Still going strong

Bobby Rush’s lifetime of the blues

Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour covered less than two decades of music. For Bobby Rush a similar endeavor would need to scale up, perhaps to the Epoch level. Rush, who turned 90 last November, boasts that he’s released at least 429 albums over his career, which began in the late 1940s. Along the way he also made too many singles to count. Before long-players were a thing, he even put out a 78.

“I don’t want to talk about that … that makes it sound too old,” Rush said in a recent phone interview. “But life is like — it’s a blessing to get old. Because the only way you don’t get old, you die young. So, I laugh about it.”

Rush’s first band included Elmore James and Pinetop Perkins. In the early 1950s Muddy Waters unsuccessfully tried to recruit him to play harmonica in his band.

“I wanted my own thing,” he said. “He wanted me to play like Little Walter, because that’s what he was used to in his band. I didn’t want to do that because I didn’t want to emulate him.”

His biggest success came late in life. He received his first Grammy nomination in 2001, and won in 2017 for Porcupine Meat and in 2021 for Rawer Than Raw. All My Love for You, his latest album, is a gem, but Bobby Rush is more interested in talking about what he’s doing than what he’s done.

Case in point is a work in progress that has contributions from Kenny Wayne Shepherd and others.

“I tell you now, get on top of Bobby Rush [for] the next two, three albums going to come out,” he said. “This is it for me. I don’t mean it’s the last one I’m doing, but I’m putting everything I have into it. I think it will be the best material that I ever recorded.”

Beyond Shepherd and some North Mississippi pals, Rush won’t say who he’s working with on the new material, other than promising there are some big names.

“These guys I’m recording with,” he said, pride beaming in his voice, “they just come to play with me and hear me. They’re not really asking to bring anything to the table other than themselves.”

Rush spent most of his career based in Chicago. “I wanted to be there because Howlin’ Wolf was there, and B.B. King was there, and Muddy Waters was there, Little Walter was there — all the guys that I looked up to,” he said, adding that being in the city made it easier to “steal some ideas; I just wanted to be in what they call The Loop, man, you know?”

Over the following decades he earned the nickname King of the Chitlin’ Circuit, for his time playing the network of mostly Black clubs in the South. The moniker was cemented in Martin Scorsese’s documentary The Blues. In 1968 he connected with ex-Vee Jay A&R head Calvin Carter and made his biggest hit, “Chicken Heads,” a song he re-recorded in 2021 with Buddy Guy, Gov’t Mule and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram to mark the 50th anniversary of its release.

On the autobiographical “I’m the One” from the new album (released last November), Rush sings about how he “put the funk in the blues” on songs like “I Wanna Do the Do,” a dance-y rework of Willie Dixon’s “Wang Dang Doodle” from his 1979 LP Rush Hour.

“I tried to do that because it’s nothing new under the sun, everything’s been done,” he explained. “It’s the way you approach it, you have to modify what you do.”

Rush has longevity in his bloodline. “My grandfather passed at 107, my grandmother was 111, and my mom was 89,” he said. “My dad was 96 and he had brothers and sisters, 21 of them lived over 100.” Still, that doesn’t fully explain the fire in the blues singer, harmonica player and songwriter’s soul that keeps him walking on stage night after night, even as he enters his 10th decade.

“God gave me the strength to keep going,” he said. “I’m still enthused about the blues and the work that I do, and that keeps me motivated. I know a man can live a long time without water or food, but you can’t live long without hope. I still have hope, man. Out of all my ups and downs I’ve been through in life … I still am enthused about the things that I’m surrounded by and the things that I do, and I am just glad to be here.”

Featured photo: Bobby Rush. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 24/01/18

Local music news & events

Blues man: While growing up, Guy Davis said the only cotton he picked was his underwear off the floor. He told a journalist that the first time he heard the blues was in college, played by pale Vermont boys. Still, Davis embodies the genre, channeling masters like Howlin’ Wolf and Blind Willie McTell while possessing a unique style of his own. Thursday, Jan. 18, 7:30 p.m., The Flying Goose, 40 Andover Road, New London, $30; call 526-6899 to reserve.

Guitar master: Best-known for his work with Dave Matthews, guitarist Tim Reynolds leads TR3. Over a 40-year-plus career, Reynolds has ranged across the musical spectrum, from rock to jazz, classical, blues and reggae, on acoustic and electric instruments. Mick Vaughn and Dan Martier round out the trio, which will soon release a new album, Watch It. Friday, Jan. 19, 9 pm., Rex Theatre, 21 Amherst St., Manchester, $39 and $49 at

Cowboy rock: The twang-fueled alter ego of prog rock band Mindset X, Horsefly Gulch appears in a double bill with relentless rockers The Negans. After dropping a pair of excellent singles last year, “Snake Dance” and “One That Got Away,” the trio is readying its debut LP, A Western Love Story. Last October they were painted by local concert artist Steve Paquin on live TV. Friday, Jan. 19, 9 pm., Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St, Manchester, $10 suggested cover (21+).

