19th street red letters and blogs:
well, i’m sittin’ here “wirelessing” at the green muse coffee house in austin and, as often is the case, as i look at the news from new orleans (this time it’s the planning commisionns newest proposal) tears are in my eyes and i have to stop. i’m not really sure if i’m sentimental for our losses or sentimental ’cause of the feelings of comraderie and devotion even this technical article points to. kinda like at the movies when you cry at the end.
did i tell you about my new years eve? ………..i got to north peters early, about six pm to case my post-storm new years strategy. i wasn’t sure there would be enough foot traffic where i’ve played in previous years. i decided to pay the twenty bucks for parking ’cause there was a free space next to where i have set-up; willie and i kinda set up our “outpost”…….. as per my usual thoroughness, i must’ve walked four miles up and down north peters looking for potential spots. i even thought it might be cool to set up right at jax brewery in the middle of the crowd and really test the limits of the security’s tolerance (i get a rush out of the shocking and ballsy approach). as the fog descended and i saw there was alot of people coming out of the hotels. i choose to play my traditional location; it was real misty and dramatic and even surreal (if i should say so myself) with the visability being so obscured. i started at midnight since there were no fireworks; the people just matierialized in front of me out of this blanket of vapor. it went well and i gathered many attentive crowds over that two and a half hour set, including the woman who told me she was in bed going to sleep when she heard the music. as she handed me a twenty for two cd’s i noted her lacy night gown under her sweater…………
early in my stay in austin back in late september i had a great two days at the old pecan street festival in the 105 degree heat, but it’s been a while and there’s nothing like an attentive music loving crowd in the crescent city.
……….. willie and i worked mardi gras in front of the red fish grill on bourbon. nbc, reuters and others? documented the historic return of 19th street red to his traditional new orleans pitch………….evangilistic fanatical extremists tried to interfere to no avail. crowds cheered as the phoney spiritualists were pushed back and outwitted. freedom of _expression reigned…….yeah, mardi gras was five days of grueling work, lots of wine, breasts, etc…… my friends joah and laura (who first saw me at the king bisquit, Helena, Arkansas, 2004 and have come to half my shows in Austin) came out from texas and filmed all this. I made about 1400 and was exhausted and hoarse…………back to Austin…………..
……….so, my arrival in new orleans. it started with 7:30 am rush hour traffic; me sleepless and dazed. i cut through the back streets even if it took longer ’cause i couldn’t stop and go anymore.i got to my storage space where i unloaded my beverly hillbillies’ looking van (furniture on the roof etc..) and re-arranged my already full unit to accomadate my additional furniture. next, i ran errands and finally got to sleep around noon. it was a beauitiful day, it’s hard here; everyone i encountered was glad to see me though, and took time to inquire about my plans. i checked on my spot (where i play) and almost got arrested; a cop thought i stopped to pee. things are a mess here. i was getting disillusioned quick. today i went down to the musicians co-op and was showing my guitar to the director and a cat named “sugar bear” heard me play and asked for my number. we talked for about half a hour and it turned out he and his dad played with some of my all-time heros. he gets good paying gigs and he says he’ll call me;….. finally, the sweet scent of positivity!! next i went looking for my old friend robert. his house wasn’t flooded too bad and had been cleared but there was no sign of him. i started talking to the clean-up dudes accross the street. they were three black cats from the seventh(?) ward and a white guy out of towner, and within a few minutes they were laughing and commending me on my attempt to hustle the white guy to buy a cd. “you from here, all right” was what they said and that made me feel good. see, that’s what i like about this place; we didn’t know each other but after a few minutes, we were exchanging war stories as if we were sitting around a keg at a backyard bbq. no one asked anyone’s name; we may never meet again; but for that little time we had trust and everyone was wide open like old friends……more later ………. randy
Here I am again. Bourbon and canal. Kinda the bowels of the French quarter. There’s a fenced off dumpster taking up half of the roadway right across from my traditional pitch along the “foot locker” wall. It’s a good spot ‘cause it’s the main corridor from a lot of hotels to the quarter. It’s nasty. It stinks of fermenting alcohol and whatever’s bubbling up from the sidewalk today. the post Katrina crowd is different. Lots of relief workers (many Mexican). this college crowd never tipped that well and the convention people are all but gone. My bandstand is happening. It’s an oasis of vintage junk in the middle of one of the least picturesque blocks in new Orleans.
Here’s a little tale from Frenchman street:
So me and a cat I know are sitting on the bench outside of the apple barrel. We’re conversing about his ccke habit, actually, and we spot these british dudes filming us. He stands up and with more than just a hint of anger and arrogance tells these guys they need to ask us before they shoot us. I really don’t care but I’m fairly drunk and a little restless so I chirp in too. “I been on tv so many times and I never even seen any of it. I’ve never even been paid”, I say, ya’ll need to pay musicians if you shoot ‘em”. The brits reply was they do. I called them on it. I told them I though they were lying. Then they told me they just payed the Jazz Vipers fifty bucks to film a tune down the street at the spotted cat.. Well, at least I know when I’m out of line, so I apologise and add I wished some of these guys that had filmed me would have paid. “what do you do they asked”. “I’m a musician” I replied,”often a street singer”. We went down the block and they had me sing “my road is rough and rocky” twice with two cameras each round for their film about fishing in Louisiana. Well, left that situation .sixty-two dollars richer and feeling that I pleased the spirit of the new Orleans street hustle.
July 30, 2006
so i sit here, not exactly hung over, but not exactly “chipper” (a good scottish word, i think), mulling over last nights adventures……… after kicking some serious ass on the bandstand, i ended up smoking cigars and drinking cabernet in the office of mike glen, the owner/proprietor/bossman/gangster type of the beale street establishment i play in front of. this was a good thing for 19th street red’s memphis dynasty……….next i headed for “wild bill’s”, a late night soul shack in mid town; actually this is the joint i suggested we hit last weekend. i planned on just checking it out, so i parked amongst the many rough looking charactors in front of the liquor store (we call ’em package stores down south) next to wild bill’s. the band was cooking, so i decided to give it a shot. as i left my van a light skinned black man called out “hey, red “. i didn’t know him and he thought i was someone else, but he had the name right and minutes later i had my arm around him like we were old buddies. it was great. i already was lit, but i bought a quart of bud ($4) and settled back and watched some great memphis soul-blues. a cat from chicago did some john lee and blew some harp. they were fryin’ up good smellin’ southern grub. i made friends with the band and they told me to come back with my guitar. i got to sleep about five. it was a good one………… hope you guys had (are having?) a great time in new orleans. i love it down there…………….
