

Two days later he took his daughter to see Gregory Alan Isakov, after hearing her try to work out the chords to one of Isakov’s songs in her bedroom. “Him and his band opened for us, probably back around 2011 or 2012 in Boulder, when, I think, he was just getting going,” he said. “So it translated down through the ages.

Inspired by the likes of fellow Canadians Neil Young and Leonard Cohen, Michael sees a kinship between himself and Isakov; he begins most of his songs from a singer-songwriter point of view. “Even though that’s not what I am,” he said, “it’s just me and my acoustic guitar. Then I go through the filter of Margo and the band, and they go in different directions, and that’s sort of what makes Cowboy Junkies.”

Cowboy Junkies
: Sunday, Nov. 5, 7 p.m.
Where: Nashua Center for the Arts, 201 Main St., Nashua
Tickets: $49 and up at

Featured photo: Cowboy Junkies. Photo by Heather Pollock.

The Music Roundup 23/11/02

Local music news & events

  • Rising stars: The latest installment in the Nashville Newcomers series has Runaway June, an all-female trio that’s earned favorable comparisons to The Chicks; in fact, their “Buy My Own Drinks” placed higher on the charts than any single by an all-female group since the then Dixie Chicks in 2003. Also appearing is college football star turned troubadour Ben Durand. Thursday, Nov. 2, 7 p.m., Bank of NH Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord, $35 at
  • Brotherly revival: Bringing back the blood harmony sound that lit up the late ’50s pop charts, The Everly Set covers hits like “Bye Bye Love” and “Wake Up Little Susie” that inspired The Beatles in their early years. This connection is illustrated by the duo’s mashup of the Everlys’ “Cathy’s Clown” and the Fab Four song it inspired, “Please Please Me.” Friday, Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m., Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester, $35 and up at
  • Hometown boy: Performing a benefit for child and youth advocates CASA, Seth Meyers does standup and riffs on the state of the world. The Late Night host is fresh off the charming Strike Force Five podcast, where he and fellow talk show big names Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon rode out the writers’ strike and raised money for staff and crew affected by the labor action. Saturday, Nov. 4, 8 pm., SNHU Arena, 555 Elm St., Manchester, $100 and up at
  • Double-barreled: Metal powerhouse Sepsiss hosts its second annual Swarmiefest, a multi-band affair playing out on two stages. Joining the headliners who’ll be previewing songs from their forthcoming album are Manchester favorites A Simple Complex, Carpathia, Trading Tombstones, After the Winter, the forebodingly named Paradise Is Cancelled, My Last Mile, Dark Rain, DC Wolves, Heavy American and In the Wind. Saturday, Nov. 4, 6 p.m., Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester, $13 and up at
  • Harmony united: Enjoy sublime old-time music from Green Heron as the married duo performs a midweek show at New Hampshire’s only year-round food court. Betsy Green, who grew up on country music, plays fiddle and banjo, with metal band expat Scott Heron is on guitar and banjo. Wednesday, Nov. 8, 6 p.m., Tideline Public House, 15 Newmarket Road, Durham; see

Pain Hustlers (R)

Pain Hustlers (R)

Our medical system is broken is the big takeaway from Pain Hustlers, a fictional tale of pharmaceutical salespeople framed as a documentary.

Liza Drake (Emily Blunt) is an exotic dancer working the lunch shift to attempt to make enough money to cover her and her teen daughter Phoebe’s (Chloe Coleman) bills. After losing that job because she has to rush to get Phoebe out of some high school trouble, Liza calls Pete Brenner (Chris Evans), a pharmaceutical salesman who offered her a job a day earlier he was unsuccessfully trying to woo a doctor at her club. She shows up with a probably inflated resume and he inflates it further before introducing her to Dr. Jack Neel (Andy Garcia), the head of the drug company that is at the moment circling the drain. Their spray-under-the-tongue fentanyl-based pain medication can’t crack into the market currently dominated by a fentanyl lollipop. Liza gets a one-week tryout — get a doctor to prescribe the spray and she’s got a job with extremely good commissions; fail and she’s out. At the last minute of the work week Liza gets Dr. Nathan Lydell (Brian d’Arcy James) to prescribe the drug to one patient — and she gets him on the hook for more prescriptions by signing him on to the company’s speaker program, a thing she created as she pitched him. Pharmaceutical speaker programs are, as Pete explains to us, a common way to thank high-prescribing doctors wherein doctors get money for giving speeches to other doctors and the whole lavish event, with food and booze and drug reps in tight dresses, is paid for by the pharmaceutical company. Though Liza and Pete begin their program on a shoestring, they are able to get Lydell prescribing and then expand their reach to other doctors, first in Florida and then spreading nationwide. Along the way, Liza gets a series of promotions and is able to improve life dramatically for herself and Phoebe — moving from a motel to a waterfront apartment and getting Phoebe into a private school.

