In good company

Gibson Brothers bring Darkest Hour tour to Rex

If great musicians wanting to get in the studio with a performer is a measure of success, the Gibson Brothers are a breed apart. The bluegrass duo has been produced by Ricky Skaggs, Dave Ferguson, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and most recently Jerry Douglas, on Darkest Hour, released in early 2023.

They even recorded a soundtrack album with T-Bone Burnett, a project that was shelved with the never-made movie.

“My brother says that we’re the Forrest Gump of bluegrass,” Eric Gibson said in a recent phone interview. “I mention something like that [Burnett] to people, and they look at me like I’m lying. I’m like, ‘I don’t have any proof, the record never came out.’ … but some of those records did.”

While 2018’s Auerbach-helmed Mockingbird had a burlier tone and modern touches like a cover of REM’s “Everybody Hurts” with the Flaming Lips’ Derek Brown on slide guitar, Darkest Hour featured more of the sound that’s made the Gibsons a force in bluegrass music for over three decades.

A new wrinkle, though, was a focus on the duo’s songwriting. Before starting recording in early 2020, Douglas asked them to bring their best tunes that hadn’t made it to other records. Among them was “I Feel the Same Way as You,” which became an album standout, with Alison Krauss providing a backing vocal.

Leigh Gibson wrote the song in 2000. Eric remembers wondering, “Why the heck did we wait so long to record that? Then I thought, if we’d done it earlier, Jerry Douglas wouldn’t be playing Dobro on it, and Alison Krauss wouldn’t be singing harmony … it was meant to be later.”

The Dobro master’s presence spurred the two to reach musical heights, as on “Dust,” when Eric follows Douglas’s soaring solo with a blistering banjo run. “You cannot help but be inspired,” he said, calling it “a pinch-me moment — that’s Jerry Douglas, and we’re playing with him right now.”

A big chunk of the LP was done live in the studio.

“We had some separation; if we messed up, we’d go back and fix it, but he’s about capturing the feeling and capturing the moment,” Gibson said.

“What a Difference a Day Makes” was the first track recorded. Gibson called it “real meat and potatoes bluegrass … kind of a Jimmy Martin-feeling kind of song.”

A Northeast tour in support of the album kicks off Jan. 13 in Manchester.

The brothers will be joined by Mike Barber on bass and drummer Sam Zucchini, with Eric O’Hara on Dobro. O’Hara was their first music teacher while the two were growing up on a dairy farm in Ellenburg Depot, in upstate New York.

“He’d just graduated from college, we were 12 and 11, and he started showing us how to play the banjo and guitar,” Eric recalled. “All these years later, he’s playing music with us.”

There’s more history in the onstage configuration. Their longtime bass player is the son of Junior Barber, who played Dobro with the Gibson Brothers when they were starting out. “Jerry went on and on about him when we recorded with him,” Gibson said of the elder Barber, who died in 2017. “He was a legend in this area, and people like that would take an interest in us.”

It’s testament to their talent that two players from a town just below the Canadian border could rise to the top of a genre dominated by Nashville pickers, but Gibson recalls a collective purposefulness in their far-flung milieu. A memory of one band preparing to go on at an American Legion years ago is still fresh.

“They took it as seriously as if they were gonna go play the Opry,” he said. “That stuck with me… wherever, whatever that stage is, you make it count.”

The Gibson Brothers released their first album in the mid-’90s; years later, Eric Gibson is happy to be part of his genre, and sees bright days ahead.

“I think the roots scene is very strong,” Gibson said. “Every so often you hear, ‘oh, bluegrass is dead.’ How is it dead when you have Billy Strings playing bluegrass? Molly Tuttle has found a heck of a big audience. Hopefully, there’s a trickle-down effect for the rest of us, but I feel like that old John Hartford song. I’m still here, we’re still doing it. We must be doing something right.”

Featured photo: Gibson Brothers. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 24/01/11

Local music news & events

Crooner cuisine: Enjoy supper and song as Steve Blackwood performs with his trio. The Detroit-born singer has a long blues resume, including a 2017 album of originals with guest guitarist Robben Ford; this time he’ll stick to the Great American Songbook. Thursday, Jan. 11, 7 p.m., Portsmouth Book & Bar, 40 Pleasant St., Portsmouth, $12 at

Mood music: Boston-based rock quintet Long Autumn plays a no-cover downtown show. Fans of both New Order and Pearl Jam will enjoy the group’s layered, ethereal sound, which they bill as nu alternative dark pop. Songs like “A Million Reasons” and the Cure-adjacent “Surf Munk” pulse and quiver as the band does a stellar job of reproducing their studio sound on stage. Friday, Jan. 12, 9 pm., Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St, Manchester. See (21+).