september 10, 2006
there’s alot to talk about; this has been a remarkable summer………….. after the storm, i’d been traveling back and forth from austin to new orleans. i had ended up there after katrina. i scored a great little run down house on a third of an acre for three bills a month!! i got pup willie in october, ’05 and raised him in south austin. You can’t play the streets in austin. the gig that got me through was at an east side soul food restaurant called “gene’s new orleans po boy’s” (1209 east 12th street, austin, tx.). it’s a cozy little place. gene is from uptown n.o.and moved to austin about a decade ago to be with his lovely wife claudia. i played the lunches thursdays and fridays and actually did very well. thursday’s smothered pork chop special had the place packed and this was well deserved; these were special cut, one inch thick chops rolled in seasonsed flour, perfectly deep fried and smothered in a sauce that reminded me of the tastiest egg foo young. with candied yams, greens and corn bread as sides i felt very flattered if anyone even lifted thier eyes up from their plates to grant me their attention. i also worked several other venues: ego’s, woodie’s, the corner of south congress and gibson every first thursday, the victory grill, and my favorite club, t.c. lounge, which is a real texas jook…………… musically, in austin, for me, redd volkert, a veteren of merle haggerd’s aggregation and gary clark jr., a young african-american bluesman lead the pack. i dug dancing to honky tonk shit kickin’ country at the broken spoke and the continental club and to me this was the happening scene in austin……….. well, i gave up my austin hacienda in march and hit new orleans. i’d been back several times at that point. new years i did my “traditional” peters street show. and mardi gras was a blast at my “home” spot, bourbon and canal. but i was getting shut down on bourbon so i cultivated another street venue: frenchman and charters. no one sets up electicity there but me. a few of the frenchman street traditonalists had to be won over and were….…….. i couldn’t find a crib, though. it seems the construction contracting, fema and relife workers, with their booty of grants and corporation funding had taken up (and still take up) all the available housing. the rent is triple or more that of a year ago and former residents, like myself cannot afford to come back. so, here comes the memphis in may bbq competion, a good money-maker for me, it was time to split. i ended up traveling around nothern mississippi, memphis and up and down interstate 55 to new orleans all summer…………….
september 10, again,
my introduction to memphis, 2006, was as a photographer for the ponderosa stomp. this was my first “pro” job and it was an unnerving experience. every time I found a good unobscured shot, all the camera geeks with their elbows and giant high tech rigs would desend……….i had the weekend free so I hooked up with my buddy bill abel, a fine mississippi guitarist and bluesman. He was going to oxford, ms. to help with the recording of big george brock and hubert sumlin. It was great to see hubert again and I was all eyes and wonderment, standing three feet away as he wove his magic. Bill was great and got the job as guitarist and bandleader with george and I got my first taste of oxford. I hustled a Saturday afternoon gig at parrish baker’s , a bar on the square. It’s a kinda long narrow room with local lafayette county artist’s photos and works on the walls; the folks are friendly and the women are beautiful. It’s always busy and he does well, so he treats his people well……….oxford is the home of olde miss, and they sure picked the finest of spots to put it. This part of mississippi is rolling hills, forests covered with kudzu vine, winding creeks and rivers and lakes. It’s cooler than the delta or memphis, only has a fraction of the miscquitos, and yet it’s only about an hour from each. Holly springs, the home of bluesman r.l. burnside and jr. kimbrough is a little north and the people here recognise, understand and appreiciate blues…… I ended up picking up a weekly Wednesday night gig at parrish’s. I kept throughout the summer and had many good times and made many good friends in oxford……………next was the memphis in may barbeque competition. I’d done this one before so I knew the routine. I found a parking lot Wednesday night and pretty much kept the same spot for all three days. It was getting hot already so willie (my labrador retriever) was a priority. I couldn’t afford to risk losing my “pitch” so I would get out there, on beale street, underneath the train trestle, cool in the shade, by late morning to play that night. The evangelists were out in force, competing with me for air time. They were rude and insulting. One girl asked me if i thought she was lewd; she was near tears. It was hard battling it out with them, so, I went and got my computer, plugged it into my guitar amp and blasted my cd!!! I wore them out, security thanked me for drowning them out and the stage was set for me to get it on, which I did. It was three days of this, and, twelve hundred dollars, seventy cds and some world championship hog samples later I prevailed. There were aggro jock types I backed down (quite a story actually), thieves, police(now 19th street red fans), late night drum repars, breasts, good friends and yeah, more hog……………
september 11, 2006
well, after visting my good friend and world class guitarist/singer/recording artist alvin “youngblood” hart in memphis I headed to clarksdale, mississippi. It was mid-may around the time of the memphis barbeque competition. It was already hot in clarksdale and living through a southern summer in a dark blue van with a black lab puppy is not for rookies. I had to watch willie close, swim him often and always be aware of the sun’s power. I got a compass, so, at night, I could maximize the amount of morning shade cast over my mobile abode. This was more of a factor in memphis and new orleans where I’d be staying up late and (trying to) be sleeping late. Later in the summer I finally had to get a better battery for the chevy, but for june and july I survived without being able to run a fan overnight. Also, you do get used to the heat, but you never get used to the miscquitos. If I were able to get the west nile virus, I’m sure those flying vampires would’ve given it to me………………now, clarksdale is a small northern mississippi delta town of about twenty thousand people I was told, about eighty percent black. It has a long and eventful history with respect to the blues. This is the town where muddy waters caught his train to chicago. Ike turner and john lee hooker both came up here. Of note also, this is the home town of tennessee williams. The central business area is actually quite large for a delta community and extends about ten blocks in each direction. And, like most of the south, the town is divided by the railroad tracks. A sign at the intersection of route 61 and highway 49 advertises the spot that supposedly robert johnson refered to as the “crossroads” in his classic song. Actually the intersection of old route 61 and old highway 49, if that even actually is the “crossroads” is about a quarter mile from that sign, on the african-american side of the tracks. The caucasian side is presently being bought up and touted as the “home of the blues”, but in reality, blacks weren’t even allowed on that side of town in those days (it’s ok now) unless they were