Of course, growing a market means that these drugs, meant for cancer patients in extreme pain, need to constantly find new customers and at higher doses, so the company starts pushing doctors to prescribe to other kinds of patients and then offering reps higher commissions on more potent versions. Though Liza desperately needs hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to pay for a brain surgery for Phoebe not covered by their insurance, she starts to worry that they’re not just helping suffering cancer patients but addicting people.

Blunt does a good job at giving us a rounded portrait of a woman who is trying to work her way out of poverty and is neither a saint nor an amoral cutthroat about how she does that. She hungers for respectability and the security but she isn’t willing to live with going beyond the gray area of doing, as Pete says, 67 in a 65. And Blunt and Evans have a nice chemistry as co-conspirators.

Not unlike Hustlers or The Big Short, Pain Hustlers gives you a con, with its entertaining build and its inevitable fall with a bit of bounciness, but it doesn’t completely look away from the idea that it all came at the expense of people who just wanted to not be in pain and live their lives. B-

Rated R for language throughout, some sexual content, nudity and drug use, according to the MPA at Directed by David Yates with a screenplay by Wells Tower (and based loosely on the New York Times magazine article by Evan Hughes), Pain Hustlers is two hours and two minutes long and distributed by Netflix, where it is streaming.

Five Nights at Freddy’s (PG-13)

The animatronic mascots at an abandoned family restaurant get murderous in Five Nights at Freddy’s, a horror movie based on a video game franchise.
Which I’ve never played — to me this is just a movie with not-bad bones: animatronic mascots forgotten and slowly decaying, abandoned riff on a Charles Entertainment Cheese-like establishment, a night watchman who has just enough trauma and sleep issues that maybe he could be hallucinating.

Mike (Josh Hutcherson) is that security guy, taking an exceptionally terrible job at this obviously haunted/cursed/just sad long-closed restaurant. He will accept basically any employment to remain a viable guardian for his young sister Abby (Piper Rubio), orphaned/abandoned after the dissolution of their family due to the long-ago kidnapping of Mike’s young brother Garrett (Lucas Grant). Having blamed himself for the kidnapping for decades (Garrett went missing on a family camping trip and Mike is certain he must have seen the kidnapper), Mike uses a variety of sleep aids to push him back to the memory of that moment. So he sleeps but never rests and works the night shift while trying to care for his quiet, troubled-seeming sister — a perfect recipe for a guy who isn’t sure what to believe when the animatronics at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza start to act sentient.
The movie doesn’t really pay off on either the fun or the creepiness of this setup. Instead we get a movie that can’t seem to figure out how dark it wants to be mixed in with a child custody plot and the appearance of Police Officer Vanessa (Elizabeth Lail), whose whole deal makes less sense the more we learn about her. C-

Rated PG-13 for strong violent content, bloody images and language throughout, according to the MPA on Directed by Emma Tammi with a screenplay by Scott Cawthon and Seth Cuddeback & Emma Tammi, Five Nights at Freddy’s is an hour and 50 minutes long and is released by Universal Studios. It’s in theaters and streaming on Peacock.

Old Dads (R)

Bill Burr plays a version of himself as a Gen X-er raising a young son in a millennial and zoomer world in the Netflix comedy Old Dads.

Jack Kelly (Burr) has a son in preschool and another kid on the way with wife Leah (Katie Aselton). He lives in a nice suburban house in Los Angeles and has recently sold the profitable T-shirt business he owned with fellow Xers and longtime friends Mike (Bokeem Woodbine) and Connor (Bobby Cannavale). He has what appears to be a nice life and yet he is filled with a rage at the annoyances of the modern world, most of which he expresses in a “you know what’s wrong with your generation?” rant. His aggravation seems particularly acute in dealing with zoomer Aspen Bell (Miles Robbins), the new head of the T-shirt company where Jack, Mike and Connor still have to work (and behave) to cash in on their equity.

There is comedy to be mined in generational differences and raising a child as a parent in their 40s or 50s versus 20s or 30s — the difference between, for example, how an older parent would relate to a peer-aged teacher versus a younger teacher, or how older and younger parents might approach managing their kids. But the movie goes more for the low-hanging fruit of just mocking the performatively progressive upperclass Angeleno. We don’t really get a Gen X-versus-Millennials showdown or one guy’s experiences as an older parent.

