I review the beer of the week on Wednesdays. There is a process of sorts. I’m looking for connections, both to challenge the reader and to challenge myself. I’m looking for patterns in the world, relationships that all things, no matter how disparate share. In that regard, I think a writer sets out to challenge him/herself in telling a story much more than out of some fantasy that the whole world will read their words.
It’s snowing outside, and there is music playing from the next room. The light outside is slowly fading in that winter gray, deepening the shadows in the house. The heat is down. It’s cool in the house, that metallic winter cool. The cats are asleep on the couch. The only light is from the hallway. It is a pale yellow light, bathing a Branstrom sculpture on the console. With a sigh, I lift a beer and take cleansing breath. The beer awakens my senses a bit as the music builds to a crescendo.
I smile at a thought. Canada has a national chain called the “Beer Store,” with this big, ubiquitous yellow-lighted sign and plain storefronts. I don’t think there is another nation on earth with a national chain devoted exclusively to beer. That has to be a good thing.
Maudite has this pretty, polished bronze hue and a full and strong head coincidental with a bit of bronze framing the eyes of the sculpture. Beer Advocate complained of the beer’s suprisingly weak head. I suspect they served the beer far too cold. Lot’s of folks do, and get robbed of the flavors, and more importantly the scent of a good craft beer. That scent here promised caramel and hops with hints of fruit and banana. The taste was hardly overwhelming on either account. The head was just fine.
The music changed, a new song from a band I’d recently discovered. Well, I didn’t actually discover them. They weren’t lost. They knew where they were at all along, much like their growing number of fans. Better to say that I stumbled upon Murder by Death, or better yet, was introduced to them. Very quickly they’ve come to dominate my listening choice the last several days.
I was quickly hooked, first on the folksy and moody “Lost River” the second piece on their “Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon,” album from Bloodshot records here in Chicago. The song is almost a hymnal, deepened by Adam Turla’s haunting vocals. What emerges is a collection of beautifully complex arrangements with timeless and accessible melodies steeped solidly in the roots of the nation’s rich musical heritage. I’m reminded of Nick Cave a bit in Murder by Death, but without the addiction.
Our new kitten crosses the room and pauses in the hall beneath the scuplture Ana and I purchased from a friend last year on a trip to Midhigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s an owl sitting on a stump, sort of looking over one shoulder, with a furtive tension, as though it might actually light from the stump in an instant.
We didn’t discover the scupltor, a friend, Ritch Branstrom, either. He knew exactly where he was the whole time, but the work was a discovery to us. Ritch builds these amazing pieces from found objects, and his new studio, in a converted 1920’s butcher store is filled to overflowing with all manner of collected and donated things, like some Shangri la of the discarded. Somehow it all becomes rendered into these stunning works of art that seem to come to life once completed.
“Straight at the Sun, ” Bitter Drinks, third song opens with a driving bass. When I first heard it I had a sinking feeling. My reaction was , “Oh, here is the obligatory rock song on the album.” Instead, backed up by Dagan Thogerson’s more than capable drumming, is a driving heartfelt piece. Sarah Balliet’s infused cello somehow finds harmony with Matt Armstrong’s thundering base and a ripping steel guitar for this energetic ballet of sound. But my favorite piece is the haunting, “No Oath, No Spell,” for its timeless lament, drawing breathless beauty from dark and deep imagry:
Oh, grief, are you as me?
Left some teeth buried in your enemies
We won’t be broken
Theres no curse we haven’t spoken
There is no oath, there is no spell
To deliver us, so help
Cut me loose, I wish you well
No oath, no spell…
No prayer & no hell but the one we made.
I close my eyes to the music and take a long drink, savoring the Maudite’s malty sweet flavor. I might almost imagine that one of Branstrom’s sculptures might come to life and fly from the shelf, shedding its mechanismo for feathers and flesh and life. Turla’s rich as honey vocals arise in Bitter Drink’s final selection, “Ghost Fields”, juxtaposed with that dreamy cello. With the bottom of the glass in sight, the song builds from something almost reminiscent of a Ken Burns documentary, thoughtful and introspective, into this thundering and passionate climax. Oh, how I love discovering new things, even when they aren’t actually lost.
Catch 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck and Brian Murray each Sunday 8-9am only on Our Town with Mike Sanders, at Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT AM and FM, and streaming online. Friend us on Facebook at Revolution and Beer. And if you have a cause to champion, please let us know as we work to become the grassroots support network for Chicago Activists and community organizers
Catch the beer of the week review with 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck and Brian Murray each Sunday 8-9am only on Our Town, at Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT AM and FM, and streaming online. Friend us on Facebook at Revolution and Beer. And find all of the great beers we review each week at Louis Glunz Beer Inc., http://www.glunzbeers.com