Weird return: Strange and endearing Zanois is back from a long absence as King Imp, with support from Hometown Eulogy and Drug Deal Gone Rad. Kyle, the brother band’s cave-eyed, grimacing mascot who was for a time the Forrest Gump of indie rock, now has a crown and a cape, and their feedback-y, ethereal noise rock is still plenty of fun. Saturday, Jan. 20, 9 p.m., Penuche’s Ale House, 16 Bicentennial Square, Concord. See (21+).

Musical stretch: A unique late afternoon session of yoga and live music features Wyn Doran, who will pair her songs with poses and actions, each section including time for reflection and connection. The yoga studio and its offerings are very special to Doran, who’s dealt with chronic pain in recent years and has found their fitness regimen beneficial in addressing it. Sunday, Jan. 21, 4:30 p.m., Vibe Yoga, 182 Main St., Nashua, $40 at

Mean Girls (PG-13)

Fetch becomes retro cool in Mean Girls, a Tina Fey-penned feature film musical adaptation of the stage musical comedy based on the 2004 movie (also by Fey) based loosely on the nonfiction book Queen Bees and Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman.

Once again, Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) has spent her life living in Africa and being homeschooled by her mother and now, in her junior year, arrives at an American high school. She finds the cliques and social rules and boys — particularly Aaron Samuels (Christopher Briney), who sits in front of her in math class — overwhelming. Luckily, she meets Janis ‘Imi’ke (Auli’i Cravalho) and Damian Hubbard (Jaquel Spivey), two “art freaks” as they’re later labeled, who check on her when she takes her lunch to the bathroom. Genuinely kind, Janis and Damian try to warn Cady about the Plastics — Regina George (Reneé Rapp) and her two followers, Gretchen Wieners (Bebe Woods) and Karen Shetty (Avantika). This trio of girls dominates the school’s social structure with queen bee Regina inspiring awe and fear in her fellow students. (Plus, she and Janis have an old beef.) But when Cady is invited to sit with these popular girls, Janis and Damian encourage her to do it so they can get a window into the world of the Plastics. Cady, trusting and unaware of what she’s getting into, goes along with the plan and gets sucked into the Plastics’ world. When Regina actively tanks Cady’s chances at dating Aaron, Cady decides to wholeheartedly participate in Janis’ plan to arrange for Regina’s downfall.

Returning as math teacher Ms. Norbury is Tina Fey, with Tim Meadows returning as Principal Duvall. Other grown-ups: Busy Philipps is Regina’s “cool mom” mom and Jon Hamm plays the coach.

There are moments of fun in this adaptation, many of them involving Cravalho’s Janis or Spivey’s Damian, and moments when those little Tina Fey sparkles of strategic weirdness hit their mark. But overall I got a real “flat soda” feel from this movie. The spikey bits of the original feel ironed out and replaced by earnestness that somehow made it feel darker and less specific. Instead of the “evil takes a human form in Regina George”-style exaggeration, we get Gretchen Wieners singing about how she feels deeply unloved and unlovable. I’m not sure if the act of having song replace Cady’s narration is what seems to throw a wet blanket of sincerity over things or if it is the result of replacing the elder millennial/Gen X sensibilities with Gen Z ones. I do think there are elements of the story that don’t quite fit because an earlier generation’s high school experience is being shoved into the present. TikTok, for example, is sort of wedged into the movie but it feels more like an excuse for jokey montage than some expression of how life is for Today’s Youth.

The 2004 Mean Girls was a broad, commercial comedy, sure, but it also had some insightful observations about girl world. Mean Girls 2024 feels more like high-quality IP. B-

Rated PG-13 for sexual material, strong language and teen drinking, according to the MPA on Directed by Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. with a screenplay by Tina Fey, Mean Girls is an hour and 52 minutes long and distributed in theaters by Paramount Pictures.

Wonka (PG)

Timothée Chalamet is surprisingly charming in the surprisingly fun Wonka.

I’ve been “ugh, really?” with the best of them since I started seeing Wonka trailers. But Chalamet captures the personality of the eccentric chocolate maker we know from the 1971 Gene Wilder movie and gives him a youthful cast that is believable and not creepy or off-putting (cough, Johnny Depp, cough). There is genuine wonder and delight in this musical — none of which is what I expected from early images of this project or even after reading the “this movie is … good?”-type review headlines.

Willy Wonka (Chalamet) is just a guy with fluffy hair, some fun luggage and big dreams when he arrives in, er, Town where the speech patterns are London, the royalty is Bavarian and the big power is held by the chocolate cartel of Mr. Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), Prodnose (Matt Lucas) and Fickelgruber (Mathew Baynton). They use their exclusive high-end chocolates to bribe the police chief (Keegan-Michael Key) into doing their dirty work, like shooing away itinerant chocolatiers. Wonka is a particular threat to the cartel because his chocolates are very good, perhaps the best anybody has ever had, and affordable to all. Plus some of them briefly confer weightlessness, so they’re real crowd-pleasers.