It’s more just an angry audience surrogate ranting at the very online.
A bigger problem for Old Dads is that all of the life-stuff Burr addresses here — raising kids as a person in middle age, overcoming general knee-jerk anger, generational differences, marriage stuff, the times in which we live — is addressed much more sharply, smartly and funnily in Burr’s own standup, a lot of which is also available on Netflix. If you want Burr’s angry-Northeasterner take on all that, done with humility and nuance and self-awareness, seek those shows out. If you’re just looking for a comedy with adults swearing and an occasional moment of sitcom-y “ha, funny,” sure, Old Dads has that. Just not as much of that second part as I would have liked. C+

Rated R for pervasive language, sexual material, nudity and brief drug use, according to the MPA on Directed by Bill Burr and co-written by Bill Burr & Ben Tishler, Old Dads is an hour and 44 minutes long and distributed by Netflix, where it is currently streaming.

Expend4bles (R)

Even Jason Statham is not strong enough to carry the lifeless fourth outing of a jokey action series in Expend4bles.

It gives me no pleasure to say that, because I generally like this series and the “action stars of previous decades super-group” philosophy around which it’s built.

Here, Statham’s Lee Christmas is basically the center of the story after Barney (Sylvester Stallone), head of the CIA freelancer group The Expendables, is sidelined during a failed mission to get nuclear whatevers from Libya before bad guy Rahmat (Iko Uwais) can steal them for badder guy Ocelot, a mystery villain Barney battled in the past. Gina (Meghan Fox) takes over running the Expendables show with their CIA handler Marsh (Andy Garcia) taking a more hands-on role as they pursue Rahmat.

Lee, pushed out of the group for a nonsense reason, tries to go it alone to chase Rahmat and Ocelot, turning for some assistance to Decha (Tony Jaa).
In addition to Stallone and Statham, Dolph Lundgren and Randy Couture are among the original expendables still in play. Terry Crews, Jet Li and Arnold Schwarzenegger sit this one out along with the last film’s additions, which included Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas and Ronda Rousey. Instead, we get Fox, Curtis Jackson (aka 50 Cent), Jacob Scipio and Levy Tran who do not have the sparkle of those OG members.

Also missing here is an overall sense of fun. We don’t get any cutesy surprise cameos a la Chuck Norris in the second movie or Harrison Ford in the third — and of course no Bruce Willis, who appeared in the first two. This kind of 1980s/1990s action star wattage was a load-bearing element of those earlier entries and its lack here leaves the movie an overall shakier structure (outside of Jaa, a star who rose in the aughts and who is a nice addition).

Strip those things away and issues that have probably always been there are more keenly felt. Such as, this isn’t the snappiest dialogue ever written and the actors speak it as though this is the first time they’ve ever seen these lines. The story doesn’t, at all, make sense and yet it’s nearly not bonkers enough.

Perhaps new to this movie is how slow everything feels. Sure, there’s punching and kicking and explosions, but it feels like we’re getting these elements delivered in more of a low-flow stream than the non-stop punch-splosion you’d want. C

Rated R for strong/bloody violence throughout, language and sexual material, according to the MPA on Directed by Scott Waugh with a screenplay by Kurt Wimmer & Tad Daggerhart and Max Adams, Expend4bles is an hour and 43 minutes long and distributed by Lionsgate and is available for rent or purchase via VOD.

Strays (R)

Reggie, a good-natured rube of a small fluffy dog voiced by Will Ferrell, has the sudden realization that his owner is garbage in Strays, a live-action, extremely-R-rated dog adventure comedy.

Reggie (voice of Ferrell, doing peak Elf-ish Ferrell) thinks he’s playing a challenging game of fetch when his dirt-bag human Doug (Will Forte) drives him miles away from their home, throws a ball and then drives away. Reggie retrieves the ball and always manages to return, much to the annoyance of Doug, who never wanted a dog and only kept Reggie in the breakup with his girlfriend to be a jerk. Reggie just wants Doug to acknowledge that he, Reggie, is a good-boy dog.

But during a particularly far-afield game of fetch, Reggie realizes in telling French bulldog Bug (voice of Jamie Foxx), Hunter (voice of Randall Park) and Maggie (voice of Isla Fisher) about Doug that Doug is in fact a terrible owner. Reggie decides to hurt Doug by taking away the one thing that Doug truly cares about in life — one R-rated piece of Doug’s anatomy. Bug, a stray dog, and Hunter and Maggie, dogs with laissez faire owners, decide to travel with Reggie to find Doug and see if Reggie really will, uhm, get him where it hurts.

