Killing Him Swiftly

Editor’s Note: This month’s check-in with The Collector transpired a little differently than last time. Here are The Collector’s thoughts, all at once. Enjoy. I sat on this for a while, hoping to turn it into more of a conversation, so it’s my fault it is being posted with expired information regarding Taylor Swift’s then-still-unreleased new album, 1989.

Haircut be damned: Well I’ve covered a lot of ground since we last chatted but if you’re asking right now I’m in pop overload. I’ve been on a big Sam Smith kick for a while, both the acoustic and regular version of “Latch” (which is really Disclosure I know) and “Stay with me” but “I’m Not the Only One” is also a wonderful soulful song. The first time I encountered Sam Smith was when he was on a latenight show (either Fallon or Conan) a while back and it took me a while to get over that haircut. I’ve moved on from that now and just think he has one of the most wonderful voices in music right now, and the music on “Latch” is amazing but the acoustic version really makes it a completely different song.

The 47 percent: The other recent track I’ve been listening to a lot is … Taylor Swift. If I’m honest, at least 47% of the reason my response has been delayed is the internal debate over how upfront to be about this, but here goes. I’m coming out of the closet, I am, and have for a while now known that I am, a Taylor Swift fan. Her new track is great and always puts me in a great mood, I’ve not been overly impressed with the next two singles from her latest album but am withholding judgement till the full album comes out. Seriously though, I’ve enjoyed most of her singles since she debuted six (SIX!!!) years ago. The other day I was picking up a friend for lunch, her classic track “love story” was on the radio and I absolutely was blasting it. I thought I had timed it so that it would be over by the time I actually made my pickup but a wrench was thrown in my jam when the unnamed friend had taken it upon himself to walk out to the street corner near his office for a quicker pickup. As he opened the door he had to have caught me turning down the last few bars but I guess if he recognized it he’d have to admit he listened to Taylor too. It went unmentioned if it was recognized.

Seriously though, she’s a very talented songwriter and great singer and cute as a button. Yeah she’s got quite the dating history but well what teen/twenty something’s dating history wouldn’t look slightly ridiculous in the media spotlight. And yeah all of her songs are fairly tied up with young love and teenage problems but… so were Chuck Berry’s, strangely it wasn’t a problem when all of his songs were absorbed with teenage themes and he is as close to an inventor of rock as there is. But heaven forbid the little blonde girl put her heartbreak to words. Seriously where would pop music be without those themes, this criticism of Taylor is so derivative and weak and indicative of hipsterism. Anyways, end rant, I enjoy her music and don’t care who knows.

Now that I’ve probably broken your intent of this chat, on to concert talk.

Farm Aid: I had the fortune to attend two pretty significant concerts that came to the Raleigh area the last few weeks. The first was Farm Aid, which us getting Farm Aid seems like a pretty big deal to me but it was also a great concert (and great food I had this like half pound slice of ham in bbq sauce on a roll that was pretty amazing) with a lineup of people I might not have made it out to see individually but definitely feel like my life is richer for having seen live. Willie Nelson’s son Lukas was a revelation, you gotta figure if your dad’s Willie Nelson you’re probably in a band just for something to do but he is an incredibly gifted technical guitarist with a great voice. I enjoyed the whole lineup despite a too short set by local band Delta Mae (they brought an upright piano on stage instead of wimping out with a keyboard). The other finds for me were Gary Clarke Jr. and Preservation Hall Jazz Band which are both worth checking out.

There were the better known acts some of which were good to check off the bucketlist and some like Dave Matthews are always good for a show (more on that later). I’m glad I got to see Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and of course The Coug live. Coug is definitely starting to show his age by the way. Neil Young got the most political about evil corporations and took a swipe at Sen. Richard Burr, I was probably one of the few in the crowd who didn’t have a problem with him getting political but not taking a swipe at anyone on the ballot this year. I also was pleasantly surprised by Jack White’s set, not that I don’t enjoy his music but he’s not someone I would have felt a need to go see live but he did an amazing set and Seven Nation Army is def great live.

But really, that ham roll, unreal.