After the police chase him out of the town square and take his chocolate proceeds, Wonka doesn’t have enough money to pay Mrs. Scrubitt (Olivia Colman, absolutely relishing this very Roald Dahl-esque kind of villain) for the room he leased from her. Or rather, he has enough for the room but not all of the extras he didn’t realize he’s on the hook for because he didn’t read the fine print of the lease. Soon he learns that he’s basically an indentured servant to Scrubitt and must work in her laundry with other trapped lease-signers (played by the likes of Jim Carter, Natasha Rothwell, Rich Fulcher and Rakhee Thakrar) and tween-aged orphan Noodle (Calah Lane), whom Scrubitt took in as an infant and who now owes Scrubitt for all that “kindness.” Because Noodle goes into town with the laundry, Wonka strikes up a deal with her wherein she smuggles him out during the days so he can sell his chocolate and he helps her pay down her debt to Scrubitt. With the help of the rest of the laundry gang — who are enjoying some down time thanks to a Wonka invention of a dog-powered scrubbing machine — Wonka is able to sneak through the town staying ahead of police, especially the increasingly out-of-shape chief whose recent payment from the cartel was so much chocolate that he is gaining pounds by the hour.

Meanwhile, cutting into Wonka’s chocolate supply is a small, green-haired orange man who Wonka claims to Noodle has been following him for years and who sometimes breaks into his room at night to steal his chocolates. Even after Wonka catches the man, who explains he is an Oompa Loompa named Lofty (Hugh Grant), Noodle isn’t quite sure she believes Wonka isn’t just eating the candies in his sleep.

Rowan Atkinson shows up as a chocolate-addicted cleric, a giraffe figures into the plot and Wonka half expects success at selling chocolate will lead his late mother (Sally Hawkins) to appear to him. And, shockingly, all of this comes together and works as something that feels if not exactly like a Roald Dahl creation, very close to it, very sweet-bitter-sweet in that Matilda kind of way, but perhaps with a less bleak world view. Noodle tells Wonka that the “greedy beat the needy” in a very Dahl-like recognition that the world isn’t fair, but there’s lots of credence given to good-hearted dreams and helping one another too.

Wonka also makes a good argument for seeing a movie in a theater — its big colors and storybook town are charming and particularly cinematic. The color of the Wonka candy factory here spreads out to every interesting element of the world, from the bright pink uniforms Wonka’s staff wears on their brief foray into running a shop to the fantastical hair colors created by tainted chocolate.

Wonka is a warm-hearted movie that actually delivers on the “world of pure imagination” promise. B+

Rated PG for some violence, mild language and thematic elements, according to the MPA on Directed by Paul King with a screenplay by Simon Farnaby & Paul King, Wonka is an hour and 56 minutes long and distributed in theaters by Warner Bros.

Poor Things (R)

Emma Stone plays a kind of baby-brained Frankenstein’s monster in the steampunk horror comedy Poor Things.

Bella Baxter (Stone) is basically a toddler in a woman’s body when we first meet her, sitting in a high chair and clapping at the loud burps of Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe), the man who acts as her surrogate father. Baxter is a Victorian-era-esque surgeon, enthralled with anatomy (and disfigured by his own father, who passed off his torture as science), who has successfully, based on the creatures wandering his house, sewn goose heads on dogs and vice versa, with living results. Bella, we learn, is the result of an experiment by which the brain of an infant was placed in the body of its mother after the pregnant woman jumped off a bridge. A few “it’s alive!”-style jolts of electricity and Bella — not quite an adult, not quite a baby — opens her eyes.

Quickly Bella begins to talk, to reason to some degree and to ask questions of “God,” as she calls Dr. Baxter, and of Max McCandles (Ramy Youssef), an assistant he brings in to document her mental growth. Eventually Baxter feels her maturity has progressed enough that he suggests that Bella and Max get married, though he intends for them to basically live with him, never leaving his London house, forever even though Bella is of a more adventurous, see-the-world mindset.

Then Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo), a lawyer Baxter calls in to read the marriage contract, seduces Bella into running away. Or maybe she just decides to run away and have an adventure before returning to marry Max. They travel first to Lisbon and then on a ship to Greece. Duncan is in it entirely for the passion, which Bella also enjoys, but Bella also wants to learn about the world. Thus when they’re detoured, penniless, to Paris and she’s offered a job by the madame (Kathryn Hunter) of a brothel, Duncan is horrified but Bella just sees it as an opportunity for study.