I had few expectations for this movie beyong hoping that it would be not too boring, maybe even mildly entertaining. And it clears that bar of extremely mild entertainment. Most of the humor is based on dog behavior — eating gross stuff, sniffing other dogs’ bums, humping things — and most of it is fine, not particularly smart but not aggressively off-putting. Pre-existing Will Ferrell-ness helps to make Reggie a character we can project personality. Occasionally the movie has a funny bit (there is a runner about an invisible fence) or a cute cameo and I found myself often thinking “ha” without actually laughing. C+

Rated R for pervasive language, like seriously, and crude and sexual content (also, really and a lot) and drug use, like this is rated R don’t let the dogs fool you, according to the MPA on Directed by Josh Greenbaum with a screenplay by Dan Perrault, Strays is an hour and 33 minutes long and is distributed by Universal Studios. It is available for rent or purchase and it is streaming on Peacock.

Featured photo: Pain Hustlers.

Mr. Texas, by Lawrence Wright

Mr. Texas, by Lawrence Wright (Knopf, 336 pages)

Sonny Lamb is a rancher who lives with his wife, Lola, in the middle of nowhere, Texas. It takes them 45 minutes to get to the nearest Dollar General. He is a kind-hearted man, the sort who, when he takes a prized bull to the livestock auction, can’t stomach it when the animal is about to go to a slaughterhouse, so he buys his bull back, even though the animal was only at auction because he was so broke.

This could explain why Lamb is just getting by in life, and suffering a bit of an early midlife crisis, sensing that “his life was ebbing, inevitably, pointlessly.” His wife loves him, but her large, fertile extended family exacerbates her husband’s feeling of everlasting mediocrity: The family “all carried themselves with an air of importance that Sonny could never hope to achieve.”
Then one day Lamb gets himself on the map when he saves a young girl and her horse from a barn fire. This happens around the time that a Texas state legislator dies mid-term, and a political mover-and-shaker is seeking a replacement in line with his interests. He’s looking for “Someone who stands for good, conservative values. Someone who commands the respect of all who know him. Someone with ideas. A patriot. A hero. A Republican.”
Sonny Lamb is none of these things, really. He’s adrift in a red state with “blue measles.” But someone had taken a photo of him riding a terrified horse out of a burning barn, and he’s hero enough.

Such is the beginning of Mr. Texas, a rollicking novel by New Yorker writer and Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright. A Dallas native who lives in Austin, Wright has said he came up with the character of Sonny Lamb more than two decades ago, and what is now Mr. Texas had earlier lives as a failed screenplay, a failed HBO pilot and even a failed musical. Which is fine, because it’s now a first-rate novel.

The person who plucks Sonny Lamb from obscurity is a lobbyist named L.D. Sparks, who at one point observes, “Funny how a person can live his whole life being good or bad, but there’s nothing on the record, nothing that you can hold in your hand and say, here, take a look, this is who I really am.”

But after Sonny’s heroics at the barn fire, he has a photograph that says exactly that, and even though Sonny also has a history of womanizing and drug abuse after a war injury in Iraq, Sparks realizes he could construct a winning candidacy around the man — with the help of a PR firm, of course. Sparks needs a legislator he can control since he is one vote short in the General Assembly to pass all the things he needs, and Sonny seems perfect, possessed of “youth, looks, good teeth, and naivete.”

Sonny and Lola are initially taken aback when Sparks appears on their doorstep, but Sonny decides this is the chance he needs, since he’s been struggling with the fact that he’s never set an important goal and achieved it. Despite the angst, hilarity ensues. When Sonny appears on a local talk show, his mother calls in to ask why he didn’t consult her before deciding to run. “Don’t just assume you’ve got my vote,” she says.

His Democratic opponent, Valerie Nightingale, is ahead by 25 percentage points. Things are going so poorly that Sonny is starting to think that Sparks was working for Nightingale and scammed him into running. After a debate in which Nightingale mops the floor with him, however, Sparks and the other consultants decide it’s time to exchange the moral high ground for street-fighting, albeit through a political action committee, keeping Sonny’s hands clean.

Meanwhile, Lola has announced that she desperately wants children and they need to try harder. So the couple embark on a “breeding schedule” — sex twice a day, between campaign events, as they throw themselves into a new life that will upend their current one in ways neither can foresee.