working there or had a good reason to be there. The business section of the “other side of the tracks” is a group of buildings on issaquena street and old highway 61, now called “martin luther king ”. It was here I met my friend, robin. I was checking out real estate, just for the fun of it, with the town real estate agent, joe middleton, who’s a great guy, and at my insistence he took me over to “new town” as he refered to it. He and I spent about fourty-five minutes reviewing the history and status of the dozen and a half or so buildings there. Issaquena was the strip. On any given weekend night this now practically deserted street was so crowded with vehicles and foot traffic you couldn’t drive down it. This was a, and maybe, the , hot nightspot for the cotton workers of the delta. The “new roxy” theater is right in the middle of this block. Though it’s roof now is just debris, once ike turner and his “kings of rhythm” spent their formative years rockin’ this place, and many “chittlin circuit” acts held court here. There’s “the red top lounge”, one block over, on yazoo, where big jack johnson, frank frost and sam carr, “the jelly roll kings” resided. “Big t” who I hired as a drummer one night in oxford had a club another block over. “Red’s”, on sunflower at mlk, currently has live blues and barbeque on some weekends. “Nann’s club 2000” although empty most of the time, hosts Tater’s Sunday night blues jam. As a matter of fact, as empty as issaquena looks, most of the buildings actually are occupied and support businesses……….. So there was robin. Painting the front of the building she had bought a couple’a months before. she stood out. She was white. So after joe dropped me off I went back over there And introduced myself. She told me she was living in seattle and was leaving in two days. We made friends, she said she’d be glad to have me watch her building and she gave me the keys. the stage was set for my stay in clarksdale……
I liked clarksdale, but I’m used to new orleans, staying out all night and playing music every day. I’d sleep in front of robin’s, where it was shady ‘til about nine-thirty. Then I would cross the tracks and get the best cup of coffee in town, at “miss dell’s. well, the coffee was good, but not fast. Miss sandy was so sweet and me being an out of towner, I was hesistant to rush her. So after fourty minutes and a couple of reminders, I had the best cup of coffee and apple/raisin/white chocolate pie in town and belive it or not, wi-fi. Miss dell’s was an old style country store with an artistic flair. Locally made jewelry, seeds, paintings, blues books, plants, reccords, furniture, pet supplies and food were all available here. Next, I’d head back to issaquena. Robin’s building was actually three storefronts under one (partially dilapadated) roof. It was divided into hundred foot long by twentyfive-foot wide sections with a garage/workshop, sleeping and bathroom area in the back. It was all cement and empty and long and fairly narrow up front. With my one-man band set-up towards the back end, it got this chilling echo that had me rehearsing there every day…….just outside of clarksdale, on “old” highway 49 is hopson’s plantation. It consists of “the commersary” building, now a bar/nightclub open for special events and, “whenever”, and a side business called the shack up inn. This old sharecropper plantation is one of the great party spots I’ve had the pleasure frequenting. The inn is a bunch of luxuriously refurbished cotton-worker shacks, collected , lined up and ready for action. The shack up proprietor, bill, gave me a musician’s deal on slow weekday, and, for me, it was like a holiday when I got to stay here. Plus, bill loved it when I’d work my music on the customers, and this often payed my way………..
The new hustle
It has been a while. My new hustle is the mississippi gulf coast. I found a fresh (and indoor) fan base here. It started with “the mockingbird café” in bay st. louis. Then I dicovered ocean springs through my friend becky. In ocean springs (and all along the gulf) mississippi grants resort status to the bars and restaurants, allowing them to serve drinks all night! After a gig at either the “government street grocery’ “the bar of de-nile”or the “mosaic” (both in ocean springs), one can get oysters on the half shell (five dollars a dozen) and cocktails ‘til 6am Thursday through Saturday at “mikey’s on the bayou”. The strip is government street, one block south of highway 90, and there’s almost ten bars with live music and they’re all pretty damn busy. Beautiful mississippi girls and down home hospitality and open til late late. Gotta love it!!
I’ve come to find my one man band solo act does well in these cozy little small town bars. Sometimes they talk throgh the music but sometimes they all sit transfixed on the bandstand, hanging on every word I sing. It’s been a struggle to make ends meet lately, but I’m on my way to making this work. I still do play the streets when I have slow weeks, but I pick my street gigs for both profit and fun. There’s festivals to work here on the gulf too, and it’s all within a coupla’a hours or so of new orleans. With gas prices soaring, this has to be my choice hustle.
It is a shame though, that I have cultivated a circuit up in northern mississippi and memphis even that I can’t afford to drive to. I miss my commrads in clarksdale. I have venues in carrollton, oxford, rosedale and west point (mississippi) as well as potential spots in tuscaloosa, montgomery and memphis I just haven’t been able to get to. Luckily jackson (where I have three venues) is close enough that with careful booking, I might be able to hit jimmy “duck” holms “blue font café” in bentonia from time to time. He throws a great festival there in june I will elaborate on in another session.
August 10, 2008
I’m going to tell a story from the “satchmo summerfesr frenchman street pub crawl” that happened a week ago last night. There’s a moral and it’s a good one…..
So I had no idea the pub crawl was even happening. I didn’t even know it was louis’ b-day, and I do idolize him, of course. I was off on a Friday night and, as usual, lately, I like to work my frenchman street pitch in front of café brazil with the one man band. It feels good to work the street. It’s my roots, and every now again this spot has paid well. I was broke too; paid all my bills and I was up to zero once again, so I really wanted to work. I was coming down esplanade when I saw the first bandstand. When I turned on frenchman about 7pm there it was; the street was packed and barricaded. I was kinda psyched now. I pulled the van up to the barrier, got out, moved it aside, and quickly put it back after I crossed into the “no entry” zone. I parked the chevy in an illegal spot about ten yards from where I wanted to play, and as I got out was approched by a cop. He asked me if I moved the barrier, and I said “yes”, he said I wasn’t supposed to, and I told him Iwas a musician and needed to set up here. He smiled and nodded his approval and moved on. I love this shit………
Now, I waited three hours. The “rebirth brass band” had that corner and were just finishing up. Then there was a saxophone quartet doing modern jazz on a nearby balconey. The “blue nile” balconey was set up too (about half a football field away from me) and they were testing their loud ass soud system. I was frustrated now. This is my spot, the owner of the building loves when I play here, and I’m gonna play…….