Light it up: The official goodbye to Christmas is the 29th Annual Tree Burning at a roadhouse restaurant located a stone’s throw from Route 101. Returning to provide music at the holiday bonfire are Mixtape Heroez. Formerly Tapedeck Heroez, the rock covers band recently welcomed new singer Sinclaire Bennett and bass player James Ramsey, along with changing their name. Saturday, Jan. 13, 8 p.m., Auburn Pitts, 167 Rockingham Road, Auburn,

Reigning champs: Two-time Granite State Blues Challenge winners Frankie Boy & Blues Express perform in the Lakes Region. Once mentored by the legendary Luther “Guitar Jr.” Johnson — the band uses his amplifier on stage — the four-piece band made it to the semifinals in last year’s World Challenge in Memphis, offering a full-throated brand of the genre. Saturday, Jan. 13, 8 p.m., Tower Hill Tavern, 264 Lakeside Ave., Laconia. See

Tom time: For parents looking to get their kids rocking early, Rock & Roll Playhouse Plays Tom Petty is a good place to start. The national touring family concert series promises to let the young’ns “move, play and sing while listening to works from the classic-rock canon” like “American Girl” and “Don’t Do Me Like That,” and uses games, movement and stories to get them involved. Sunday, Jan. 14, noon, Bank of NH Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord, $15 at

Anatomy of a Fall (R)

A man dies after a fall at his home and his wife becomes the prime suspect for his murder in Anatomy of a Fall.

“Fall” and “murder” are two potentially inaccurate words in that sentence. When Daniel (Milo Machado Graner), a boy with limited vision, comes home from a walk with his guide dog, all he knows is that his father, Samuel (Samuel Theis), is on the ground, bleeding and not breathing in front of the family’s home, a chalet in a small French town. Daniel calls for his mother, Sandra (Sandra Hüller), who frantically calls an ambulance.

Sandra is pretty sure Samuel fell from the attic he was renovating some three stories off the ground. As she is telling this theory to defense attorney Vincent Renzi (Swann Arlaud), clearly this story is not one the authorities are buying. Vincent suggests they pursue the idea that Samuel jumped to his death — the most believable possible alternative to the police and prosecuting attorney’s theory that Sandra pushed him. As Sandra stands trial, the story quickly becomes the anatomy of a marriage, with both sides pointing to “evidence” that feels subjective at best. The prosecutor’s expert says a blood splatter could only have been caused by Samuel being struck in the head before he fell; the defense’s expert says the splatter is clearly the result of Samuel having hit a small shed after he jumped. A recording that features Samuel and Sandra fighting about the state of their lives is either evidence of successful author Sandra’s controlling nature (they even speak English at home because Sandra, a native German, is still not super comfortable in French) and general dishonesty (she’s had affairs and blames Samuel for the accident that caused Daniel’s vision impairment) or it’s evidence of Samuel’s professional disappointment and inability to finish anything he starts. Even Daniel is dragged onto the stand, to talk about the day Samuel died and the general state of his parents’ marriage. The prosecutor (Antoine Reinartz) goes at him pretty hard despite his young age, getting him to weigh in about the likelihood that his father would try to end his life or that his mother would try to kill him.

Jack McCoy would never.

Admittedly, most of what I know about sensationalistic American trials comes from TV, largely from Law and Order, so who knows if the “Real Housewives reunion” vibe of the French criminal court pictured here has any connection to reality. Though we spend much of the movie’s runtime in court, I don’t think the legal case is the point so much as the perspectives on a relationship that even the two people in the relationship never truly get a full picture of. Samuel paints himself as a selfless martyr but also acts a bit like a sullen jerk. Sandra blames Samuel for a lot of his own misfortune but she doesn’t exactly seem like a fountain of empathy for her spouse. The movie does a good job of showing how, even in cases where people are being completely honest (and we get the sense that these two are never completely honest, not with each other or themselves), they can tell two completely different stories about what’s happening between them with both stories being basically true. Hüller gives a good performance as a woman who is sort of sliding down a muddy slope of trying to prove something as unquantifiable as her intentions while also trying not to lose her confused, devastated child. Even if there are moments when you feel like some of the movie’s nuance is being lost in language and cultural translation, the commentary on the complex nature of a marriage comes through clearly. B+

Rated R for some language, sexual references and violent images, according to the MPA on Directed by Justine Triet and written by Justine Triet and Arthur Harari, Anatomy of a Fall, which won Golden Globes for Best Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film, is two hours and 32 minutes long and distributed by Neon. It is available for rent or purchase.

