Author Archives: danolofohman

…Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in Stockholm ruled.

While following his career from the 70´s and onward, I do think that I know a thing or two about the art of Nick Cave. From the early attempts through the barely contained chaos of The Birthday Party, Nick Cave has forged an impressive artistic arch crafted from a few basic ingredients. One of them being the consistenly wonderful band “The Bad Seeds”, which has always been the coolest group of musicians around. While the Seeds has seen significant changes in personel through the years, they are still a peerless collective of contemporary players doing what they do best. The loss of Blixa Bargeld was hard, but not in any way detrimental to the overall sound. The change of artistic muse from Mick Harvey to Warren Ellis made things different but not necessarily worse. I´ve never ever seen anyone other than Ellis play the violin like Jimi Hendrix played the guitar.

Following a long series of extremely good and well crafted albums, I thought Nick Cave had a dip in production quality from 2001´s “No more shall we part” to 2008´s “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!”. “Push the sky away” from 2013 re-established the earlier focus and the songwriting continued to evolve. A truly remarkable album again centering Cave on the contemporary musical scene. The intensity of these songs made the follow-up “Skeleton Tree” initially feel a bit weak, at least to my ears during the first probably somewhat unfocused listenings. But this is definitely an album that grows on you, and is by now one of my absolute favourites by Cave.

The concert at Globen Arena in Stockholm on the 18th of October was my third time seeing Nick Cave live, but the first one backed by the Bad Seeds. And what a concert it was! A lot of the songs played was of course from the two latest albums, but here in even more beautiful and moving form. Nick singing extremely well and the band being as precise as only the Bad Seeds can be, going from beautiful piano balladry to absolute mayhem at the blink of an eye. Great versions of many of the old classics was also generously spread through the show – “From her to eternity”, “Tupelo”, “The ship song”, “The weeping song”, “The mercy seat”, “Red right hand” and more.

After finishing the show and being enthusiastically clapped in again, the band performed a scorching version of “Stagger Lee” that will not be easily forgotten. When the concert sadly had to end it was with a majestic final encore of “Push the sky away”, sung by Cave surrounded on the stage by at least a hundred audience members. I found it impossible not to walk away with a huge smile on my face. Truly a night to remember.

Advertisements

…Bourbon keeps being interesting – American whiskey tasting nr 11.

After forays into rye and malt whiskey, it´s time to return to Kentucky and a set of interesting bourbons.

Willett Pot Still Reserve, 94 proof (47%).

Willet pot still reserve

Coming from the Willett Distilling Company in Bardstown, Kentucky, we have yet another slightly convoluted backstory to this whiskey. The company was started in 1935 by Lambert Willett and several of his sons. After the death of Lambert his son Thompson took over responsibility of the company and served as president until 1984. Experience and knowledge of whiskey distillation went back much longer in the family, and their bourbons were made from family recipes from the late 19th century. In 1984 the facility was bought by Even G. Kulsveen, son-in-law of Thompson Willett, who together with his family runs the company today. Kulsveen renamed the company Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, initially bottling whiskey from existing reserves of barrels, since their own distilling facilities had been shut down in the beginning of the 1980´s. The company has since then been sourcing bourbon from other distillers, making a fairly large line of bottlings sometimes under fictitious company names. As of January 2012, the company again has distilling capabilities and is returning to calling themselves the Willett Distilling Company.

This particular whiskey is made from a distillate of unknown origin (even if the Heaven Hill distillery has been named as a suspect), and I´ve managed to find no information about the mash bill. Each bottle comes from a single barrel of new white oak, after having matured for 8 – 10 years. My particular one was number 67 of 110 from barrel number 7 077.

The whiskey shows a pleasantly glowing amber colour. On the nose you get a beginning of sweetness and vanilla, followed by some spice, orange peel and fleeting notes of eucalyptus. Neat in a tasting glass the mouthfeel is medium bodied with a light start of corn turning more complex in the middle, where wood, citrus and spice gives way to a fairly long finish dominated by oak. In a tumbler with ice you get notes of banana and chocolate both on nose and palate.

The bottle deserves special mention. A 1,75 liter giant formed as a pot still. Very unique and stylish and something I´m going to keep as a decanter. To sum it up, a very nice and complex whiskey that would be fun to try again sometime.

Jim Beam Black, 86 proof (43%).

Jim Beam Black

Here we have a producer with a long and winding history beginning in the late 18th century, after members of the Böhm family emigrated from Germany to Kentucky. Changing their name to Beam, seven generations has been involved in the distillation of Kentucky bourbon as well as being Master Distillers at the famous Heaven Hill Distillery. Later acquired by Japanese company Suntory, this is one of the giants in the whiskey business, with many different products in their inventory.

This variety of Jim Beam bourbon boasts of being triple aged, which means that it´s matured in barrels for 6 years, three times the requisite two year aging needed for the “straight bourbon” epithet. The version I´m writing about is for the international market, the US Jim Beam Black is actually aged for 8 years.