While Sonny and his handlers are Republicans, Mr. Texas is partisan, but not problematically so. Wright says he is politically independent and the book skewers all of us, not just the political establishment, mocking people who loathe government while living on Social Security and food stamps, and those who see elected officials as Santa Claus, existing to grant their every wish.
Sonny’s world is our contemporary one; his state is populated by real people and places, like Ted Cruz and the McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas, although it’s sometimes hard to tell what’s real and what’s not. A scene where legislators go pig-hunting seems made up but is based on reality, similar to an event held simply for Sonny to collect lobbyist checks.

While Mr. Texas gets a tad preachy toward the end and concludes a bit abruptly, this does not diminish the overall pleasure of the novel. This is no Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the classic 1939 film starring Jimmy Stewart, but it’s a version for our time, at least in book form. A —Jennifer Graham

Album Reviews 23/11/02

E-Garbage, LLM (Dee Dee’s Picks Records)

Swiss artist & engineer Eric Nardini is more commonly known in techno circles under the pseudonym E-Garbage, which points to his penchant for the raw techno that he creates through the use of trash electronics, random objects, modular synthesis, and “the DIY ethos of the punk scene in Geneva” such as it is. The “recommended if you like” list includes Drexciya, Unit Moebius, Legowelt and Terrence Dixon, not that there’ll be a quiz later, but what it means is that you’ll encounter the usual periods of self-indulgent noise, much of it basically white, that you’re expected to relate to, and some IDM DJ stuff that’s rather pleasant, albeit not groundbreaking (as found in the track “Glitched Token E,” an unfocused joint that also fronts some pretty-much-breakbeats, a style I thought I’d never hear again, not that I mind it). “Stochastic Parrot E” is mildly industrial krautrock that at least sticks to its subject for a while. B — Eric W. Saeger

Best Ex, With A Smile (Iodine Recordings)

For being a married person, this quirk-pop indie lady sure sings about how much men suck, not that we don’t know that we do; with this she takes up post-riot-grrrl gauntlets against a lot of things, like inattentive boyfriends and the dudes who run the music business (I can’t imagine anyone being surprised to learn that those guys suck even worse than the average Joe). The overall sound here is Taylor Swift on a low-ish budget, but there are some arena-stomping Imagine Dragons-style moments if you stick around for the middle of the single “Tell Your Friends,” a tune about a breakup that’s led to zen moments in a car with the window open and blah blah blah, in other words no real lessons come of it, just B-grade disaffection. “I Promise To Ruin Your Life” lifts the basic recipe from Ingrid Michaelson’s “Be OK” and doubles down on the teen-pop attitude, not that I’m saying no one should do that. It’s catchy. A- — Eric W. Saeger


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Jane, stop this crazy thing, the next general-CD-release Friday can’t be Nov. 3, it just can’t! Great, that means it’s Thanksgiving in a few minutes, so now I have to figure out which family members and friends are still classified as “the non-crazy people” by my preferred crazy family members so I can invite them to Thanksgiving, that’s if I can even find creamed onions for a Thanksgiving side dish, does anyone even know if they stopped making those forever or what? But I’m getting ahead of myself, I need to just face one nightmare at a time, so I’ll put aside Thanksgiving for now and try to see if there’s anything in this pile of new album releases that won’t get my stomach roiling and lurching and dancing the macarena! Hm, here we go, we’ll start with The Struts, an English glam-rock band that’s from Derby, in Derbyshire, U.K., a “township” located due west of East Derby in East Derbyshire, U.K., if I know my British geography, which I don’t at all. I’m sure I’ll be fine with this band’s rock ’n’ roll, because glam rock is what everyone should be listening to now, and literally nothing else; after all, Slade was/is/whatever the greatest U.K. glam band in history, so maybe these guys just sort of absorbed some of Slade’s greatness just by being from the only island in the west where the owners of the place unironically wear crowns. Pretty Vicious is whatstheirface’s new album, and it features the title track, which was made by taking the interesting parts of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” throwing them in a randomizer and coating it in British glam that isn’t even close to being as interesting as Slade’s worst song. Other than that, I am genuinely excited about this album release.

• Ack, everybody duck, here it comes, right on too-soon-time, the flood of posthumous releases from Jimmy Buffett, the first of which is Equal Strain On All Parts! Look at you, getting ready to be mad at me for saying something mean, but surprise, I will honor Mister Cheeseburger’s memory by listening closely to whatever song his agent found in 1/2-inch tape reel form in Jimmy’s trash can, whatever tune the record company’s Men In Black will front as the single from this — wait, no, I’m told this is an actual, official album, one that was completed only two months ago, no rush, amirite? Anyhow, the single, “Bubble Up,” is a basic country-pop chillout that most listeners will think is a Willie Nelson song until the accordion comes in, which, point of order, doesn’t make it an actual zydeco song, but of course whichever “music journalist” hack reviews it for Nylon or Buzzfeed or whatnot will say it’s a zydeco song. I cannot do anything about that inevitable nonsense, but yes, I would if I could.