Saltburn (R)

A poor boy at Oxford befriends the son of a wealthy family with a giant estate in Saltburn, a comedy.

Like, a trashy, pitch black comedy full of purposeful shocks and pushing the limits of an R rating but still, this bawdy, violent song bellowed through the halls of Downton Abbey definitely feels like a comedy.

Dickensianly named Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) must give off the pheromones of “poor” because the kids at Oxford seem to instantly know to shun and make fun of him, especially Farleigh Start (Archie Madekwe), who we later learn is himself poor but a different kind of poor. Farleigh’s mother is the sister of the very wealthy Sir James Catton (Richard E. Grant), who pays for Farleigh’s education. So Farleigh is money-adjacent — all of which we learn from golden boy Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), James’ son and Farleigh’s cousin. Felix and Farleigh are studying at Oxford together — well, studying and partying. Oliver, with his sad clothes and his general slouchiness, is very much on the outside looking in at all of this but then, due to a busted bicycle tire, Oliver befriends Felix. Felix sort of takes him under his wing, and brings him along into the popular crowd. We learn that Felix has a tendency to do this sort of thing, eventually dropping the kid for a new person to serve as adoring audience. Before that happens with Oliver, though, Oliver turns to Felix to tearfully recount the news he has received about the death of his father, who, like Oliver’s mother, has long struggled with drugs. Felix feels sorry for Oliver and the poor, poor, poverty-filled impoverished background Oliver has mournfully told him all about. Felix invites Oliver to spend the summer in Saltburn, the family’s large estate in the country.

There Oliver quickly becomes enmeshed in the Catton family, which also includes Felix’s mother Elspeth (Rosamund Pike), Felix’s bundle-of-neuroses sister Venetia (Alison Oliver) and Elspeth’s visiting friend Pamela (Carey Mulligan) — whose presence suggests that Elspeth also likes to collect poor poor friends. The family, who are the personification of that The Great Gatsby quote that was all over the internet in late 2020 and early 2021 about people who retreated into “their money or their vast carelessness,” seems to more or less take a shine to Oliver. Farleigh, who is also at Saltburn for the summer, and the butler Duncan (Paul Rhys) are actively hostile to Oliver. Dressing for dinner and lounging louchely by the pool and just generally cosplaying Evelyn Waugh, the group gets along mostly until Felix makes a, gasp, shocking discovery.

Well, gasp shocking if you’ve never seen a soap opera before or weren’t really paying attention to the first half of this movie.

The bits of not-great reviews I heard about Saltburn had me dragging my feet to watch it until I heard Joe Reid on his This Had Oscar Buzz podcast paint it as, like, think of it as a Cruel Intentions type movie. So maybe I went in perfectly primed to not expect much and ready to enjoy some oversexed trashiness. My suggestion would be to approach this movie that way and you won’t be disappointed — grossed out maybe but not disappointed because this movie really leans into its trashiness. Saltburn is vaguely Brideshead Revisited-ish, says me, a person who doesn’t really remember Brideshead Revisited (and the movie knows the stuff it’s playing with, based on an in-film reference to Waugh and also the song “Common People”), in its outward trappings. But its heart is pure soap opera camp and mean humor.

And to this it adds solid performances. Pike and Grant are excellent at giving us the askew version of the empty-headed rich; they are so at an angle that I feel like their presence alone gives away the game if you think the movie is handing you a straightforward English manor drama. Keoghan is also doing perfectly calibrated work — serving up a never-not-(meanly)-funny blend of sad puppy and psychopath.

Saltburn might appear to be an exquisitely plated beef Wellington but is a good time if you enjoy it for the cheese-filled hot dog it really is. B

Rated R for so, so many things, like really, this is a capital R rated R movie but specifically, according to the MPA on, with my notes: for strong sexual content (also, weird sexual content), graphic (but hilarious?) nudity, language throughout, some disturbing violent content (also puking) and drug use. Written and directed by Emerald Fennell, who probably had a great time with this whole thing, Saltburn is two hours and 11 minutes long and is distributed by Amazon Studios. It is streaming on Prime Video.

Society of the Snow (R)

A flight carrying 45 people, including a Uruguayan rugby team, crashes in the Andes in 1972, with a dwindling number of people surviving for months, in Society of the Snow, which is, yes, based on the same true story as the 1993 movie Alive.