Deep amber colour. The nose shows corn, caramel, vanilla and some wood. Neat in a tasting glass there´s a start of caramel and vanilla, changing into toasted oak and spice in the middle which carries on into a short finish of slightly adstringent wood. In a tumbler with ice the wood on the nose becomes stronger, and the taste shifts into much sweeter vanilla and caramel notes, finishing on sweetness instead of oak. Not that much to say about the bottle, it´s instantly recognizable as Jim Beam and as such serves its purpose well.

In my opinion superior to their regular 4 year old bourbon. Very nice and smooth, balancing the usual bourbon sweetness with it’s somewhat dry, woody character. Nothing stellar, but competent and honest.

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 100 proof (50%).

Knob Creek Bourbon

Aiming at restoring bourbon to its pre-prohibition splendor, this drink goes a long way towards achieving its goal. The mash bill contains the 51% corn regulated by law, along with an undisclosed percentage of rye and malted barley. Pure, limestone-filtered water together with a proprietary yeast strain is used during fermentation, and “set back” (mash from previous distillations) is added twice at different stages of production. It´s then double distilled and aged for 9 years in heavily charred barrels of new American oak, at an initial proof of 125. For the finished bottle a selection of small batches stored at different locations in the warehouse is blended to assure an even quality.

The colour is a radiant, dark gold amber. The nose is big and bold, with loads of maple syrup, burnt sugar, caramel and strong oak notes. Neat in a tasting glass (I´m discounting three drops of water) you get less of an alcohol kick than could be expected at this proof. There´s a big, chewy mouthfeel to this whiskey, beginning with sweet maple syrup and caramel turning into spice, toasted oak and wood resin at the middle, with a long and lingering finish of dry oak. In a tumbler with ice it manages to retain the big nose with a slant towards oak instead of sweetness. On the other hand, the palate turns sweeter and slightly less complex.

The bottle is square and chunky in a very distinct way, and along with the label recreates pre-prohibition bourbon bottles. The plastic/cork stopper and wax seal also aims at a higher degree of sophistication. Personally, I must confess to quite liking it.

A really well made and distinctive bourbon with lots of character and punch. I´ve enjoyed this immensely and would very much like to try the single barrel variety and their other products.

 John Medley´s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 80 proof (40%).

John Medley Bourbon

One of the cheapest bourbons available in Sweden, with not that much information to find out about the distillers. Made from a mash bill of 51% corn and 49% barley you can´t really accuse the makers of John Medley´s of being that original. What we get is a pretty traditional Kentucky Straight Bourbon, but with a much longer barrel aging than necessary.

A medium amber colour. The nose has oak, caramel and vanilla. Neat in a tasting glass it gives a smooth and mild impression of caramel, vanilla and some oak, with a short and quite unremarkable finish. In a tumbler with ice much of its to begin with pretty mild character is diluted and you end up with something rather anonymous. The bottle just as the whiskey is a no-frills square and chubby variety without any unique design features.

A whiskey well worth its admittedly low price, but too lacking of character to merit another tasting.

Maker´s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 90 proof (45%).

Makers mark

Many years of tradition lies behind this whiskey, which has a definitive edge its own. Clear, limestone water combined with a mash bill of 70% corn, 16 % wheat and 14% barley. Replacing rye with red winter wheat making this what is called a wheated bourbon. First introduced in 1958 this whiskey has a long history, and is one of the staples of American whiskey production.

Golden amber colour. A nose dominated by oak, caramel and vanilla. Neat in a tasting glass you get a well balanced combination of caramel, vanilla, spice and oak. In a tumbler with ice much of the complexity is lost, and a dominating sweetness takes over.

The bottle is both distinctive and unique, with its square format and wax seal. One of the true originals and a whiskey I would like to always have in my liquor cabinet.

Long time no see

Writing stuff down has obviously not been a prime concern of mine for some time now. Living the life is always more important than chronicling it. And of course it´s not like someone has actually been missing something. While going through what I´ve written on these pages before, it seems like all I care about is pop music and American whiskey. While not being true, it´s perhaps not that off the mark. So, let´s get going with another foray into the world of distillation and cooperage.

…the death of Freddie Wadling is the end of an era in Swedish music.

First Lou Reed died in 2013, followed by David Bowie and Prince in 2016. Cultural giants with unsurpassed careers leaving a legacy previously unheard of. Bowie was an especially hard blow considering the extremely high quality of his latest output, equalling some of the best music from his over 50 year dominance of pop. The world of music will never be the same again.

Here in Sweden 2016 saw the demise of two personal heroes. First Olle Ljungström, who on a number of more or less classical albums presented a series of often depraved slices of life. Witty, quirky, intelligent and always with a wry sense of humour. Although his death had been heralded for some time, after years of hard living and diabetes, it still came as a sad surprise. The smart voices are so few and the white noise so loud.

