If you were to make one assumption about people who work and live in this area, it would probably be that we all drink a lot of wine.
And you would be right. My friends and I all work in the industry in various capacities, whether it be sales, marketing, production, or service, and as the handyman who fixed the broken pipe in my apartment yesterday pointed out, we’re all hoarding wine. Sure, we drink our fair share of local microbrews as well (silly not to, since we’re so close to the Russian River Brewing Company, the Bear Republic Brewery, the Healdsburg Beer Company, the Lagunitas Brewing Company, and the Anderson Valley Brewing Company), but the main currency down here is wine. You want to stop by and taste with one of your neighbors? We bring ‘em a bottle of Cab, and usually a swap will happen. It’s probably the best way to really get to know your neighbors, and you get to share it with people in the process.
We all know food and wine are a big deal. I’ve talked about it many times here. But honestly, I think I pair my wine more often with music than with food (often because I have a one-track mind, and if the food rocks, I tend to do that cramming-shoveling thing that we Americans are so stereotypically known for (sorry for upholding that one. I’ll try harder).
Autumn is a particularly good time of year for the wine and music pairing because it’s the first time in a few months that we all get a chance to settle down and breathe a bit. And with the change of seasons comes a change in what I like to listen to. I’m a year-round fan of bluegrass and and 1960s skiffle-influence rock and roll (OK, maybe that’s just limited to the Beatles), but there is something about shorter days and evenings snuggled up on the couch with the cat and a fire in the woodstove that whispers “folk” to me.
There’s a point in the summer where it becomes obvious that fall is here. I’ve dedicated a couple blog posts to it already this year, and you can bet that for as many autumns as I work for Jake and Stephen, there will be a few, “Man, I can’t believe it’s already fall” posts. I can’t decide if fall creeps up on us gradually, or if it comes all at once. This year, I’m inclined toward the latter, mostly because it was 78° and stunning on Wednesday this week, and we’ve got our first frost warning in effect for Friday night. It’s snowing in the Sierra (heck, it was snowing in Boston last week). Jake, Stephen, Pancho, and the boys got the last of the Cab off the vine—fall is in full swing, and the frost can come tomorrow and kill our basil.
In the meantime, I’ll be sitting here by the fire with a glass of Cab* listening to a few of my favorite soft and whispering folk musicians with the cat for company. Some are old friends, some showed up on my Blitzen Trapper station. Actually, I’ll start there:
- Blitzen Trapper, but specifically “Lady on the Water” and “Furr,” which are both songs of indescribable beauty.
- Nick Drake, king of the fingerpickin’ sweet melodies (“Northern Sky,” “Pink Moon,” which was my intro to ND through the Cabrio commercial a few years back (and which made me want a Cabrio. I still kinda want a Cabrio), and “Place to Be.”
My old standard, Bob Dylan. Fantastic year-round, but certain songs ring truer in the autumn: “Girl From the North Country” (the Freewheelin’ version, not the Johnny Cash duet), “Boots of Spanish Leather,” “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” and of course, the song that competes with “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” for my favorite Bobby Alan Zimmerman song: “Buckets of Rain.” Try the Redbird version, too. It’s stunning, and it sounds more like rain to me.
- Here’s a new one: Gregory Alan Isakov’s “Stable Song,”Raising Cain,” and “All There Is.”
- My friend Connor Garvey has been over-achieving in the folksy-singer-songwriter genre for coming on ten years now. This bearded redhead is a native of Maine, and we went to college together for two years. Now, he spends his time minstreling around the country in his hatchback, and his specialty are songs that sound better in the fall, like “Summer’s End,” “Backroads,” “Western Wind,” “Laura Beth,” and “Go Deep.” You can stream both of his most recent albums from his website.
- You’ve probably heard Joe Purdy before, but this bearded troubadour from Arkansas (whose writes self-described “sad bastard music”) has an impressive self-produced repertoire that goes so far beyond the Kia commercial from a couple years ago, or the Dawn commercial with the oil-covered animals. Check out JoePurdy.com, where you can stream all of Joe’s music from the last ten years. This American, 4th of July, Julie Blue and Stompin’ Grounds fall in the whisper-soft category, but Only Four Seasons is probably my favorite.
- The Tallest Man On Earth is a recent discovery. I have two albums of his, Shallow Grave and The Wild Hunt, and I would say “The Blizzard’s Never Seen the Desert Sand” is the go-to track off of Shallow Grave. He’s earning himself some (well-deserved) comparisons to Bob Dylan.
- And then of course, there is Sufjan. I’m a huge fan of his five-disc Christmas album, and while he has a tendency to do things like have choirs of children banging pots and pans while playing the klezmer in the background of his songs, he also is the perfect example of autumn music. From Seven Swans comes “All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands” and “He Woke Me Up Again“; from Illinois (or as I prefer, Sufjan Stevens invites to you come on, feel the Illinoise!) we get “Chicago,” (although that’s the version from the Outtakes From the Illinois Album) “Casimir Pulaski Day,” and “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us!” (as well as the children/klezmer/pots and pans tune with the most ridiculous title: “The Black Hawk War, or, How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and Still Feel Good About Yourself in the Morning, or, We Apologize for the Inconvenience but You’re Going to Have to Leave Now, or, I Have Fought the Big Knives and Will Continue to Fight Them Until They Are Off Our Lands!” Yes, really.), and from Michigan come “Romulus” and “For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti,” the latter of which competes with “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” for my favorite Sufjan song. Ever.
That’s probably enough for now. You get the idea.
*Not intended to be a factual statement. I confess I don’t have any Cab open. I’m drinking this crazy delicious thing called water. Have you guys tried this lately? It’s pretty good.