Austin Soul

Independence Brewing Company’s Austin Amber
and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Soul to Soul

A pairing for National Drink Beer Day. Although it’s the first year I’ve heard about it, I did indeed indulge in some local craft beer to celebrate this year along with another local love, some Stevie Ray Vaughan. The Austin Amber is made right here in Austin, right off of Todd Lane close to where I used to live in town by Amy and Rob Cartwright at Independence Brewing Company.

The Amber is a yummy brew top to bottom. The brewers quote, “A beer as laid back as Austin, our American Amber is smooth and refreshing.  The specialty malts lend caramel sweetness while American hops add balance and a crisp finish that will have you tipping that glass up for more.”

Austin Amber Stats

Style: American Amber
Alcohol by volume: 4.8%
Original Gravity: 12°
Bitterness units: 32
Yeast: American Ale/Chico
Hops: Nugget, Cascade
Malts: American Two-Row, Belgian Special B, Caramel 20, Chocolate
Availability: Year Round, Draft & 6-packs
Food Pairing: BBQ pork, grilled salmon, roasted chicken, burgers

Soul to Soul is one of those albums that I first only ever heard on CD and quite frankly, I never really thought the album sounded that great. Turns out it was just the digital rendering that didn’t do this particular album justice. When I finally heard this album on vinyl my opinion of it changed drastically.

Truly the CD sounds terrible compared to the quality of the analog mastering done when this puppy went to vinyl. It’s a night and day difference and another great case for vinyl’s superiority.

Bringing these two Austin classics together made for a pleasurable Texas evening of sounds and suds to wash back the week with. Signing off from Austin! Cheers!

Santana Especial

Santana (1969) and a chilled Cerveza Modelo Especial (1925)

Tonight we break away from the wine for some tasty suds from Mexico. Modelo Especial is truly a wonderful cerveza to accompany with a meal or just to sip on and hang out listening to vinyl with. This evenings vinyl is one of the all time greats and still my go-to Santana album of choice.

The 1969 debut album from Santana is classic jam from start to finish. Every track has “legacy of rock” written all over it. “Evil Ways”, the second single taken from the album, was a U.S. Top 10 hit and the album peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 pop album chart.

At a rather surprising event I attended last year here in Austin, at the Four Seasons Hotel, I was treated to an acoustic piano performance by Gregg Rolie (keyboards and vocals on this album) who performed the song “Treat” from this album among other wonderful songs in the hotel lobby. Talk about blown away! Gregg is a phenomenal musician and even though his name may not be a household name, everyone that knows “Evil Ways” or “Black Magic Woman”, certainly knows his voice. I can’t imagine this album without Gregg on the keys and vocals, his contribution along with Carlos’s guitar work, made for one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time.

While Carlos has made many great albums since this one, it’s my opinion that this album truly represents the initial spark, the breath of life if you will, that set the Santana train in motion that continues to this day. This album embodies the hunger of a young and eager rock band just as many debut albums do.

It is primal soul music with a rocking latin groove that gets your body moving and truly makes you yearn for a cold beer and a warm summer night.

Break open a Modelo and let’s have a toast!
As we break into fall, here’s to the summer’s end and to another fall season that is upon us. As the nights get colder and the winter approaches, I have no doubt there will be many a hot toddy pairing on the horizon. Keep your needle in the groove and the spirits responsibly indulged and appreciated my friends!

Stay Frosty!!

Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth & A “Frosty” Monks’ Ale

“Made with care and made with prayer” is the writing on this Ale’s packaging and indeed I’ve been praying for this album release since around 1986! Finally, a follow-up to “1984” that rivals any and all of the Diamond Dave era releases. Yep, I said it and I went there! This album has the same spirit and energy as their debut album when it came out in 1978. Containing elements of “Women and Children First” as well as “Fair Warning”, many would say this is because most of these songs were written back then. To that I say, who gives a shit when the songs were written! Did you listen to this album! In my opinion, this album is a breath of fresh air that has reignited my memories of youth and the spirit of rock and roll from days gone by.

Van Halen, you either love them or you hate them. When I heard the first single “Tattoo” I was honestly not expecting much from this release. What I truly discovered was that it was I that had changed and that I just wasn’t relating to the old Van Halen spirit anymore; that is until I had heard the entire album. Once I did, everything was back as it should be. It was as if a chapter of my life, finally had some sort of resolution. Upon the second playing of the album, I actually thought “Tattoo” was a pretty cool song. Still, it is probably the weakest song on the album but the fire that burns throughout the rest of this release, more than makes up for whatever may or may not be lacking from the lead off single. For the record (no pun intended) every time I hear the song “Tattoo” I like it a little bit more than the last time I heard it.