Ever seen the TV show Bones? As Bella goes from child-brain to adult brain or something, she starts to play like a kind of Temperance Brennan, Emily Deschanel’s scientist Bones of Bones. “What is this ‘emotion’ of which you speak?” is the vibe — though not always because Bella also becomes sort of enamored of philosophy and socialism and heartbroken by the horrors of poverty. She loves anatomy and discussions of Emerson but she doesn’t understand Duncan’s emotional whininess — not his ego about his romantic prowess nor his supposed great love for her nor his “heartbreak” (or bruised pride) at her brothel work. It’s — I don’t know, weird? Unsettling? Infantilizing in a way that makes all the sex cringey? All of those things? Throughout this movie’s two hour and 21 minute run time, I maybe did a “ha” once or twice or thought “neat visual” or “Stone’s doing an interesting thing” but I was never entirely certain how I felt about what I was watching. (Stone’s performance in particular both has its moments and feels like you’re watching a prolonged exercise in an acting class.) I wasn’t bored but also not delighted or all that amused or “hmm, this makes me think.” And though the movie presents everything as kind of a dry comedy lark, scratch half a millimeter into what is being said or done and the movie really does feel like a kind of horror movie, a horror movie where one of the horrors seems to be the movie periodically telling you it’s doing feminism and you’re welcome. (No thank you.)

This movie feels like a bunch of ideas and visuals sort of mushed together in the hope that they’ll congeal into something living and breathing but ultimately missing that jolt of energy that would make it a world I was fully invested in. C-

Rated R for strong and pervasive sexual content, graphic nudity, disturbing material, gore and language, according to the MPA on Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos with a screenplay by Tony McNamara (from a book by Alasdair Gray), Poor Things is two hours and 21 minutes long and distributed in theaters by Searchlight Pictures.

Featured photo: Mean Girls.

Don’t Die, by Bryan Johnson

Don’t Die, by Bryan Johnson (Kindle and self-published paperback, 247 pages)

A few months ago, Time magazine profiled Bryan Johnson with a headline “The Man Who Thinks He Can Live Forever.” It was the latest in a spate of publicity for the 46-year-old entrepreneur who, like Moses, climbed a mountain and descended with a bunch of new rules for everyone.

Since that life-altering trek to Mt. Kilimanjaro, Johnson divorced his wife, left his religion, got un-depressed and devoted his life to what he considers humanity’s most pressing challenge: vanquishing death. His days are now spent undergoing a series of interventions and protocols intended to elude, or at least forestall, death, and recruiting others to the cause.

“Don’t Die” is both Johnson’s motto and the name of his new book, which is free on Kindle (a paperback costs around $7). That in itself is evidence that Johnson is not “normal” in any sense of the word; anyone with his following on social media could find a traditional publisher and a respectable advance if they are willing to play ball with editors. But Johnson is determined to follow his own vision, however odd it seems to the rest of the world. He has said he’s not interested in what his contemporaries think of him, but what people who live centuries from now think of him. In other words, he don’t need no stinkin’ editors and he doesn’t care about his critics.

Consequently, Don’t Die is, at times, a bewildering mess with occasional forays into brilliance.

The book begins reasonably enough, with an introduction in which Johnson describes a bit of his journey. Then it descends into a fanciful dialogue among a series of characters built on the various facets of himself that journeyed up Mt. Kilimanjaro. These characters are largely self-explanatory through their crude names: Scribe, Model Builder, Authority Seeker, Farm Boy, Cognitive Bias, Relentless, Game Play, Dark Humor, Self Critical and so forth. (Why there is no consistency among these names — e.g., Game Player — why some nouns and some adjectives, I could not tell you.)

There are two other beings in the narrative: Blueprint, a newcomer to the group (and the real-life name of Johnson’s “don’t die” initiative) and Depression, a character/state that the rest of the group left on the mountain, which some regret doing.

Conversations with these versions of himself comprise most of the book, in ways that are occasionally interesting, and in other ways that make you want to throw your phone (or alternative viewing device) out the window.

For instance, in one, the “group” discusses the growth of automation, accompanied by “a slow erosion of human decision-making.” While most people would think of this in terms of, say, a robot filling a fast-food order, Johnson wants to hasten the world to a place where “mind-off” automation governs our bodily functions, as he believes our natural processes are inefficient and poorly designed. As such, he believes we need to “demote” the conscious mind as the decision-making entity in favor of autonomous systems that get feedback from all our body’s stakeholders about what our bodies need. For example, in this manner of thinking, our liver should have more say in what we consume (and what we do all day) than our impulsive mind.

Not only will this give us longer lives, but it will magnify human potential. As the character Blueprint says in the dialogue, “a world of autonomous selves will open up a proportional step change in freed-up energy, which will then allow the upleveling of the modern human mind to whatever we will one day be. The change will be as powerful as the one from ancient to modern human. One can only dare imagine what we will do and what our experience of existence may be.” He believes that as much progress as humans have made, we could still be, right now, living in a sort of “Cognitive Paleolithic” age and that the only way out is to rise above the modern mind, which he calls “frail, ambitious, bullying, timid, and riddled with bias and error.”

OK, so what about the not dying part, and why does Johnson call himself “Zero,” going so far as to use that as his pen name and social media handle?