The one fact about this historical event that you probably know, even if you didn’t know “Uruguay” or “rugby” or “1972,” is that eventually the survivors had to eat the bodies of their deceased friends and teammates in order to stay alive in the snowy but otherwise barren environment (so, plenty of water but nothing else). Actually, “eventually” happens pretty quickly, at least as portrayed here, where after maybe a week or so of no food (there was a small amount of snacks from the plane) many of the survivors made the calculation that this would be the only way they’d live until a rescue. Not all of the survivors, mostly rugby teammates and a few people who traveled with them hoping to get a cheap vacation in Santiago, Chile, agree with the plan to use the, ahem, available protein to keep up their strength. But eventually, on a radio they’re able to get working, they hear that the search for the missing plane has been called off due to weather. With the prospect of no immediate rescue, it seems pretty much everybody makes the choice to survive.

Survival, not cannibalism, is the focus of this movie, which doesn’t sensationalize the fact but puts it in the context of what is happening with the group and the struggle each person goes through to get over the taboo. One thing that seems to make a difference is when everybody offers their friends to “use” them if they die. And quite a few do die after the initial crash — from injuries suffered during the crash, from infections following injuries, from an avalanche. How they keep themselves and each other going in the face of these losses and relatively slim odds that they’ll make it back home is the story that keeps the movie going.

The movie does a good job of making this group of mostly men feel like real people stuck in a horrible situation. Some heroes go the extra mile, some people nearly break from the direness of what’s happening — sometimes these are the same people at different times. The movie gives a fairly engrossing and realistic portrait of young men (mostly) who have to figure out how to save themselves. B

Rated R for violent/disturbing material and brief graphic nudity, according to the MPA on filmratings. Com. Directed by J.A. Bayona with a screenplay by J.A. Bayona and Bernat Vilaplana & Jaime Marques-Olarreaga & Nicolás Casariego, Society of the Snow is two hours and 24 minutes long and streaming on Netflix.

Featured photo: Migration.

Familia, by Lauren E. Rico

Familia, by Lauren E. Rico (Kensington, 368 pages)

I started reading Familia in a hotel room while waiting for my daughter to get ready to go to dinner – and promptly lost all desire to go out to dinner. (I mean, we went — she wasn’t about to buy “but I really like this book” as a reason not to).

Lauren E. Rico’s novel is a fast-paced story that covers a lot of bases: family, obviously, but also different cultures and how they form us, a bit of a mysterious crime, and coming to terms with a life that can change in so many significant and unexpected ways.

A DNA test brings together Gabriella and Isabella, the former young woman fully believing the results were a mistake and the latter having no doubt that they weren’t. Isabella, who has lived her whole life in Puerto Rico, used to have a sister, Marianna, and she disappeared when she was seven months old while in the care of their extremely inebriated father. Gabby, a magazine fact-checker who lives in New York City and was raised by now-deceased parents whom she loved deeply, does not believe it’s possible that the parents who raised her — Mack and Lucy — were not, perhaps, her birth parents.

Gabby embarks on a trip to Puerto Rico, for the sole purpose of writing a magazine story about what happens when DNA test results are wrong. She thinks it’s the perfect way to show her boss that she has talents beyond fact-checking and deserves a staff position as a writer.

It seemed a little unbelievable that Gabby is a fact checker — her job is literally to dig in and find facts — and yet she doesn’t make much of an effort to dig into the facts about her family history despite the DNA test results. I guess there’s that emotional component that would make it difficult to believe that your history is anything other than what you remember and what you’ve been made to believe.

As Gabby explains to Isabella, “For what you’re saying to be true, I’d have to believe Mack and Lucy would have — could have — literally stolen a baby off the street. … This isn’t about not being able to believe that I’m your sister. It’s about being able to believe that I’m not their daughter. And I just … I can’t.”

The story mainly alternates between Gabby’s and Isabella’s points of view, but there’s a whole cast of interesting characters, and Rico gives most of them at least one chapter. This means the story is tied together from all sorts of perspectives, from Alberto’s — the book opens with him, coming to on a street, baby missing — to the detectives’ on the missing-baby case. It was a really fun way to see the mystery unravel, because, of course, nearly everyone has a secret. The narrative also switches between now and “that day,” the day the baby disappeared, offering another compelling angle.

There’s the mystery, and then there’s the juxtaposition of two young women who were raised very differently and have different kinds of intelligence; Gabby is more book smart while Isabella is more street smart. Rico shows this subtly but effectively, in scenes like this one, from Isabella’s point of view, as the women walk through one of the shabbier areas of Puerto Rico.

“When Gabby takes out her phone to snap a picture, all she can see is the mural — a spray-paint reproduction of the Mona Lisa draped in a Puerto Rican flag. All I can see are the two guys standing just out of the frame, conducting a little street-side retail.”