After another forty minutes of loud (but realy hot and diversified) jazz ( I should note, this was defalo marsalis, not some cocktail shit) I decided to see if I could make money while they play. This is new orleans, and bands play next to each other all the time. We’re not real sensitive here about this; we have some thick skin here. So,I turned my 12 watt gibson les paul amp up and let go. I did get a little crowd even though I thought I was getting drowned out. So this middle aged guy come running up to me and yells “you can”t do this, are you crazy!” and I told him to call the police, I didn’t like his tone of voice. He yelled some more and I told him he was an asshole and I played this spot every Friday I was in town and “who are you?”. well, he was running the festival, and, I found out the next day, he was was the guy that hired the police! Anyway, the guy was really up set, and it was a marsailis
well, i will be in perigueux for the first half of august. they have a band there i will rehearse and then i do a tour that ends with the big festival. i will go and kick ass and they will have me back……….i’m doing jazz fest here in new orleans in april, the rosedale mississippi blues festival in may, and, in june, i do the t-bone walker blues festival in linden, texas (this is don henly’s home town, there are several talented famous musicians from this two stoplight town; they say there must be something in the water…….). the next day i do the bentonia mississippi blues fest (bentonia has the oldest blues festival in mississippi and is home to the skip james style of delta blues, which is the the most haunting sound i ever heard). these are all band gigs. this all sounds impressive and all, but i’m not exactly getting rich doing this (well, the french gig actually pays pretty well, but here in the states it’s “slim pickens” as they say..
I am staying on the top floor of an 800 year-old building and the sound of the rain on the roof is keeping me company. This is the house of stephane, who is responsible for bringing me here, and it is a magnificiant castle-like home with a charming courtyard right in the middle of downtown perigueux. This is my second day (my first full day) here and I feel like I’m in a movie. I had duck and a lovely potato, mushroom and garlic dish for dinner, lots of red wine and the pleasure of conversation with some very friendly and welcoming french folks. Last night was the same with a nice beef and grape dish and a picturesque gathering in the courtyard. My jet lag is almost non-existant and I’m ready to play some blues. I rehearsed today with my new friend and bandmate, herve, and, although we won’t have the full band all together until Monday, it’s all lookin’ good.
…………. It’s now time to get some sleep…………
the flight over was grueling but quite an adventure too. New orleans to detroit (with a rush to get on the detroit to amsterdam flight) was all about getting my les paul guitar on board and safe. The flight to amsterdam was about eight hours and an engineer working for the oil industry in arabia sat next to me. He hated his job and it showed. I needed to sleep. I had stayed up almost all night the eve of my departure on purpose so I would fall out at 10pm or so on the transatlantic flight. He wanted to keep me up. The xanax won though, and I was asleep by 11:00 which gave me about five hours of rest. I woke up to amsterdam airport. Groggy but anxious to retrive my guitar, I came to. Here I had a four hour lay-over so I found a semi-comfortable lounge chair and got a couple’a hours more sleep. Amsterdam airport is huge, with an art museum, internet cafés, gourmet food and lounges. I woke up, grabbed the les paul (I had the gig bag strap wraped around my leg while I slept; I ain’t no dummy) and headed to to gate to catch my connecting flight to bordeaux. At this point I realized how heavy my gig bag was, as I treked across this immense airport. I got to the gate with about 20 minuets to spare. I was feeling good about my air-travel competance. I reached for my new glasses; three hundred ten dollars they had cost me, with the musicians discount, vand it was worth every penny to be able to see again. Then I remembered: I left them where I slept, clear across the airport! I ran, with the gig-bagged guitar, knowing I was fairly likely to miss my plane. Hyper and covered in sweat, I made it through two passport stampings and a baggage checkpoint to arrive back at the gate seconds before the shuttle was to head out! “mr. Cohen” the woman said. “you made it”.
I am eating prosciotto, sundried tomato and “fromage” on a baggette and an amazingly good french raison pastry from the “patissire” twenty feet away from stephane’s front door.
Last night was the first gig and it went spectacularly. We rehearsed the day before in stephane’s living room and I was surprised and impressed with the band’s ability to groove my material. Phillipe “the doctor”eliez is the drummer. He listens close and plays stripped-down shuffles, boogie and syncopated rock with both power and sublty. Julien “baby face” duboise is the bass player. Young, but experienced, he has frequented my favorite haunts in clarksdale, mississippi and new orleans and lays down econmical and driving blues bass. Herve Fernandez is the guitarist and leader of their band, “talk that talk”. He has been my interpreter and “handler‘ while I’ve been in perigueux. We worked out two guitar arrangements for my songs and he is a rare guitarist that dosen’t “crowd” my singing.
We played in the parking lot of a three hundred year old church, in the village of la roche chablis. To our left was the church terrace with a magnificent view of a wooded valley sparcely punctuated with colorful red-clay roofs. To our right was the streets of la roch chalais. The random, close placement of homes and buildings provided a rich reverberation for our music, and the audience of two hundred or so sat and listened attentivly. A great gig.
Yesterday I also took my first walk through the city of perigueux. I found a section of town known as the “pettite rues” which is a alley-like maze of “streets” adjacent to the cathedral of “saint front”, all of which dates back to the twelth century. The stone streets are lined with café’s, shops, restaurants and bars and surround an open market in a center courtyard. This like nothing we have in the u.s. the cathedral is, of course, a post-crusade monument to human perserverence. It is about a football field of area and maybe eighty or a hundred feet of height inside. There are two domes and half dozen arches in this “L” shaped structure. There is a slight, not unpleasent musty smell. There are fantastic sculptures on just about every wall. my favorite depicts a holy man being wrapped in a cloth by winged cherubs for his flight to heaven. The look on the angel’s faces is of love and admiration and reminds me of the way stephane’s girfriend bridgette looks at her children. On the priest’s robe, the tassles are depicted with such life-like detail it gives me chills when I think about it. I can only imagine before electicity, by candlelight, how much more awe-inspiring all this must have been………
Monday 8/10/09 7am
It was a day off yesterday, so I made my gumbo for my new friends here in perigueux. I was worried it wouldn’t be authentic. the french herbs and the sausage are a little different (but all fresh, not dried) and there’s no file powder here, of course, but it was a big hit. Served with some great wine I was very happy and stephane and his gang showed much love.
Thursday’s show was fine musically but there were some problems with the “cine passion” movie people and it was kind of a low point (not for me, I was very glad and happy that the band sounded so good). We have a guy, mark, who’s made these real nice, well produced post-katrina new orleans documentaries featuring mardi gras indians and a lot of my musician commrades. He plays moody acoustic music live as a soundtrack for this. Well, we were running a little late and the movie people basicly started the feature film and simply cut him off. Very rude! Stephane was pissed and it wasn’t pretty.
The gig was in a quite little town, neuvic sur’isle. This town has a place in history as a hotbed of french resistance against the nazis during wwII. Actually, the whole region of dordogne (where I am) is known for this. Herve told me a story of his girlfriend Sylvie’s grandfather losing his life while successfully disabling a nazi supply train. Herve’s Grandfather , actually from spain, was shot fighting the occupation in both spain and france and viciously hated the nazi regiume. As I sat in a sidewalk café, surrounded by the classic stone buildings of neuvic, drinking wine and listening to these stories, I could clearly visuallize what the fighting must have looked like.