Bluegrass: The other big concert I got to go to was the last night of Wideopen Bluegrass festival and have since been on a Del McCoury kick. The other great outcome of the festival which is in it’s second of 4 years in Raleigh is that a local station 102.3 that had just moved to another number decided to play bluegrass in the run up to the festival rather than sit empty and have continued since. They play Union Station’s “Bright Sunny South” about once an hour it feels like and of course it’s experimental and doesn’t have any advertisers yet so is a great break from the standard radio fare. I also bought a bunch of classic bluegrass albumns but have not digested them yet.

Dave Matthews: Other recent development is I’ve been back on a big Dave kick. Visiting a friend who had a large vinyl collection a couple months back drunk me fixated on all the Dave records for some reason. I’ve enjoyed my fair share of Dave concerts over the years and enjoyed his clearly hammered set at Farm Aid, but I don’t know if I’m mellowing in my old age but have really begun to enjoy his music in a way I never did before when it just felt like a social necessity to like his band.

Hipster Cred: I ran into Son Little’s “The River” on some music service the other day and have had it on repeat since, in a sign that they have a great promotions and targeted marketing strategy behind them… NPR feels the same way as of 2 days ago.

Fruit Makes Anything Healthy, Right?

It all started because of an excellent cocktail. I had an old fashioned that featured bourbon cherries and was hooked. I knew one thing from that moment on – I could picture nothing finer than spending my spring and summer evenings enjoying old fashioneds with bourbon muddled cherries. To make that a reality I’d have to make my own.

Unfortunately it was the beginning of April and after making several inquiries at grocers I learned it would be a solid month before there were fresh cherries. Being the obsessive that I am, nothing would sate me until I had a taste of fruit-infusing my own liquor. I searched till the ends of the internet for everything I could learn infusing fruit and other food items into bourbon (There is only bourbon, if you want to talk to me about vodka you are a tasteless communist, locked in a self imposed liquor gulag). Quickly, and unsurprisingly, I came across bacon bourbon as well, and decided I could dip so far as tequila into the lighter spirits… solely for the concoction of Bloody Marias. Doing the research online helped, I got a lot of great ideas but that didn’t change the fact that cherries were still a month away. I did what any rational person would do and decided I would go overboard with the food items that I could get.

In a few weeks I was hosting a guys weekend, so I figured I would have plenty of folks to help me consume all this bourbon – going overboard wasn’t completely unwarranted. After purchasing enough mason jars to make even the wackiest of doomsday preppers happy, I set about purchasing more fruit than I probably have personally purchased in my life: apples, pears, and blueberries. To be joined later by what I really wanted, cherries and bacon. The next step was to purchase the liquor, there was consensus among the internet (or at least the first 5 Google results) that you needed to use decent quality bourbon. I chose some favorites; Woodford Reserve was the main as it was relatively more affordable and came in larger bottles, but I also wanted to use some of my personal favorite, Basil Hayden’s. I learned quickly that despite packing the jar to the brim with fruit, not as much liquor was displaced as I had thought so it would take a lot more liquor. One final trip to the liquor store and I was finally set. I packed my concoctions and got ready to wait. The week before my guests were to arrive, I made bacon bourbon and tequila as well. The process was slightly less elegant, but I thought it would be well worth it.

Finally the magical weekend arrived and I got to try my beauties. I was most intrigued by the blueberries as they had had the most profound effect visually on the bourbon. Somewhere along the way I had gotten the impression that the longer they were left the better they tasted. What I had failed to read despite having gone through the directions on several articles was the admonition that one should taste frequently and remove the fruit when the bourbon had taken on it’s flavor. Longer is not better, longer just gets you rotting fruit in ruined bourbon. I know this now because that’s precisely what I got. Desperately and drunkenly and with only a little misgivings from my friends I tried all the concoctions to find the same result. One friend was so kind as to pretend to like the pear for a while, but the next morning the reality of having ruined a lot of good bourbon and this, only the beginning of the summer, began to sink in.

My failure was not total only because I am pressing on, though this time with a bit more wisdom and moderation. I have patiently awaited cherry season this year, and I am preparing but a single jar for now. A key I learned after eating wooden flavored cherries bourbon most of last summer is to remove the stems before infusing the bourbon. Otherwise, they dissolve and give the bourbon a strong flavor of bark, and not even a nice maple bark, something more akin to a pine. My hope is that with careful monitoring and an eventual breakdown to add some sugar to the jar I might finally, after a two year bourbon infusing odyssey be able to enjoy the homemade muddled bourbon cherry old fashioned of my dreams.