In all this Philosophy 101-level discussion, Johnson does insert the protocols that he says are effectively de-aging parts of his body, things like the perfectly calibrated vegan diet of 2,250 calories “spread out over optimal times during the day” and not drinking fluids after 4 p.m. so he doesn’t wake up during the night.

The foodstuff he talks about on podcasts is all there — the “nutty pudding,” the dark chocolate, the olive oil, the “super veggie.” And he is, at times, winsomely self-deprecating and even funny, as when he describes a tin of food as “a slurry of seaweed chewed up and spat out by a dying bird” and he has Self Critical say, when looking at his plate, “I feel like the color has been drained from life.”

But using the soft, patient voice that Blueprint says is necessary to win over skeptics, he convinces the team that an algorithm can and should be designed to take over the myriad manual tasks of daily existence. And over the course of the book, he addresses — and takes down — many of the criticisms directed at him over the past year.

Johnson is at his best when he derides the human tendency to let its lower faculties lead at the expense of the higher. Speaking on the miraculous nature of human consciousness, Devil May Care delivers a soliloquy about how the base need of hunger can transform “the most dynamic form of intelligence in the known universe into a simple calorie-finding machine.”

And his arguments that the best and brightest should be pushing aggressively at the boundaries of the human lifespan are convincing. Most humans who have been born over the course of our existence didn’t make it past 20, he says. Age, or “life units,” is the “scarcest and most valuable currency that has ever existed,” along with freedom of choice. And when Scribe asked the various characters that are assembled what they would do if they knew this was the last day of their life, the Blueprint character had the most sensible answer: try to figure out how to thwart death.

Put this way, it seems that this should be what all of us should be doing every day. Which of course, is the central point that Johnson wants to get across. As for the “Zero” stuff, well, it remains kind of fuzzy why he thinks this is a good idea, but it derives from his thinking about first principles.

Don’t Die is Johnson’s long-form response to people who learn a little about him and dismiss him as a sun-avoiding, supplement-chugging, blood-transfusing nut. The book does help to explain Johnson in ways an hour-long podcast cannot, and if you stick with it, the dialogue format eventually makes sense and can even seem charming by the book’s end, although it’s downright torturous at the start. For people who just want some new-year inspiration about how to be healthier and live longer, there are far better books, such as Dr. Peter Attia’s Outlive, and the basics of Johnson’s protocols are more easily learned in the many audio and print interviews he does. C+

Album Reviews 24/01/18

Friko, Where We’ve Been, Where We Go From Here (ATO Records)

A hard one to classify, this Chicago indie band’s first album for ATO Records, although it was finished before they signed with the company. Vocalist/guitarist Niko Kapetan’s voice is awkward, shaking like a vintage glass tray on the mantel during an earthquake near your grandmother’s house, which makes this whole thing an acquired taste from the beginning, but these guys do come up with some interesting song structures. For instance, there’s “Where We’ve Been,” which starts out as a ’70s beach-time radio-pop thing, then begins to pulsate and crumble in waves of noise, then reassembles itself and ends in unplugged Bonnaroo folk. Kapetan’s Conor Oberst side comes out for “Crimson to Chrome,” a mid-tempo semi-rocker that flirts with no-wave (or post-punk, depending on your point of reference) relevance (nice loud guitar sound at the break, me likey). “Chemical” is pure shoegaze, and when you take it all together you realize the band is a coherent Brian Jonestown Massacre. Worth your time, absolutely. A

Nicky, by (PRAH Recordings)

Point of order, the Nicky Harris under scrutiny here is a composer, pianist and singer inspired by London’s queer performance scene, not the South Carolina dude who’s done some Vegas-begging records featuring his Elvis-like baritone. Ryuichi Sakamoto, Duval Timothy, Anohni and Perfume Genius are cited as similar artists, as are The Carpenters (!), but for general audience purposes, I’d say it’s more like a cross between Nick Cave and the Eels, or Ben Folds on downers. This person is obviously a good pianist; given the rather casual noises they allowed into the recordings, I assume most of the tunes that ended up on the record were first takes, which I have no problem with whatsoever. It’s made for a very intimate album filled with a certain warmth despite Harris’s creepy singing; hearing Harris tap their foot and pop off a few random spoken lines keeps things interesting to say the least. It’s a tour de force of something, even if I’m not exactly sure what. A