• Irish musician Hilary Woods is a solo artist, previously the bass player of the vastly underrated jangle-grunge band JJ72, which dissolved in 2006 just to get on my nerves. Woods’ current trip is “nocturnal keyboard-based songs” largely inspired by “filmmakers, electronic artists, experimental noise, and folk music traditions.” In other words she’s kind of weird, as exemplified by her forthcoming new album Acts Of Light. This set of songs is based on “a fugue comprised of nine slow hypnotic dirges,” in other words it’s probably kind of weird, but let me go visit the YouTube machine and find out for sure. Ugh, yes, the tire-kicker single “Where The Bough Has Broken” is definitely weird, a miserable, morose ambient exercise that drags on forever, but don’t let that stop you.

• We’ll close with Little Bit Of Sun, the new full-length from Minnesota post-grunge trio Semisonic! I don’t mind the title track at all; it sounds like what would happen if Amos Lee tried to sound like Coldplay and Tom Petty at the same time. Good stuff. —Eric W. Saeger

Featured photo: E-Garbage, LLM (Dee Dee’s Picks Records) and Best Ex, With A Smile (Iodine Recordings)

Carrot Pie

Carrot Pie. Photo by John Fladd.

In the 1920s there seems to have been a vibrant analog online community of housewives in the Boston Globe’s cooking section. At first glance, it seems as if it was a simple exchange of recipes, but there was clearly a lot more than that going on under the surface. In this column, Winding Trails starts by thanking her virtual friend for a recipe, then offers one of her own. It seems straightforward enough. The last line is somewhat arresting, though; she doesn’t so much close out her small letter politely as plead for some form of human contact.

This was the 1920s. It had not been so many years since politicians and ministers had blasted an evil new invention, the bicycle. Without a (male) chaperone, they ranted, who knew what sorts of deviant mischief women could get up to, traveling all over the countryside? It’s easy to imagine Mrs. Trails almost trapped in an apartment in Southie or a triple-decker in Nashua, surrounded by crying children and dirty dishes, desperate for some form of adult companionship.

Some more research reveals that Skin Hincks (and wow, do I want to know the story behind her name) was a frequent, almost obsessive correspondent to the Globe’s cooking pages. It’s very easy to see her modern counterpart having a very active social media presence. There might be a very credible master’s or Ph.D. thesis comparing the two communities.

But for now, let’s look at Mrs. Trail’s Carrot Pie:

Carrot Pie

  • The purée of two large carrots – about 1½ cups, or 300 grams
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup (99 grams) sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1½ cups (1 can) evaporated milk
  • zest of 1 large orange
  • 1 pie crust

Preheat the oven to 450º F.

Whisk all ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl.

Pour into the pie crust. Much as with a pumpkin pie, the crust does not need to be blind-baked.

Bake at 450º for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325º and bake for a further 50 to 55 minutes, or until the blade of a knife comes out more or less clean.

At first glance, this seems like a bright orange pumpkin pie, and the taste is not completely dissimilar, but the sweetness of the carrot and the brightness of the orange zest lift the flavor to something different. The spices are more subdued than in a pumpkin pie, and the custard is not so much sweeter as fruitier. Carrots and ginger are a classic pairing, and the orange zest adds a zing that makes this more of a “Yes, please, another slice would be delightful” experience.

This is a good pie to eat with a cup of tea, while hand-writing a letter to an old friend.

John Fladd is a veteran Hippo writer, a father, writer and cocktail enthusiast, living in New Hampshire.

Featured photo: Carrot Pie. Photo by John Fladd.

In the kitchen with Justin Bernatchez

Nashua native Justin Bernatchez is the executive chef at LaBelle Winery. Growing up with his father in the industry, he was exposed at a young age to the kitchen environment, one that he found thrilling, and he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. He started cooking in local restaurants when he was 15 and later attended Atlantic Culinary Academy’s Le Cordon Bleu program, where he graduated at the top of his class.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

A must-have in the kitchen for me would be passionate cooks who are willing to work really hard, listen and learn. … Becoming a chef takes time … It takes years, and having cooks that are passionate and devoted to the craft really helps build a strong team and makes things really fun.