There’s definitely a “wealthy girl from NYC vs. poor girl from San Juan” piece of the narrative, and while I personally didn’t feel like it was overdone, I think someone who is of Puerto Rican descent or is more familiar with Latino culture would likely read the representations of Puerto Rico a lot differently than I did. A lot of the descriptions shine a negative light on the people and places of Puerto Rico, mainly San Juan and la Perla, and I can’t pretend to know how accurate they are. The author does include a note at the beginning of the novel explaining her own family history and that she is trying to honor her heritage and the stories she heard from her Cuban grandfather and Puerto Rican grandmother, along with her extensive DNA connections to the island and her own experiences visiting there (which she acknowledges were from a tourist point of view).

Familia is a quick read that manages to be both fun and a bit dark, but it’s also meaningful and has a lot of heart. A-

Album Reviews 24/01/11

Nigel J. Anderson, Material Science (Redwave Recordings)

I literally had to weed through a few dozen emails from public relations people trying to push metal bands on me before I found this one, and I’m covering it simply because it’s not a metal album (trying to cut down here, folks, which is tough, because metal albums have been hitting this desk like tribbles during mating season). Having never heard of this U.K. techno DJ, I was delightedly surprised to hear a bunch of bright, bouncy but not smarmy attempts at upfitting traditional deep house; I honestly would have been all over this if it were still 2004 and I were looking for some drive-time euphoria, but either way it’s super nice. “Material Science” brings a faux-steel-drum sample to the percussive fore of its afterparty groove, and man, it really works. Unfortunately, “Going Home” follows in a more goth-industrial vein, at which point I sort of abandoned any hope that this would be the sharply focused genre exercise I’d anticipated, although the next track, “Octopus,” recalls Above & Beyond, which I’m always up for. Despite Anderson’s obvious case of ADD, I’m giving it high marks owing to the fact that all the tunes are on point. A

Nnenna Freelon and Pierce Freelon, AnceStars (Redwave Recordings)

One of the slings or arrows I suffer on a yearly basis comes around this time of year, when all the public relations goblins request that I vote for one of their artists in the next Grammy Awards, not that I’m part of the cabal who has any say in all that; if I indeed were some sort of cog in the Grammy machine, I probably wouldn’t vote for any modern artist, just 80-year-old Al Jolson compilation albums. But this one’s interesting at least, a mother-son duo who are up for the Best Children’s Album Grammy, so, just for the heck of it, I listened to it and am dutifully reporting and blah blah blah. Lyrically it’s based on “the spirit world,” i.e. ancestors, in particular Nnenna’s husband (and Pierce’s father) the late Phil Freelon, the architect of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History. The title track is a lilting/bouncing number combining Afrobeat with Spyro Gyra, a pleasant thing altogether. Most of the rest is hip-hop-tinged urbanity suitable for Sesame Street audiences or feel-good moments in general. A


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• OK, wake up, everyone, we are back to a somewhat normal-sized slate of stuff for our next general-issue CD release Friday, on Jan. 12! Look at this, though, sad-face emoji, there are no new albums made by artists and bands I can make fun of, no Neil Young album, no Dolly Parton or Willie Nelson album, not even an album from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, which is weird, because they’ve been putting out new albums every two weeks for the last few years, I can’t believe this. So I am forced to do research and perform random acts of journalistic investigation for your entertainment, so why don’t we start with The Vaccines, whose new album, Pick-Up Full Of Pink Carnations, is fast approaching! Ack, this doesn’t bode well, fam, the aggregate Metacritic score is already 62 percent and the album isn’t even out yet, which means that a lot of people have either pirated it or they’re just trolls, so why don’t I go check out this album and make your minds up for you, that’d be great. The band is an indie band from West London in the U.K., and their hobbies include playing with other bands on stage. They’ve had guest spots with Lyle Preslar of Minor Threat, Ryan Jarman of the Cribs, members of Savages and Paul Thomson of Franz Ferdinand, and, wait, in 2013 they performed in Florida as John Fogerty’s backing band, making them honorary Creedence Clearwater Revival dudes or something! And yadda yadda, let’s go listen to “Love To Walk Away,” a song from this new album, and hey, wait a minute, I don’t mind this at all! It’s kind of no-wave-ish, in other words loud and dumb, bordering on bands like Black Lips or even Half Japanese as far as sloppy sound engineering. There’s on-the-phone patch on the vocals, too. It’s a winner, let’s go see if the next album will disappoint me, eh wot, chaps and chapettes?

• I always question the motives of bands that start out playing one genre of music and then move on to a totally different thing, like how Pantera started out as a Whitesnake band or whatever and then became Megadeth, or like how The Horrors made the greatest album of all time and then decided to become completely worthless overall, never forget! Bring Me the Horizon are another such — you know, thingamajig, like, they started out as a deathcore band and now they’re regarded as something completely different, sort of along the lines of Imagine Dragons and such. The band’s new album, POST HUMAN: NeX Gen, includes a song titled “Code Mistake” that’s sort of Imagine Dragons-like but there’s a lot of yelling and stomping, you know, like Slipknot, but less well-behaved. It’s OK I suppose.