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Friday, Jan. 19, will see buckets of new rock ’n’ roll CDs dumped into the stores by guys with trucks, that’s how it works, folks! I can safely predict that a few trucks will be filled to bursting with the new Green Day album, Saviors, when it comes out this Friday, so that 35-year-olds will buy them and relive the days of skateboarding and having no clue whatsoever what punk really means, good times, amirite folks? Yes, yes, I was there, when they first arrived on the scene, and all the old punks were like “OK, it’s official, punk is dead,” but I was in a cover band at the time, and the bass player wanted to do “Longview” (I guess because maybe he thought that somehow an 8-year-old who actually liked Green Day would somehow end up in one of the adults-only clubs we played at), so I had to learn the lyrics to that dumb song, and every time we played it I’d have to go wash out my ears with some Ramones or Buzzcocks just to keep my stomach calm. Anyhoo, FYI, when anyone asked me whether or not I actually liked Green Day, I’d always change the subject to sports (all the Boston teams were losers back then, sort of like they are now) so I wouldn’t have to admit that I was just singing the Green Day song for money from drunks, but in retrospect I forgive the band for destroying punk once and for all, because I actually did like one of the songs, I forget which — oh, “American Idiot,” that one. It’s sort of like ’80s Joan Jett but with guys singing, and, just like that, I’ve digressed. Since there’s no way punk could be destroyed any more than it is, I suppose I’ll trudge over to the YouTube and see what they’re yammering about now, in the opening song “The American Dream Is Killing Me.” Ack, why would anyone in a band even want to play this song, it’s just “Longview” except the guitars have about 50 overdubs, and, as usual it isn’t actually punk, it’s something for Nylon to write about and promptly forget forever. It basically sounds like Weezer trying to be Foo Fighters or something. All set with this, barf barf barf.

• If you put Versus and Sheryl Crow into a Mixmaster and flipped the switch, you’d have “Honey,” the leadoff single from the upcoming Packs album, Melt the Honey. This Canadian slacker-indie band, led by Madeline Link, has been compared to Best Coast, though I don’t know why; they tend to write generally hookless tunes and throw them out on their Bandcamp space without much ado, a practice I’m fine with overall, I suppose, but I’d almost rather subject myself to a Pavement LP (I’m kidding, there’s literally nothing worse than Pavement, as you probably know) than investigate this disposable nonsense, but for its part at least it isn’t shapeless musical tapioca like Broken Social Scene (sorry, did that sound grumpy? I can never tell).

• Today I learned that feminist-indie band Sleater-Kinney took its name from a road in Lacey, Washington. I also found out that they’ve still got it, because their new LP, Little Rope, is actually pretty good. You can listen to the whole thing on YouTube, if that’s your wont, and if you do, you’ll hear some sturdy, interesting, Wire-like art-rock on “Say It Like You Mean It,” and “Hell” will probably remind you of the No-Nos. Best stuff I’ve heard from them, anyway.

• We’ll wrap things up with a seriously casual shoegaze band from Bristol, U.K., The Fauns, whose new LP, How Lost, is their first in 10 years! The title track’s guitar line evokes Modern English’s “I Melt With You” and the lady’s singing is neck-deep in reverb. Yup, it’s a shoegaze band all right, end of mini-review!

Royal Pretender Cake

This is not an authentic Mardi Gras King Cake. An actual New Orleanian would sneer at this hard enough to sprain her lip. But a real King Cake is actually a member of the bread family and takes about five hours to make. This is a delicious, dense, moist almond cake that will serve you in good stead.


  • 2½ cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ cup (162 grams) whole milk
  • ½ cup (120 grams) sour cream
  • 2¼ cups (450 grams) sugar
  • 7 ounces (1 tube) almond paste – you can find this in the baking/spices section of your supermarket
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest – the zest of one large orange
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 Tablespoon (45 grams) amaretto
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract


  • 2 cups (227 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • pinch salt
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons milk – enough to make a spoonable glaze


  • Gold, purple, and green sprinkles or sanding sugar – you can find these online or at a craft store

A small plastic baby that you will bake into the cake for luck. You might or might not actually have a small plastic baby to hand. If you do not, you can substitute some other small non-poisonous object in its place, such as a foreign coin, a marble, or one of those small ceramic figures that are sometimes included in boxes of tea.

Bring all the cake ingredients to room temperature. This recipe will work if the cream cheese and almond paste are cold, but they will be temperamental and will require some persuasion to blend together gracefully.

Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Prepare a large Bundt pan — I brush the inside with a mixture of equal parts shortening, vegetable oil and flour.

In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients — the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

In a jar or measuring cup, combine the milk and sour cream. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, or using a hand-held electric mixer, combine the almond paste — cut into small pieces — and the sugar. Mix at slow speed; the mixture looks like damp sand. If you do not cut the almond paste into small pieces, it will fight against its fate and throw plumes of sugar out of your mixing bowl in protest. If this starts happening, cover the bowl with a tea towel and be careful that it doesn’t get sucked up into the beaters.

Add the orange zest and cream cheese. Mix to combine. Again, this will go more smoothly if the cream cheese is at room temperature.

Mix in the eggs, one at a time, then add the amaretto and almond extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if you need to. Once everything is thoroughly mixed, beat at a higher speed, until the proto-batter is a little fluffy.

Add the dry ingredients and the milk/sour cream mixture a little at a time, alternating between the two, until the batter is smooth and battery.

Pour half the batter into the prepared Bundt pan, which has been patiently waiting for you.