Friday was a different story completely. It was the incredibly charming and bustling town of le buge that hosted us, and what amazing hosts they were! Le buge is filled with beautiful architecture and winding stone streets dating back as far as the twelth century. We setup outside a modest but incredibly elegant restaurant owned by the most welcoming couple. Set amist a picturesque alley lined with homes, some of which that look like small castles, I felt like I was in a movie once again. The artist Isabelle Jocopin is from here. She splits her time between new orleans and le buge and is know for her beautiful depictions of mardi gras indians and crescent city second line musicians. Before all of the shows there are dinner festivities which include wine and delightful cuisine. This night it was a short visit to herve’s dad’s house for a red chateau villers de la faye and some conversation, and then dinner at Isabelle’s rooftop patio ajoining her studio. Next, more wine, of course, and one of the most receptive crowds I’ve ever had the chance to play for. A night I will never forget!
Next it was mussidan. This was a fine gig with a smaller but very appreciative crowd. The director of the program was a friendly down to earth fellow named eric. Lager was already flowing as we pulled up to the event, and, although rather plain after the standard set by le buge, mussidan had a warm intimate feeling and eric’s great vibe.i should describe the dinner because it is a perfect example of why I love this place. Two picnic benches were pushed together with porceline and silver settings for this family style meal. There were two loaves of sliced bread and carafes of both water and red wine at either end of the table. First, a loaf of the most delicious foie-gras was passed around, and next, roast pork, melon, pickles and a rice salad were offered. The carafes were emptied and filled several times and the chatter of two or three neighboring conversations gave a warm feeling to this gathering. Finally, eric produced a fruit salad and fine brie to finish off this satifying feeding. I can’t eat a lot before I sing and, although I didn’t notice, eric took note of this. Upon completion of the show, I was led to a fifteenth century “club room” where I was sat down with a dupliction of the earlier spread. I couln’t help but to unselfconciously partake as we discussed the history of this ‘club room” and drank wine.
Friday august 21, 2009
I’m sitting in my bedroom in new orleans feeling both fulfilled and a little sad. I made a lot of friends in perigueux, and I miss them. My adventure made a strong impression on me, one I will not forget. On the table here, as I write, sits a large french dictionary and other assorted french language learning tools. I look over the photographs time and time again. I think about my room on the top floor of stephane’s house. I think about the dance party we had in stephane’s music room. The dinner in mussidan. The pattisserie next door. Drinking cofee in the morning in the garden. I love my new orleans, but I’m not thinking that now; I left a part of me in perigueux.
Tuesday the eleventh it was cine passion and ‘19th street red” again, this time in the historic village of st. amand de coly. A cathedral more than twice as old as the united states towers over a marketplace very familiar to me. I’ve seen this before all over america. Hardworking artisans, cooks, and entertainers trying to separate tourists from their money. Only this was an old world european version I’ve only seen in my imagination and movies. A table with a field of olives, peppers and garlic in oils caught my eye as I walked towards the cathedral for some pics. The smell of rotisserie chicken made me hungry.
There was a long debate about exactly where we should play. it was decided, not without a little heated conversation, we would setup right next to the crepe vendor. These woman had customers leaning across the table shouting orders over the blues, but they didn’t seem to mind. The people came here to see the cathedral and eat this food, not to see the blues. I knew this crowd. it’s not unlike the streets hustle; persistance is how to get ‘em. I worked it hard, first getting some children dancing, and then layin’ down some jewtown style clowning (cabotinage is a french word for this, I believe). As the sun set, the wine soaked crowd came around. We ate grilled steak and rillettes de canard. They will remember me.
Wendnesday was my first gig in perigueux. It was a block party in the repas quartier. A neighboorhood party. Lots of wine and the whole crew from stephane’s helped loosen this up. At this point the band knew the drill. I had broken in about twenty-two songs, and we did about fifteen for each show, so at this point I’d just call ‘em and they knew ‘em. We were a well-oiled machine. Thiery’s girlfriend karine helped sell cd’s. Lambchops and foie gras was served. A great time for all.
By thursday the realization that my tour of duty in perigueux was winding down was becoming real. I was in my element here. I was playing every night, and every day was all about being at 110% for showtime. This is what I do. Each show had been different and each show was a conquest. Tonight’s was no exception. We played in the street across from the great cathedral, “saint front”. There were two sets, raymond, the regular singer of my back-up band “talk that talk” did the first. I sat and watched. I knew the next night was the big festival, and I even started thinking maybe I would just do a couple’a songs and say “bonne nuit”. No, that’s not what I did. Raymond was a tough act to follow and I love a challenge. More “cabotin” clowning and lots of dirty guitar licks put me over, and I was satisfied. Later that night I sang “bye bye blackbird” with the “new orleans z’hulus” and finally got to bed about 4:30am.
Friday was finally here. The big gig on the big stage. I really do prefer intimate settings. The vocal never sounds quite right through the big stage monitors somehow. I like to be close to my audience, and it always seems like they’re a mile away. The set went well. I stepped off the stage during “sadie” and we did a killer “daddy was a jockey”. Harmonica on my original, “love my baby” went well and “I asked for water”, “do the do” and “she’s fine” conjured the “wolf”. “Misery” and “something to remember you by” offered the crowd some gritty new orleans rhythm and blues, and, “it’s raining” was a long one with both herve and I taking extended solos. The paper had me on the front page in color the next day with a black and white photo of the band looking out into the crowd. I had done it and it was time to celebrate. Walter Washington layed it down to close out the night. Babyface’s dad was playing later at the bar so off we were for more fun and vin rouge. I hit a note with the band, drank real good wine and kissed a beautiful girl. Fulfillment……
Sunday was the rap up party at barnabe, which is a large waterfront café known for it’s atmosphere. Champagne, more foie gras, and wine was the fare, and music was the highlight. A real tight austin texas/thunderbirds/jump blues style band with a female vocalist was featured and we all jammed. I did john lee hooker’s “boom boom” by request and ended with a slow blues to say goobye to perigueux. It was way too soon that I was on an airplane back home…….
My second trip to france…….