Marika Hackman is a British singer who’s put out two albums of cover songs, and when she’s not doing that she’s sounding a lot like a disaffected 1980s pop diva, for example on her biggest song, “I’m Not Where You Are” from 2019. Not saying it’s bad, but it’s a bit opportunistic if you ask me. Her new album, Big Sigh, drops this Friday, of course, otherwise I wouldn’t be talking about it at the moment, but regardless, the new single, “Slime,” reminds me of M83 a bit, which is more relevant than refrying ’80s-pop, at least in my opinion; as always, your mileage may vary, a scenario that’s out of my control.

• Finally we have Kali Uchis, an American singer from a Colombian family. Orquídeas is her second Latin-language album and fourth one overall; it features the single “No Lay Hay,” a bubble-pop type thing with an understated deep-house vibe. I found it sublimely acceptable.

Rubber Ducky

On Jan. 10, 1992, the Greek container ship Ever Laurel ran into rough weather in the North Pacific, a couple of days out from Tacoma. At some point a stack of six shipping containers snapped its chains and plunged overboard into the Pacific Ocean.

This kind of accident isn’t common but it’s also not unheard of. On average around 1,500 shipping containers are lost at sea each year. This is a tiny percentage of the estimated 500 million containers in use, but also nothing to shrug at.

What made this particular accident noteworthy is that one of the containers was filled with 28,000 bath toys, including 7,200 yellow rubber duckies.

Over the next several years the toys were carried north by ocean currents, eventually traveling through the Northwest Passage north of Canada, and dispersed by other currents around the world. Even now some of these toys are still washing up in unexpected places. They have been found as far away as the United Kingdom, Australia and Chile. Now that there is less Arctic sea ice than ever, some plastic ducks, turtles and beavers are being released to a new generation of beach-combers.

As I’m sure you’re aware, National Rubber Ducky Day is this weekend. You are probably still in the process of getting rid of other holiday ornaments, and haven’t had time to shop for rubber ducks, but if you’re feeling a little spent, gray and empty with the start of a new year, it’s probably worth raising a glass to our plastic yellow friends and reflecting on the fact that things could always be worse. You could spend 30 years, bobbing and smiling, through Arctic Sea ice.

Rubber Ducky Cocktail

  • 1½ ounces Midori melon liqueur
  • 1½ ounces 99 Peaches peach schnapps
  • 2½ ounces fresh watermelon juice (see below)
  • ¾ ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

Open your laptop, and place it on the counter next to you.

Open YouTube, and search for Hampenberg DuckToy Vocal Club Mix.

Turn your volume up to an unconscionable level and press play. This will be the perfect background music for mixing this drink. You’re ready now.

Combine all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker.

Shake enthusiastically.

Pour, including ice, into a rocks glass.

Sip, vibing seamlessly — or, if you are like me, shuffling awkwardly — to the rubber ducky club mix playing on your computer.

This is a shockingly fun cocktail. The melon juice and the melon liqueur obviously go well together. The peach schnapps provides a floral fruitiness. By itself watermelon juice is surprisingly flat, but the acid from a jolt of lime juice brings it to life. This doesn’t exactly taste like bubble gum, but it also doesn’t not taste like gum of some sort. At first glance this might seem flighty and low-octane — and that may be true of the Midori — but the 99 Peaches actually clocks in at 99 proof, so this is not a drink to take for granted. Like a rubber ducky lost at sea, it might take you to unexpected places.

Watermelon Juice

Buy a one-quart container of pre-cubed watermelon at your supermarket. You aren’t going to be laying this out on a fruit plate or pairing with a nice prosciutto, so it’s OK to cut a corner during this process.

Pour the contents of the container into your blender and blend thoroughly. If you notice a seed or two, don’t panic; your blender will take care of things. If you have an over-powered, overly enthusiastic blender like mine, he will probably look on any seeds as a challenge.

Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain off the watermelon pulp. Leave everything in the strainer for half an hour or so, to let the components say goodbye to each other.

This should net you about 12 ounces of juice. If you want to drink it as juice, add the juice of half a lime to de-flatten it (see above).

Featured photo: Rubber Ducky Cocktail. Photo by John Fladd.