Despite even worse health problems for many years, the death of Freddie Wadling on the 2nd of June 2016 was even more shocking. While not well-known outside Sweden, Freddie has been around forever and has had a career unlike any other Swedish musician. Beginning his tour de force in punk group “Liket Lever” with enduring classic “Levande begravd”, Freddie entered the Swedish music scene out of left field with a fully formed voice completely his own.

Seminal band Cortex delivered an updated version of Wadling´s musical concerns with the debut album “Spinal Injuries”. While largely ignored at the time of release, it has since become a sleeper classic in the Swedish post-punk annals. Great songs and unique performances. Queasy words and well-chosen options of delivery. Lyrically intense and musically diverse, this is a debut album that has kept remarkably well through the years, as well as premiering what is probably their best known song.

Several incarnations of Cortex followed, as well as stints in other bands, before Freddie took the next step in his career forming the fabulous “Blue for Two”, together with producer and keyboard player Henryk Lipp. Probably the best group of the Swedish mid-80´s with a totally unique sound. An intense, mutated and moody electronic rock firmly anchored in the bluesy voice of Freddie Wadling, carried along by the razor sharp synth arrangements by Lipp. Their first two albums, “Blue for Two” (1986) and “Songs from a pale and bitter moon” (1988), are still amongst my all time favourites. I have strong memories of seeing them live during this period and being absolutely blown away by the force of their performance.

From the 90´s and onward, Freddie´s career took yet a new direction, when he launched himself as a solo artist, releasing several celebrated albums of both Swedish standards and songs specially written for him by an array of contemporary Swedish artist. Coming from the punk underground and known for his lurid interests and hard living, the appeal that his later albums has had to a broader audience must have come as something of a surprise. By then severe health problems (including a liver transplant) had changed Freddie from young energetic rocker to an aged representation of frailty and vulnerability. Typically dragging himself across the stage to the waiting chair, supported by his signature wooden cane. But once seated, with a stack of song lyrics on his lap, he could still unleash that wonderful voice. No one like him will ever be seen or heard again.

…let´s try to revive the blog.

Again a long period gone by without any activity. Real life will always trump the virtual one and at least temporary silence the keyboard. However, the urge to express myself in writing has returned and will hopefully prevail against my lazy tendencies. While not ever intended for a large audience, I´m still surprised by visits by people from many corners of the world, in spite of no new posts in such a long time.

…England´s had a hard time lately.

Iceland footballFirst the shock and utter stupidity of Brexit, followed by the humiliation of UEFA-exit. Not-so-Great Britain anymore, huh ?

I´ve never been a sports fan, and definitely not ever before watched an entire game of football (yes, that´s what it´s called, soccer is something only Americans say). While perhaps the most popular athletic activity in the world, I´ve always found it quite boring and uninteresting. Until now, that is.

Although my Swedish national team made a disastrous performance, being kicked out of the 2016 European Championship after just a few very unconvincing games, it´s been a real treat following the success of my wife´s homeland – Iceland. A team recruited from a population of slightly over 300 000 inhabitants, but still able to keep even score with nations like Portugal and Hungary, as well as winning over Austria and tonight England. However well deserved, it´s still nothing less than a heroic feat by a bunch of young guys showing equal amounts of talent and  unique team spirit.

I strongly suspect the English are sleeping badly tonight, plagued by recurrent nightmares of repeatedly being sacked by Vikings. And so they should.

…2016 w 25 – Album of the week is “Patch the sky” by Bob Mould.

Bob MouldOne of the true rock´n´roll heroes, beginning his career in hugely influential band Hüsker Du in the late 70´s. Over just a few years developing from unruly punk/hardcore to melodic, guitar-based alternative rock with songs to die for. Getting such a big sound out of a three-piece band was really impressive, as well as the dual singer and songwriter arrangement. Channeling Beatles-like melodic sensibilities through the brute-force of punk-derived indie-rock gave this band an indelible and enduring legacy that remains to our day. Having released six albums of ever improving quality, this was and still is an important group.

 

Hüsker Du acrimoniously disbanding in the late 80´s gave way to a first period of solo work from Bob Mould, before forming the band Sugar in 1992. The next three years saw the release of three albums, with debut “Copper Blue” being the most artistically and commercially successful. In many ways a continuation of the ideas of Hüsker Du, while still allowing Mould to develop his songwriting in a slightly lighter and more poppy direction.

 

After Sugar I sort of lost track of Bob Mould for a couple of years, like you sometimes do when more interesting things are happening. But then this album came along, with not only good reviews but also great songs. Melodic, catchy and personal. Not a sensation in any way, but still distilling what we´ve gotten to know as the Bob Mould sound into a record that feels both new and instantly recognizable.