Drop your small plastic baby into the Bundt pan. “Godspeed, my friend,” would be a good sentiment to express at this point. Extra points if you say it in French.

Pour the rest of the batter into the pan, covering your Cake Baby.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean or it reaches an internal temperature of 200ºF.

Cool on a rack for 20 minutes before inverting onto a plate. Let it cool thoroughly before glazing and decorating it. Decorate a third of the cake in each of the colors of sugar or sprinkles. This is not a time to exercise restraint. “Garish” should be the absolute minimum level of decoration you are looking for.

This is a first-class snack cake. It is meant to be shared. A traditional King Cake is supposed to be eaten with friends. Whoever finds the baby in their slice is supposed to host the Mardi Gras party the following year. You should feel free to set the stakes to work with your particular group of friends, relatives, or co-workers.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Featured photo: Not King cake. Photo by John Fladd.

In the kitchen with Lior Sadeh

Clinical herbalist Lior Sadeh has been growing herbs and making products for 12 years. Having closed the physical location of Bee Fields Farm, Sadeh works with people to reduce inflammation and heal their gut by making lifestyle changes, with herbs and supplements and bone broth, by reducing stress and making detox part of their everyday lifestyle. Her products include herbal tea blends, herbal infused honey, oils, salves, creams, extracts, elixirs and more. You can find her at the Concord Winter Farmers Market.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

I think a good knife and a cutting board are a must. … I love my slow cooker … I do bone broth in it so whenever I am eating meat I collect the bones and cook them for a couple of days with a little bit of vinegar to make bone broth and then I use it in all my cooking and it’s very healing for the digestive tract and it’s also filled with minerals.

What would you have for your last meal?

I love salmon.

What is your favorite local eatery?

Riverside Cafe in Milford.

Name a celebrity you would like to see trying something you made.

For me celebrities are farmers … farming is hard work that is not rewarded … farmers should be celebrities because in all kinds of weather farmers get up and go out and take care of the animals and the plants so we all do have food, so my celebrities are farmers and I would love it if farmers would drink my tea.

What is your favorite product that you make?

I love the teas because I think if a person takes the time to make themselves a cup of tea and sits down … and relaxes with it and really kind of all body experience, they start a good chance to follow … any herbal program and succeed in getting what they want from it. … I don’t believe in quick fixes, and there are a lot of herbal medicines like tincture that you can squirt … and then rush off to the next thing that you do, and I think that tea forces us to sit down … [and] forces you to breathe. … When you drink a cup of tea and you sit down with it you have this moment of breathing and letting go and just checking with yourself how it feels to be in your body.

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

I don’t know … I’m not a trendy person.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

I’m very seasonal. I really love soups in the winter, and in the summer I love salads, especially Israeli salad with a lot of cucumbers and tomatoes when they are in season.

Immune Supporting Bone Broth
from the kitchen of Lior Sadeh

Bones collected from chicken, lamb or beef organically raised or 100 percent grass-fed
4 quarts water
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 handful dried burdock root
1 handful dried astragalus root
1 handful dried reishi mushroom

I start my bone broth after eating a whole chicken. I collect the bones and place them in a slow cooker.
Cover with water. You want to use clean, not fluoridated water.
Add the apple cider vinegar.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for a couple of days.
Check a couple of times a day to make sure you have enough water in the pot. If needed, add water.
You can always add other bones. My bone broth simmers for close to a week and I add bones to it as the week goes.
Twelve hours before you are ready to strain broth, add the herbs.
Strain, pour into a mason jar, cool and refrigerate.
You can drink a cup of warm broth daily or use it in cooking soups, stews and grains.

Featured photo: Lior Sadeh. Courtesy photo.

Just like mom used to make

Manchester native opens homestead business to honor her mother and yia yia

On Nov. 11, 2023, Barbara George made her business debut at the Manchester Memorial Craft Fair with Auntie B’s Greek Pastries, a homestead baking company through which she bakes pastries from her mother and yia yia’s (grandmother’s) recipes.

“I watched my mom bake for so many years and kept notes to keep the recipes alive, as she never used recipes — the recipes were all in her head,” George said in an email. “I would ask her to make one of her specialties, and once she was ready to add the ingredients I would measure them out and that’s how I captured her recipe. As she gave me tips along the way as we baked together, I would write [them] down. They come in so handy to this day where I’m not able to ask her.”

Having grown up in the Manchester area, George attended Plymouth State University before starting a 38-year career in sales, with baking remaining a hobby. She spent 22 of those years in California, where she would bake for friends, before moving back to the Granite State. Back home after the passing of her mother, friends would request she bake her mother’s recipes for family events, and she started to imagine turning it into a business.

“It was Covid year and I followed a lot of people on Instagram [who] baked or opened up their own baking businesses,” George said. “It’s been over a couple years that has gotten me to this point and I just thought where people are enjoying them that I would … try my hand at [home baking].”

After seeing a post about the Manchester Memorial Craft Fair, she reached out to become a vendor where her baking would officially become a business and she would sell out of everything she brought.