What would you have for your last meal?

I’m a sucker for comfort food and … greasy fatty, cheesy and gooey … I would start with fried mozzarella sticks and some buffalo wings with tons of blue cheese dressing, then probably a really nice burger and finish it off with something chocolatey for dessert.

What is your favorite local eatery?

I live in Manchester and love exploring the ever-changing food scene. From Mexican to Thai to the dives and sandwich shops — they all have such great and interesting things to try, so to pick one would be impossible, but my favorite thing is that you can pretty much [try] food from any culture you are craving…

Name a celebrity you would like to see eating in your restaurant?

The late, great Anthony Bourdain. He was just so influential in my career, and his books and shows really inspired me to branch out and explore what the world had to offer through food…

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

My favorite thing on the menu right now at The Bistro in Amherst would be the salted caramel chicken wings …. [It’s] crispy chicken coated in a white wine caramel with fresh Granny Smith apples and smoked sea salt. … I would say that the classic steak frites would be my favorite at Americus.

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

I would say that the biggest food trend … would be the fusion of ingredients from other countries and other parts of the world into American-style foods to make them more approachable.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

[P]robably be anything that I can grill. I love to use my flat-top grill to make meals for my wife and kids that they are going to love.

LaBelle Winery Guinness Braised Short Ribs

½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
¼ teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
4 pounds beef short ribs
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion rough-chopped
1 large carrot rough-chopped
2 stalks celery rough-chopped
6 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
15 ounces (or more) Guinness
15 ounces (or more) beef stock

In a shallow plate whisk together the flour, salt and pepper. Dredge the short ribs in the flour mixture, making sure all sides are covered in flour. In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the pan is heated up, add the ribs, only half of them at a time (do not overcrowd), and sear them on all sides, about 3 to 4 minutes per side until browned. Repeat with remaining ribs. Once they are all seared, set them aside. Preheat your oven at 350 degrees in the meantime. In the same pot over medium-high heat, add the onions, carrot, celery, garlic and sauté for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the onion has softened and the garlic is aromatic. Next, stir in the tomato paste and pour in the Guinness and beef broth (amount needed is dependent on your pan size — the short ribs need to be covered with the liquid). Then, add the rosemary and thyme and bring the pot to a boil. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Add the short ribs back to the pan and cover with a lid. Transfer the pan to the oven and braise for 2½ to 3 hours, or until they are tender enough to fall apart with a fork. Remove the rosemary and thyme from the pot, then garnish with parsley and serve.

Featured photo: Justin Bernatchez. Courtesy photo.

Classics with a twist

Owners of Industry East open new restaurant on Elm Street

After opening their restaurant Industry East on Hanover Street in Manchester, Jeremy Hart and Dan Haggerty eventually decided to embark on their second business venture. On Monday, Oct. 2, the pair opened the doors to Stash Box, a restaurant and bar that puts a twist on homestyle comfort classics.

“Our No. 1 complaint at Industry East was that we didn’t have enough space,” Hart said. “Here, we have more space.”

Hart and Haggerty have both been in the food industry for more than 20 years, having worked as servers, bartenders and managers for other establishments before opening their own. Over the course of those two decades, both of them had contemplated leaving the industry but always found themselves being drawn back.

“Basically, you have to for some reason really love it, and I think it’s just providing hospitality to people and seeing them enjoy food and drinks that you created,” Haggerty said. “It was either leave or go for broke, so we decided to open a restaurant and then it worked out pretty well.”

The pair opened Industry East on Feb. 2, 2021, serving craft cocktails such as Smoke on the Water(melon) made with mezcal and Montenegro liqueur and Naval Academy made with aperol, bourbon and fresh orange juice as well as one-of-a-kind takes on staples like tacos, hot dogs and flatbreads.

“Industry East is essentially a cocktail bar that serves really good food, and Stash Box is a restaurant that has really good food with a cocktail bar inside of it,” Haggerty said. “It’s kind of like an elevated taste on regional classics from New England and around the country. … Our kitchen is a lot bigger here than it is at Industry East [so] we’re able to do a lot more … which is cool. Basically just a bigger expansive menu of homestyle cooking.”

An example of such a twist is their chicken cordon bleu. Added to the bernaise sauce is rosemary and basil and on the side is prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and shallot mashed potatoes. Appetizers include scallop crudo — sliced scallops with pineapple jalapeno salsa, mango gastrique, toasted coconut and sea salt — and scallion pancakes with kimchi, fried egg, pickled red onion, soy glaze sauce and sesame. For dessert, enjoy a peaches-and-cream tart with a homemade brown sugar shell, sugared peaches and blueberries topped with cream cheese frosting, whipped cream, powdered sugar and fresh mint, or bananas Foster, consisting of a cinnamon crunch waffles topped with sauteed bananas, brown sugar, dark rum, whipped cream, bruleed bananas and cinnamon sugar.