In the kitchen with Cara Karpinski

When Cara Karpinski moved to New Hampshire in 2020, she discovered that her new job was no longer being offered due to the pandemic. Needing to find a new way to provide for her family, she realized her true passion was for dogs. Being a dog-mom of four, she decided to create Barkalicious, a gourmet preservative-free dog treat business made with eggs from her own chickens, with the belief that all dogs should to be “treat”ed with love.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

My must-have kitchen item is my KitchenAid mixer. I use it every day to combine my ingredients for the dog treats. I think it may be time to upgrade to a commercial version [of a] KitchenAid.

What is your favorite local eatery?

Currently, my favorite place for a romantic dinner is Buckley’s Great Steaks in Merrimack. For a more casual meal I enjoy the Coach Stop in Londonderry as well as Backyard Brewery on the Manchester/Londonderry line.

Name a celebrity you would like to see purchasing your dog treats.

It is hard to pick just one celebrity I would like to see purchase my dog treats, but the ones that come to mind are from HGTV. Tarek and Heather El Moussa from Flip or Flop, or Jonathan Knight from Farmhouse Fixer. I would say Taylor Swift, but I think she just has cats.

What is the most popular item on your menu?

Our most popular menu item is our bacon cheeseburger sticks. They are a little bit crunchier than our soft treats, but it has bacon on it, so how can it not be good!

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

The biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now is maybe pho. I had it for the first time a few weeks ago and it was fantastic. I am not really a hip [or] trendy foodie, but I do love all kinds of food.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

My favorite thing to cook at home is anything from scratch. I enjoy watching my family eat the meals I have prepared. It gives me great satisfaction when they love my hard work in the kitchen. The best meals I have made recently: beef stroganoff, chicken noodle soup and brisket.

From the kitchen of Cara Karpinski

4-pound (or so) brisket
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, cut
1 onion, chopped
3 or 4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 or 3 boxes pre-made beef stock or broth
salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika

Season both sides of meat with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Heat canola oil in a pan and sear both sides of meat for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the pan.
Add onions, mushrooms and garlic to pan and lower heat. Cook until onions are translucent.
Add ½ cup water to scrape any solids in the pan. Return the brisket to the pan.
Cover meat with beef broth and simmer. Cook until tender (at least 6 hours).
Remove brisket and let cool.
Slice against grain. (I use a meat slicer to get very thin slices of meat.) You can also cut by hand.
Let the liquid in the pan cool to about room temperature as well as the brisket. Once cooled, add the meat back into the pan with the liquid and put in the refrigerator overnight.
About 3 hours before you want to have dinner, put the pot with the liquid and brisket back onto the stove and slowly warm. This meal goes very well with homemade mashed potatoes and carrots

Featured photo: Katie Pope of Confections by Kate. Courtesy photo.

From her table to yours

Farmers market vendor opens shop selling meals and baked goods

While opening her own bakery wasn’t her original career plan, the universe had other ideas for Chelsea Annett, the owner of Table, a Concord bakery offering cookies, cakes, soups, chicken pot pie and more freshly made items made from locally grown ingredients.

“This business really chose me versus me choosing it,” she said. “It just felt like something [that] had to be pursued and brought to fruition.”

Annett’s journey with baking started as she learned more about the local food system and seasonal ingredients from farmers at farmers markets.

“I started developing relationships with the farmers there and being curious about the things that people were growing and making, and having conversations about how to use them in food and really just becoming curious on my own about what I could make with those things,” she said. “I think that [seasonal ingredients] are the most fresh, they have the most flavor, [and] I think that supporting our local farmers is critical to environmental protection and … the future of food.”

A natural caretaker and a self-taught baker and cook, Annett enjoyed cooking for her loved ones as a way to care for others and make them feel good. After experiencing burnout and going through major life changes, she left her 14-year career in special education to focus on bringing her passion for baking from her own table to those of others.

“It never really felt like it could fully take off as a career because I don’t have professional training, I didn’t go to culinary school, I taught myself how to do everything,” she said. “There was probably a little bit of imposter syndrome that I was dealing with thinking that I wasn’t good enough to make it into a career.”

She began in 2019 by selling products wholesale and at the Canterbury and then Concord farmers markets. For the past few years Annett would travel to a commercial kitchen in Derry to do her baking, as Concord’s homestead food licensing rules prevented her from selling food made in her own kitchen. After looking for her own space, she found her current location in Concord, which she started working out of in June and opened for retail in November, and where her client base continues to support her.

“I’m extremely grateful I have beautiful, loyal customers that have sort of been with me from the beginning,” Annett said. “They’ve been waiting and waiting for me to have a place … and they are great about telling their friends and bringing people in. I think I’m lucky that the product tends to speak for itself.”