The first part of my stay in perigueux was centered around working out parts with herve for the upcoming recording project. There was wine and food and socializing, of course, but this trip is very different than the last. I am here to record an album and there is a lot of work to do. There is one gig in the three weeks I am here, and it is two days before my departure. There are numerous dinners and rendevous with the friends I connected with in august, but this trip feels more serious………
October 29, 2009,
The first day at john paul’s studio in chateau lavec. It is beautiful here, set back in the woods, with a cozy 19th century home, beautifully renovated, and an adjoining building housing the small studio. Patricia, john paul’s wife, is alive with excitement about the project. Each day she prepared a lovely midday meal for the group. Thursday it was pasta and a fresh apple pie dessert. Friday it was a beef stew. Saturday, pork roast and le pom de terre (potatoes). Monday was the most delicous omlette I have ever tasted. Extrordinary meals, each with wine, pate or rillettes, bread, salad, fromage (cheese), dessert and espresso. Hardly your average treatment.
The band is the same as the dordogne shows here in august. Herve “bluebird” fernandez on guitar, julien “babyface” deboise on bass and phillip “the doctor” eliez on the drums. Except for two rehersals earlier in the week we have not played together since then and we are barely ready for this. herve and I had a chance to sit down with john paul earlier this week. We listened to my cd “street dog” and i layed out the concept for this recording.
So the first thing was to get a “sound”. I explained to john paul the microphone technique I like to use, and, to my surprise, he wanted to learn about this and give it a try. It is a system where I have one point stereo micing for the band (in an m/s pattern) and the instruments and amplifiers have to be physically moved to balance the level and equilization of each individual musician. After five tiring hours of experimentation, we got a really great open, balanced, natural sound and we were ready to start the festivities.
It went well. there were setbacks, like a failed guitar reverb system that cost us a half a day of recordings (we re-recorded these, painfully) and some missed cues on some great performances, but overall, the project went smoothly. my telecaster gave me the best guitar sound yet on any of my cd’s. drenched with reverb and clean I stetched out on several tunes. We got some great results. Elmore james’ “roll and tumble, howlin’ wolf’s “wang dang doodle”, john lee hooker’s “maudie”, jimmy reed’s “that man down there” and lonesome sundown’s “she’s fine” are the covers and they all came to life. My “waiting blues”, “times’s up”, “why’d you have to do that”, “whiskey stole my baby”, “tell me something” and “it’s raining” are the originals and we nailed them all. This is a beautiful and powerful blues cd with fantastic sound quality. Success once again in france……………………….
July 4, 2010
I am staying just outside perigueux at my guitar player and french bandleader herve fernandez’s grandmother’s house. I have taken my labrador retriever, willie, to france with me, and he is loving this. And everyone is loving him too. We returned from our short tour of italy last Monday. I should turn the clock back a little further than that though, and start with my last gig’s in the u.s……..
Part one- a lot of traveling with very little sleep
My band and I left new orleans Thursday the 18th of june bound for linden, texas, and the fourth annual t- bone walker blues festival (my second appearance there). It went great. This year I focused on my original material (last year I payed hommage to t-bone with his daughter, bernita, in the very front row). The southern soul food was spectacular and the hospitality even better. We were provided with a rural farm house for our acommedations! A first for me; true pampering in the u.s.!! next, it was a 350 mile drive to the bentonia blues festival. I have played this festival five years in a row and this year I was schedualed for both a solo performance in the historic blue front café and a band performance opening for bobby rush on the large stage. It was blistering hot. I love this. The blue front solo performance was a highlight for me. My goldtop lespaul and my vintage oahu tube amp nailed that muddy waters guitar tone to a very hot but receptive crowd. Next it was the 250 mile drive back home to prepare for my flight to france. I spent all day rushing around to finalize my affairs. I had to drive my dog, willie, and i to atlanta to catch a direct flight to paris. I finally hit the road about 10pm and drove all night. The plan was to be so tired I couldn’t help but sleep on the plane. Unfortunatly, I got an aisle seat and couldn’t sleep a wink………
Part two-more traveling with very little sleep
I arrived in paris late and the baggage was even later. Herve was there to pick me up. He had already waited an hour and the fun was about to begin. I had been given wrong information about the where-abouts of my dog. Wrong information five times! It took us about four more hours and finally willie could relieve himself after 17 hours in his crate! He did not have an “accident”, I should add. GOOD BOY!! Ok, then it was the six and a half hour drive back to perigueux. With about five hours of sleep, we hit the road for livorno, italy the next afternoon (0ver 1000 kilometers)……….
Part three-traveling in europe with very little sleep
My good friend roberto luti and his father paolo were there to greet us in livorno. What a great evening! My first time in italy, it is very different than france. You saw this immediately in the archetecture upon crossing the border. the nightlife is boisterous and loud. The woman are sexy and stylish in a flamboyant way. Huge parmesian rounds looked like artillary shells stacked on shelves in a delicacy shop that offered salami and smoked meats as well as cheese. Paolo was great. He showed us around and brought us to the right places to stock up on italian commodities. With olive oil, balsamic vinegar, many types of meats, a selection of cheeses, fresh vegetables and of course, a stash of wine, we felt like marco polo gathering treasures from the east. We played a two hour set in cozy club called “bodeguita” there in livorno to an audience that sat and listened attentivly. The owner, giovanni, asked us to come back whenever we wanted. With little sleep, we were off early to our festival gig in torrita. We were greeted by the festival promoter, luca. A smiling man with a warm sincere embrace, he is a blues lover. I knew immediately this was going to be good. We threw down. I was cabotin. I jumped off the stage and played to the incredibly receptive audience. My original tunes were the faire and I even played my ballad “tell me something, do you miss me”, and we were loved. They had us play twenty minutes over, very rare at any festival, and I sold 60 cd’s. a huge sucsess!! We are already receiving inquireries for next summer’s italian festivals……
…….so back in france, we played a beautiful room in bordeaux and I’ve enjoyed the some fine hospitality from my friends here, and finally I am getting some sleep!!!……….