“We love being downtown in Manchester on Elm Street because we love all our neighbors. They’ve all been helpful and supportive the entire time we were building the project,” Haggerty said. “Downtown Manchester is an amazing restaurant and overall small-business community, and it’s a great thing to be a part of if you are willing to put in the work. … It’s been really good. Definitely a warm welcome on Elm Street.

Stash Box
Where: 866 Elm St., Manchester
When: Monday through Saturday, 4 to 11 p.m.

Featured photo: Stash Box. Photo by Mya Blanchard.

The Weekly Dish 23/11/02

News from the local food scene

Spirited evening: Tickets are still available to the 10th annual Distiller’s Showcase of Premium Spirits on Thursday, Nov. 2, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Downtown with general admission from 6 to 8:30 p.m. (for $75) and early access at 5 p.m. (for $90). In addition to spirit tastings, the evening features 25 food and beverage vendors. See

Wine and whiskers: Tailgate Transport & Rescue, an organization that rescues dogs from kill shelters down south, holds its second annual Wine & Whiskers Fundraiser at the Derryfield Country Club (625 Mammoth Road) in Manchester on Friday, Nov. 3, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Enjoy wine, hors d’oeuvres, chocolate and live and silent auctions with items like two tickets to the Patriots-Chiefs game and a hot air balloon ride, all while raising money to help the animals. Tickets are $35. Visit

Dinner and a show: Enjoy dinner and a show when Overserved makes their Peddler’s Daughter (48 Main St., Nashua) debut on Friday, Nov. 3, at 9:30 p.m. Admission is free.

10-year bourbon: Travel back to the Prohibition era and discover new flavors at Flag Hill Distillery & Winery’s (297 N. River Road, Lee) celebration for the release of their 10-year-aged bourbon. Enjoy handcrafted cocktails, refreshments and live music, line dancing and an afterparty. Tickets for the event are $85. To purchase tickets, visit

On The Job – Lacey Brown

Bookstore owner

Lacey Brown is the owner of Henniker Book Farm & Gifts.

Explain your job and what it entails.

I get to be around and sell books all day long — what could be better than that? … What I love best is that every day is different and that is because I get to interact with people who come from all over with all different interests. With a used book store you get to put your hands on unique books that you won’t find regularly at new book stores and our inventory is constantly rotating with different books…

How long have you had this job?

About three years ago I started selling books online as a side hustle… [I]n 2022 my husband and I bought Henniker Book Farm & Gifts. At first we were going to just open online, but the public convinced us that we needed to open the doors … In August 2022 we reopened the oldest used book store in New Hampshire, originally founded in 1964.

What led you to this career field and your current job?

I grew up reading non-stop … I also spent 22 years in the high-tech industry, where I learned so much about business and people. So to combine my love for books, business and people it made for an exciting new opportunity that I could not only enjoy but share the experience with my kiddos.

What kind of education or training did you need?

Running a business isn’t easy, so any business education you can get, whether it’s schooling or hands-on. That said, hands-on experience gives you the opportunity to come in contact with real-life scenarios that just can’t be taught in a classroom.

What is your typical at-work uniform or attire?

Depends on my mood. Some days I wear funky book T-shirts, sometimes I dress up, and sometimes I wear warm comfy clothes, especially in those brutally cold months.

What is the most challenging thing about your work, and how do you deal with it?

I have limited space for storing new books before I put them on the shelves. This of course will always ebb and flow as books come in and go out, but at the end of the day no one can have too many books.

What do you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?

I wish I had learned to take more time to enjoy life.

What do you wish other people knew about your job?

People always think that I get to read books all day, but unfortunately that’s not true …

What was the first job you ever had?

At 14, I worked at McDonald’s.

What’s the best piece of work-related advice you’ve ever received?

Leverage people’s strengths. … This is true in life too.

Five favorites

Favorite book:
Gone with the Wind. I’ve read it over and over again.
Favorite movie: Gone with the Wind. I know it’s redundant, but Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable are amazing!
Favorite music: Dave Matthews Band
Favorite food: Polish food
Favorite thing about NH: The outdoors, in all seasons, although my favorite is fall.

Featured photo: Lacey Brown. Courtesy photo.

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