Where: 55 N. Main St., Suite B, Concord
Hours: Fridays and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
More info:

The Weekly Dish 24/01/11

News from the local food scene

Cookie decorating: Decorate winter-themed cookies at Station 101 (193 Union Square, Milford) on Tuesday, Jan. 23, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. with Kate Saleau from Posy Cottage Cookies. For additional charge, Station 101 offers beer, beverages and snacks, and all necessary supplies will be provided for you to take home a box of six to seven cookies. Tickets are $70 and can be purchased on

Willy Wonka wine dinner: Enjoy a four-course Willy Wonka-inspired dinner and wine pairing at LaBelle Winery’s (14 Route 111, Derry) Vineyard Ballroom on Saturday, Jan. 27, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tomato, basil and smoked Gouda bisque will be paired with a fizzy lifting drink for the first course, followed by baby green beans, shaved Brussels sprouts, roasted squash, cranberries, farro, herbs and honey rosemary balsamic for the second course with LaBelle Rose. The entree will include LaBelle Red Wine braised short ribs with whipped potato, roasted herbed carrots and demi glace paired with LaBelle Malbec, and blueberry crumble cheesecake with red wine blueberry jam and streusel crumble paired with blueberry pie martini for dessert. Tickets are $85 and can be purchased at

17th annual Chocolate Madness Wine Pairing Dinner: Zorvino Vineyards (226 Main St., Sandown) hosts its 17th annual Chocolate Madness Wine Pairing Dinner on Thursday, Feb. 1, starting at 6:30 p.m. with a cocktail hour and dinner at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $85 and can be purchased via eventbrite.

Wines of Italy: From the Vine to Wine hosts The Wonderful Wines of Italy at Stroll Café & Wine Bar in Portsmouth (15 Portwalk Place) on Thursday, Feb. 1, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. led by wine expert Anne Arnold. Tickets range from $50 to $65 on eventbrite.

Farm to table tasting: Enjoy a farm-to-table tasting hosted by Restoration Acres Farm at Black Swan Inn (354 W. Main St., Tilton) on Saturday, Feb. 3, from 4:30 to 8 p.m. featuring food from local farmers and artisans, wine and mead sampling from Hermit woods winery and live music by Audrey Drake. Tickets are $85 and can be purchased via eventbrite.

On The Job – Nora Rwatangabo


Nora Rwatangabo is a braider/loctician and owner of Nora’s Locs Haven in Nashua.

Explain your job and what it entails.

A day in the life of a braider/loctician is a dynamic blend of creativity, client care and personal connections. From morning preparations to evening clean-up, the day revolves around managing diverse client appointments, offering services ranging from braiding and wig installations to dreadlocks maintenance and specialized kids’ styles. Each session with a client is akin to spending time with a best friend — filled with laughter, conversation, catching up and bonding. The unique aspect of this profession lies in the diverse experiences with each client, as every individual is different. These personal connections not only contribute to client satisfaction but also create a vibrant and enjoyable work atmosphere.

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

Starting at the young age of 9, my skills were nurtured by a salon tenant back home, sparking a hobby that has seamlessly intertwined with my career. Despite considering it more as a hobby than a job, I’ve been braiding hair alongside my human services profession. The unique blend of my professional expertise in human services and my creative flair for braiding has not only allowed me to work with diverse hair types but has also empowered me to train and uplift others. I’ve extended my skills to financially challenged individuals, providing them with the means to earn a living as braiders and locticians back in Africa.

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

I wish I knew more about the business side of things. Balancing my passion for braiding with practical aspects like marketing and finances would have been helpful. Learning about industry trends early on and realizing the potential of my skills for training and empowerment would have been great.

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

The toughest part of my work is sometimes managing a lot of things at once. To deal with it, I make sure to stay organized and prioritize tasks. Taking breaks when needed helps me recharge, and I ask for help from my team when things get overwhelming. Keeping a positive mindset and focusing on one thing at a time makes it easier to handle challenges.

What do you wish other people knew about your job?

That my job is more than braiding hair. It’s about making a connection and helping people feel happy. I also have some rules, like if someone is rude or doesn’t appreciate the service, I might choose not to work with them. I believe in creating a positive and respectful environment for everyone.

What was the first job you ever had?

Administrative assistant in a nonprofit organization working with individuals with special needs and brain injury.

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

Always do what you love.

Five favorites
Favorite book: The 5 AM Club
Favorite movie: The Wolf of Wall Street
Favorite music: ‘In Case You Didn’t Know’ by Brett Young — my wedding song
Favorite food: Matooke and groundnuts with avocado and green vegetables
Favorite thing about NH: People are friendly.

Featured photo: Nora Rwatangabo. Courtesy photo.

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