(please excuse my spelling, I will have to correct it later)
right now I am preparing for “blues passions cognac”, one of the biggest festivals in france and the biggest performance on this tour. But let me catch up……….upon returning to france I was greeted with several dinners and lunchons, which is a good reason to come back to france. For those of you unfamiliar with this ritual, I will explain. Usually these dinners are about 5 or six courses, starting with a selection of wine, saucisone (sausage,salami) and/or pate. Rillettes or foir gras, which can be made from canard (duck), goose or pork. Acompanied by pain (bread), these are often homemade, but the canned and packaged varieties are excellent also. My favorite of these is the rillettes. It is a little bit like our southern style “pulled pork” in that the meat is cooked until very tender and then “pulled” along the grain so as to be stringy and tender. I personally prefer the canard (duck). Accompanied by the ever-present social catalyst, wine, this is a perfect start for a good time. Next, maybe there wil be some melon. Now, we call this melon cantalope, but here it is simply called “melon”. It is slightly different than in the states, and probably a little more robust and aweet. Sometimes served with salt and pepper, I find this to be a perfect way to freshen the palate after the strong tasting pates and salami…….. Ok, here comes the main course. Usually this is some kind of meat and pomme de terre (potatoes) or pates (pasta) this course can be fancy or simple. So far on this trip I’ve been treated to a great stewed rabbit dish (with a very nice balsamic vinegar flavor), stewed beef , marinated lamb barbeque, roasted and pan grilled canard, salmon, anduillette (not like our anduille, this is a sausage of chitterlins, and was served at lunch), meat sauce and pasta, grilled sausage and more. With the stewed meat, we had a french delicassy, “truffs”, which was offered with a metal grater so as to be directly apply this to your pasta. These can sell for 1000 euros a kilo!! People are shot stealing truffs.……. Now, the whole time the coversation and wine are flowing and probably hours have passed………
next is the salad and frommage (cheese). Now this is cause for a story unto itself. I am not an expert and I don’t claim to be, but here is a short synopsis. Frommage here is about 15% the cost of what it is in the us. What this means is that for a couple of euros, you can buy a chunk of really excellent camanbert, brie, rochefort, gryaere, cabecou and many more varieties of frommage. Some are very strong. What happens is there is a plate of cheeses prepared and passed around table. Every self-respecting household has a container with a treasure of frommages in the refrigerator. Some of these are made with unpasturized milk and have a taste unlike anything I have found back home. It is a favorite part of the meal for me, because after the main course, there is still a lot of eating to do…….. following this, there may be a course of fruit, or the fruit may be combined with dessert. Glace (ice cream) and bisquits (biscotti) served with a parfait of perfectly ripened peaches were the faire at Saturday’s dinner. finally, really good café (coffee) like in san francisco coffee houses is served and the wine continues to flow. Sometimes some liqueur (cognac) is found on the table as well. ……..I know this sounds like a huge mountain of edibles, but in dordogne there is no shortage of delicious meals, and no one seems to over eat. Insecurity about the next good meal doesn’t exist here………….
today’s dejeuner (lunch) was simple. salad with fresh butter lettuce, vine ripened tomatoes, a crude (raw milk) cheese and smoked sliced canard (duck meat) was the main faire. a frommage plat with a crude camenbert from normandie and a roquefort (bleu cheese), along with fresh pain campagne (french bread) and a modest bergerac wine complete this light and healty repas (meal).
In a letter to my friend john:
as for willie, everybody loves him and he is as happy here as i’ve ever seen him. we have a huge yard and i take him almost everywhere. sometimes i have a car i can use and that makes it easier. he is still deathly afraid of storms and did chew up a piece of a wall. he was responsible for destroying a vintage jensen speaker while in a storm induced zombie state. and last night, while i was playing this gig in a one-bar village, he actually unlocked a window in the van and slid it open to escape and join the party (with almost no damage to anything!). i have trouble opening this window!! really, he’s ready for the circus, and you might ask about a tv show for him while you’re in la…………..
back in chancelade. Paris was a blast. We arrived Friday evening; the gig was Saturday night, so we had aome time to kill. We had a flat in bastille for two nights, so we were right in the middle of a lot of action. The man who brought me here, both this year and last, is denis leblond. A real friendly and accessable cat, you wouldn’t think of him as “music business”. He has a company called “tempo spectacle” and I look forward to working with him in the future….. So, he took us straight to a bistro and we enjoyed the beautiful atmosphere and good food. I will say this, though: after being in dordogne for 6 weeks, I think I’ve experienced food in a way that even paris is hard pressed to compete with. I had a nice salad with sliced chicken flavored with cardamon and a curry-like spiced dressing. Everyone else had a beef dish smothered in onions and served medium rare. After dinner we jumped in to denis’, car and he gave me a tour of some famous paris spots. Here were the sights I had seen many times in movies and photos, but now I was in the movie. The champs elysees, the grand palais, the arc de triomphe, the louvre, la mairie (sensational! With some incredible ornate stonework framing every window and door, it is the most ornate public building I’ve ever seen!), the concord and the prefecture were a few of the sites that came to life for me.
Back to bastille and a late night walk for me, solo. Two blocks from our flat, there is a short street named “rue de lapp”. Around a hundred years ago this was a very rough and musicaly significant neighborhood. The home of the metal works industry for bars and restaurants in bastille, by the early 20th century, the bretons and the avergnats established bars on this block. the apaches (a notorious and rough “gang” of hoodlems named after the native american tribe) brought their style and debachery here. When the italians brought their diatonic and later their keyboard accordians, a vital form of parisian music was born. Well, now this is over and thr rue de lapp is a hip hangout for nightlife; kind of a “bourbon street” in the bastille……. A sandwich in a rowdy middle eastern late night concession, a chat with a beautiful french woman and sleep were the finale of my first night in paris……..
Saturday, after a café and a feuillette du pomme (coffee and apple pastry) I set out to “le marche aux puces”. This is a flea market where “gypsy jazz” guitarists can be found playing and jamming together in an informal setting. On a Saturday night these guys might be doing high dollar concerts, but on Sunday, they congregate here and lay down their magnificiant “manouch” vibe. Well, unfortunatly, the train had a technical problem and I had to abort. I decided to check out street performing possibilities in the “montmartre” (pigalle) area and the “sacre coeur”.
I arrived back at the flat just in time to rush a shower and head out to “the new morning”, a famouse night club and our reason for being here. This is one of the seven gigs where I am the opening act for spencer bohren. With an exceptional and unique sound on the electric lap steel guitar, some tasty new orleans r&b and a couple of originals, his is a great set. Now, I have been an opening act a few times in my career, but these shows are limited in duration and my portion of the show was usually 20 or 30 minutes. This is very hard for me. My game plan is a few short fast tunes with different rhythmic feels and then hit ‘em with my originals, “avenue boogie”, “it’s raining” and “tell me something”. At the new morning, I it worked like a charm. I must admit, I did want to play more, but a couple of glasses of bergerac later, my axiety was quelled. a great reception at an important gig…………
Sunday morning, as usual, I was the first to rise. A café and I was off to the bastille farmer’s market. As I entered the park, the sound of accordian music and the sent of french cooking filled the air. An amazing display of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, seafood and crafts were before me, with over a hundred venders offering the high quality goods. I missed my chance to see manouch music the day before, so I was instantly attracted to this romainian accordian player. After observing and listening to him for a while I approached him. He might have thought I was an authority or something, because he immediately whipped out his identification for me. I tried to explain I was a musician but he was too busy drinking cognac to listen to my very bad french. So, I stood there and enjoyed some very good beef bourgnione while I enjoyed this mix of eastern european, jazz and italian music. Tres bon!!………………more adventures to come………
As my airplane lifted off the runway in paris, I couldn’t help but question my priorities in life. I didn’t want to leave. It will be a lot of work to return. New orleans didn’t seem very attractive. And I still didn’t have a drummer for my gig in lafayette. I don’t like being on an airplane, and I was already feeling depressed. As I drove from the airport in atlanta towards new orleans, the endless shopping centers and industrial restaurants didn’t help. At least, when I arrived at my home I felt comfort in the oak trees and my hardwood floors. But this feels like a compromise. I looked at cheeses at the supermarket, and I felt like a gambler stepping up to the roulette wheel about to lose his money.