Deciding on the pairing for this album was fairly obvious. It’s not an album you want to sit back with a glass of wine to, it’s instead an album that needs a cold beer in a frosty mug and preferably a beach to go with it.

Van Halen has always been good time California Rock and Roll, nothing more and nothing less. Anyone trying to read anything more into it than that truly doesn’t understand where this band is coming from. So based on this, I went with the “Stay Frosty” theme and paired the album with a Monks’ Ale and a bowl of rice. Anyone that has already heard the song “Stay Frosty” will get this immediately. David Lee Roth is about 85% attitude and about 15% vocal and songwriting talent. Without the attitude he wouldn’t write what he does and it surely wouldn’t have the lighthearted wit about it that Dave’s contribution has always had. I truly missed him, there Dave, I said it and I said it like I meant it! 😉 They are a band that has the jovial off the cuff spirit and vibe of a 1920’s ragtime quartet (think “Big Bad Bill”) wrapped up in a monstrous locomotive called rock and roll. Van Halen music is music that never takes itself too seriously and is always about having a good time and enjoying life.

The Monks’ Ale is a smooth and creamy ale a bit on the pale side but not so pale that it avoids a rich body and silky follow-up. It’s more of a flavorful and full-bodied red ale that’s not so heavy as to weigh you down like you’ve eaten a loaf of bread. lol Actually made by Benedictine monks in New Mexico, all proceeds truly benefit the monastery!

I pre-ordered this vinyl the day the album was released and one of the coolest things about this pre-order was that you were able to also download the digital album immediately upon purchasing the pre-order! I downloaded the high-resolution mp3’s and straight away burned a couple of CD’s of the album, one for the car and one for the house. Having the digital version for a few months before the vinyl was released allowed me some time to get used to the material and know what was coming down the pipe once the vinyl arrived at the door.

I think this is a stellar way for the music industry to operate. Pre-ordering of the physical product in advance and upon ordering you get the portable digital version. The record label then knows how many to print, they have the money in advance to print it and the consumer gets to hear the music immediately, which is evidently what we all love about our digital music; immediate gratification. Even if it is a vague representation of the final product. 😉

Yet again, as I’ve been preaching allot lately, the mp3 version is nothing compared to the wealth of sonic information that is contained on the 180 gram double red vinyl. The intelligibility of what is going on is 1000% improved on the vinyl edition of this album. As with any and every album, vinyl is truly the preferred way to actually hear 100% of the music that the musicians are playing and the words that the singer is singing. Vinyl brings a natural clarity to the audio that allows the material to be represented without digital artifacts. Essentially, the vinyl absorbs sound waves much as our ears do, depending on pressure and amplitude, not one’s and zero’s.

Vinyl itself is a different kind of truth that I truly hope more and more people remember and return to or even discover for the first time. The younger generation is truly finding it out for themselves and I think this is a big reason for the resurgence in vinyl sales. It’s not just the older generations longing to reminisce; it’s the 15 to 20 year olds that have always driven music sales and they still do. Vinyl is no exception to this.

This blog is but one way I hope to remind and teach that truly wonderful recordings are still being produced today. There are tons of awesome albums coming out every year, it’s just that the end user’s playback format has degraded to the point that everything sounds somewhat lifeless. Still people say that the talent pool has degraded over the years and that this is what is wrong with the industry today. Baloney. I believe it is the extremely low quality of internet media that has degraded todays musical experience. There’s much more going on in your brain than one may realize when you’re listening to music. Digital media tens to fatigue the ears way more quickily than live or analog sources.

There is still an immense talent pool of musicians out there producing great music but the problem is that it’s rarely truly heard the way music “back in the day” was heard. CD was and is certainly light years better but it was made to create a compact format that now, the mp3 has blown out of the water.

Streaming media over the internet will never compare to an analog groove that was made by sound waves melting into vinyl. Period. I’m not saying streaming media doesn’t still have its place for marketing purposes but If you truly want to enjoy a bit of quality music listening from time to time, I highly recommend you reinvest (or invest for the first time) in a turntable that you can plug into your existing home entertainment system. You will not regret it!

Until next time, “Stay Frosty” everyone!! – John

Get it On!


T-Rex Electric Warrior and Blue Moon in a can! Life’s a Gas!
Another Hipgnosis work of art.

Electric Warrior released September 24, 1971, is the sixth album by British rock group T. Rex, and is widely considered to be one of the quintessential glam rock releases. Electric Warrior reached number thirty-two in the US; it went to number one for several weeks in the UK, becoming the biggest album of 1971