“Something I learned was that a lot of people don’t know Greek pastries and it was fun telling people about it.” George said. “I was just used to the Greek festivals … I happen to be the parish president at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church … [and] I also volunteer at St. George for their Glendi … so it’s been fun telling people and sampling with them and seeing their reactions to foods they [have] never tried before.”

Out of her home, George makes Flo Flo’s nut rolls, her mother’s variation on baklava, koulourakia, which are Greek twist cookies, and custom orders that people request.

“I always hoped that I could get my mom’s and yia yia’s recipes out to more people and that seems to be happening,” George said. “I just always get excited that people want to try my products and they want to buy my products. I think that’s fantastic and I’m always appreciative of that.”

Auntie B’s Greek Pastries
Where: Bedford
Call or send an email to place your order. Visit

Featured photo: Barbara George with a few of the featured items she sells. Courtesy photo.

The Weekly Dish 24/01/18

News from the local food scene

See vineyard, taste wine: Experience the Fire Tower Winter Wonderland Wine Tasting Experience at Averill House Vineyard (21 Averill Road in Brookline; at various times on Fridays through Sunday in January through March. With a view of the vineyard, enjoy a private outdoor tasting of four wines around outdoor pellet stoves. Each ticket ($59) accounts for two adults and each additional person will cost $15 for a maximum of eight people. Children under 13 are free and pets are welcome if on a leash. Get your tickets at

Wine in an igloo: Enjoy a charcuterie board with meat, nuts, cheese and crackers and taste four wines in a private Norwegian-themed igloo or gazebo Averill House Vineyard (21 Averill Road in Brookline; with theme lighting and music. Gazebos also include a fireplace and fluffy living room. Dates are available in January through March, on Fridays through Sundays as well as Wednesday, Feb. 14. Tickets ($100) account for two people and can be purchased via eventbrite.

Drinks for a cause: On Saturday, Jan. 20, To Share Brewing Co., New Hampshire Brewers Association and Old Dogs Go To Helen host Pints and Flights for Old Dogs Go To Helen. One dollar from every pint or flight sold will be donated to ODGTH, a senior and hospice dog rescue and sanctuary.

Cupcake decorating for kids: Uno Pizzeria & Grill (15 Fort Eddy Road, Concord) hosts a kids’ winter cupcake decorating class on Tuesday, Jan. 23, from 4 to 9 p.m. Call to make your reservation.

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

Chocolate, wine, dinner: The 17th annual Chocolate Madness Wine Pairing Dinner at Zorvino Vineyards (226 Main St., Sandown) 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.

Farm-to-table tasting: Restoration Acres Farm hosts a farm-to-table tasting on Saturday, Feb. 3, from 4:30 to 8 p.m. at Black Swan Inn (354 W. Main St., Tilton) 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 – Andrew Williamson and Larry Williamson

Roofing and gutter specialists

Andrew Williamson and Larry Williamson own North East Roof Tune-Ups, a roof and gutter maintenance company out of Manchester.

Explain your job and what it entails.

We specialize in roof repair and maintenance and all aspects of gutters. We both clean and install custom gutters, downspouts and gutter covers designed for our New England weather.

How long have you had this job?

We initiated North East Roof Tune-Ups in February 2020, previously operating as New England Gutter Systems from March 2016 to 2020.

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

Our journey began under our father’s business, Premier Gutter Systems, from 2009 to 2014. …We started out cleaning gutters. We added the gutter machine and started doing gutter installations shortly after. Later we added the roof tune-up package. In the last two years we added services for property managers and Realtors. We also offer 7-inch gutters for commercial buildings.

What kind of education or training did you need?

We mainly learned on the job from our father teaching us side by side. We are constantly learning new things from trade groups and forums.

What is your typical at-work uniform or attire?

Our uniform features the company’s logo, trade and contact information, and proper footwear.

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

Constantly improving our craft and knowledge to serve our local community effectively. Handling fall rushes by conducting our time wisely and striving for quality and professional service. I would say ‘the cold’ but, hey, this is New England.

What do you wish other people knew about your job?

It’s not easy but we love it. Our work is essential in preventing potential damage to your home.

What was the first job you ever had?

Andrew worked for Premier Gutter Systems, and Larry was a grill cook at Wendy’s.

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

You have to enjoy what you do for work.

Five favorites
Favorite book: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. This book is a great blueprint of how to live your life.
Favorite movie: We don’t have much time for movies. I guess movies with the kiddos on the weekend.
Favorite music: We like all kinds of music. We really enjoy checking out local bands.
Favorite food: We are on the road a lot. We have favorite small diners in every town. Then, of course, pizza.
Favorite thing about NH: Its scenic wonders. An hour or so one way gets you to our gorgeous lakes and mountains while the other direction gets you to gorgeous beaches on the ocean.

Featured photo: Andrew Williamson and Larry Williamson. Courtesy photo.

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