I had an all-new band for my gig at the apple barrel Wednesday night. They started out cold but it ended up being a great night. Now I am in austin and I played two long, hot and profitable days on the street. Everyone really loves my music. I feel confident something good is going to happen.
Tonight we had a dinner. For an american dinner, it was excellent. The main dish was a beef stew with barley and cooked in beer. I followed with some raw sheep cheese from savoie (cru frommage francais pour les texans!) and a nice 2006 bordeaux. a friend prepared a triple chocolste cake with strawberries.
…………It was good to spend time with you. … of course, I look forward to our conversation, but I also look forward to seeing what clothes you are wearing.
Tonight I went out to “the broken spoke”
About September 19 2017
I arrived in new orleans around new year’s day, 2003. Maybe it was January 2nd, and, my first foray into busking on royal street, when lissa driscoll and Roberto luti stumbled upon me. They thought I was someone else. They kinda dug what I was doing, and when I was finished, I strolled down a block and caught their act. I dug it, of course. i think lissa was singing frankie and johnnie, and I really noticed roberto’s vibrato and phrasing. I was quite impressed. We became fast friends; we’d gather after our daily sets at the saint phillip house, drink red wine, and tell stories, and we were musicians. This is what drew me to this scene. You always knew there would be music. We lived music. There was stoney b. there was Roberto. There was augie. There was grayson. We all played differently, but we all played. Lissa was the centerpiece. She was the glue that held this work together. She could tell stories forever. And, she could listen. She had a viewpoint for everything; sometimes softly compassionate or aligned, and sometimes vehemently and outspokenly opposed. She always had something interesting to say or point out. You could just sit there quietly and watch her like she was a movie. she was a certain kind of mesmerizing. There were fights. Sooner or later, everyone would ruffle someone else’s feathers. There might even be some pack mentality, where someone would be ganged up on. I always felt that it was a view, or opinion that was being attacked, never (or almost never) the person. There was a certain sense of subscribing to a higher wisdom, wherever it might come from. If someone was in a foul or irritable way, it was tolerated as part of being human until it impeded whatever good was happening that day. Somehow, the whole time, it was all about the music.
There were always dogs. I had two at the time, Bessie and Dinah. Roberto’s pup, Katerina, was always looking to be the boss. And there was lissa’s old pup casey, he was there too, right? There were mice. It was a zoo.
Then there was the food! Man, there were some great dishes cooked in that kitchen. Lissa’s pork stew (Roberto mentioned this earlier), roast chicken and potatoes, chile, gumbo, roasted vegetables, cowboy coffee; always adventure here. This reminds me of something lissa used to say to me; you see, I prefer wild meats to the farmed animals we usually have. Well, here I was, tarnishing the arrival of that evening’s roast with my banter, and she objected, “no, randy, this was a very happy chicken that had many little chicks and lived a long happy life filled with love”, and then: “now shut up and eat!” …….It went something like that, anyway.
Wwoz was there cooking along with whatever was on the stove, and we spent countless hours and drank countless bottles of wine in this atmosphere of truth, friction, love and music.
We didn’t smoke much weed there, we didn’t need to.
….So, I am writing this to the musicians. Lissa had a magic that wouldn’t let you lie to yourself about why you were there; you were there because you were possessed by music; and this woman, she wouldn’t let you forget it!
I saw lissa about three weeks ago. She was at peace with her situation it seemed to me. Since katrina, we hadn’t hung around much. In the last two years or so, we’d re-kindled our friendship and I saw her a handful of times. When she went to see her mother a year or so ago, she called and asked me to come and get her little bay leaf tree because she didn’t want anything to happen to it. Why me? I don’t know. She was weak then, too, but she was tough, and every time I saw her in these last months, she shared a big helping of love. Whenever we’d see each other, we ended our visits with a long, undenying embrace. Really, to hold someone, and to feel them, is a special thing in life. Lissa was (and,well, is…) a fully generous soul. She has given me, and, I think, all who read this, a huge helping of the good stuff………
September 28, 2017
i remember the first time i arrived in france, august 2009. it was my first time out of the united states. i had a bad cold, and when i have a cold, dairy products, such as cheese, are not good for my condition. everyone likes cheese, and, of course, i did too, and i saw the brie, and other fromages i knew nothing about, and i, of course, wanted to eat them, but i knew it wasn’t good for me. when i came back, in october 2009, to make the “wine, woman and the blues” cd, my friend evelyne took me to the lidl to find some food i could enjoy, and we, naturally, picked out some cheese. roquefort and brie. that was all i knew. well, that was it! in the morning, with my coffee, strange as it sounds, i love the cheeses. especially the blue cheese with the coffee. when i came back the following summer, i stayed with herve fernandez, and that’s when i really started to learn. dordogne’s chevre cabecou was a favorite. and the fourme d’ambert as well as epoisses and blu d’avergne, and cantel. i even found a blue chevre au lait cru made in dordogne. i think the woman i bought it from made it herself…. well, later i met the woman of my life, stella. she grew up in bellagio, on lake como, and right next to the valtallina valley. casera, bitto, scimudin and a gorgonzola type made with “capra” (goat) milk were favorites. also other italian cheeses, the pecorino tuscana and pecorino sardo, the mozzarella buffala, and the parmegano reggiano were plentiful. there is a little trattoria on the mountain side near our house in bellagio that makes small “caprini stagionato” cylinders that are entirely green on the rind. they would bring pitchers of this fresh kinda shit wine they always had and invariably give me a few caprino to take home. i would later let these sit out for a couple of hours with a bottle of old chiante, and then, i could really savor this simple pleasure…. so i am spoiled. stella will be coming back to new orleans in a few days. she will bring shoes, italian fashions and formaggio…thanks, you guys, this all started with you, my friends in france………..