It's been quite some time since my last update, so I feel I owe an explanation: I arrived back home in the USA after a 7 month deployment just a month ago. I moved across the country, made new friends, and started working hard getting ready to be on a ship for 7 straight months, so I couldn't find the time to write since my most recent work. I also missed out on a ton of football, but luckily I was able to watch MOST of my basketball Wildcats' domination of their season until that heartbreaking loss to Wisconsin. But more sports later.
Where I hang my hat presently is Norfolk, VA, and it's been great getting to know a new town and see what it has to offer. (Technically I've lived here over a year but I still feel new since, you know, 7 months were spent on a ship across the world). Even though I'm pretty comfortable with my immediate vicinity I still don't know the names of bars or restaurants when I go downtown, and this past weekend I stumbled upon a local speakeasy: a 20's themed bar "so called because of the practice of speaking quietly about such a place in public, or when inside it, so as not to alert the police or neighbors." - (a 1889 newspaper, via Wikipedia). This particular themed bar is called Gershwin's and it also has a piano.
"Yea yea yea, piano bars are cool and all but what the heck is that up at the top of this post!?" Great question. That, my friends, is smoke-infused bourbon. You see, somebody apparently thought that the natural smokiness of good bourbon (that comes from the charred oak, duh) wasn't, uh, smoky enough. So let's see what this is all about.
The pictures basically tell the story, but this $10 cocktail is far more than just another drink you will order sitting on a stool. It's an immersive visual experience with the smell of a campfire. And then at the end you get to drink it. Even though I've been craving another one all week, they have more than just one signature drink, and they offer all styles of spirits. The fun thing about speakeasy's is that they don't just have American light beers and shots of Fireball; your bartenders are the kind of bartenders from whom Bond would order a Martini. These aren't overly-sweet mixes of one liquor and a colored syrup, they are true cocktails and frankly more bars should be like this.
Coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats Men's Basketball team is one of the greatest recruiters in the history of the sport. Kentucky has seen more and more top talent come to play during Cal's reign each year with mostly high but varying success. He led the team to an Elite Eight, Final Four, the school's 8th Championship, then an NIT berth where they lost in the first round as a #1 seed. This year is still in the air, but after two losses to unranked teams in a row (Arkansas and South Carolina) and two home losses (Calipari has kept the Wildcats to only one home loss in his tenure until this season) there is much disappointment and speculation as to the future of this team.
This Kentucky team was supposed to go undefeated, but Witchita State accepted that challenge and we gave it up in a close game to Michigan State early in the season. We had 6 McDonald's All-Americans, two major returning sophomores in Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress, and a little bit of experienced leadership in Josh Polson. We've never been deeper and never had a better potential to use the dribble-drive offense that Coach Cal likes with Cauley-Stein, Poythress, Dakari Johnson and Julius Randle as tall, strong talent in the inside. But alas, we're only 21-8 and are looking at a 7-seed for the NCAA tournament.
It's interesting that Kentucky fans are so negative with a season like this. No program that I'm aware of has such high expectations of their team year after year; Kentucky expects greatness every single game, every single season in order to hang another banner in Rupp Arena. We're the winningest team in Division I Men's Basketball history, with the second-most championships and a plethora of post-season records like post-season wins and Final Four appearances. But with the challenges facing John Calipari, it's time he changes gears just a little bit when it comes to new recruits for this legacy.
The NBA requires eligible entrants to be one-year removed from high-school; I'm not sure who had this bright idea, but it has ruined college basketball. Before that rule, student-athletes like Lebron James were eligible for the NBA draft directly out of high school, so almost everybody that went to college needed a couple of years of development before they were ready for the pros, but now we have students that are essentially "one-and-done" and it's not their fault. The problem is that these players have their own best interest in mind, and that is playing professional basketball for 6, 7, or 8 figures. That is very commendable, but because they are required to do something for one year before the NBA draft, they go to college... for one year.
It's not Calipari's fault that this rule is what it is; it's also in his best interest to recruit the best players possible every year. I don't blame him for this "one-and-done strategy". Why would a coach that is capable of pulling in the best talent intentionally recruit less-talented players? I've been a defender for Cal's strategy, but I think it may need some fine-tuning.
This year, Kentucky's team that is full of top talent and some depth is still very young and they make young mistakes. We play spotty defense, have a terrible half-court offense where players refuse to move off the ball, and only play with heart for short spurts. The key that is missing isn't talent, but heart. When the Wildcats played South Carolina today (March 1st) they played with heart for about 7 or 8 minutes of the game, and it made all the difference. Coach Cal should continue to focus on the top talent, but should look at the players' work ethic and ability to play with a team. College athletes cannot succeed without full devotion to the team and if John Calipari doesn't adjust his recruiting efforts to find athletes willing to work hard for 40 minutes and bond with a team, they aren't worth their high-profiles. This year's team will be interesting down the stretch, but they don't seem to be bonding and
The House of Bourbon
The House of Bourbon is one of the most well-recognized family names in the western world. Louis XIV of France, aka the "Sun King" aka "the Great" was a Bourbon, and is often credited with modernizing France and bringing it to European preeminence during his reign in the late 17th century. His great-great-great grandson was Louis XVI, for whom Louisville, KY is named (mostly for assistance during the Revolutionary War). So how does the name carried by a ridiculously wealthy and powerful French family become the name for "America's Native Spirit", and what does it truly mean to be a bourbon whiskey (or simply, "bourbon")? I've spent the last several days looking for the answers to these questions and if you like whiskey, bourbon, or you just said to yourself "what's the difference?" then read on, my friends, and decide for yourself.
***History buffs: please excuse any generalizations or over-simplifications, but please engage and correct any glaring and significantly erroneous information***
Alcohol and Alchemy
People have been making and consuming alcohol for literally thousands of years, but with the exception of the last 800 or so this was exclusively wine and various forms of beer. You can read more about the difference between fermentation and distillation on your own if you like, but distillation is a fairly modern process. Believe it or not, distillation was discovered through the obsession with alchemy. Alchemy often has dark undertones and is closely associated with sorcery; famous pillars of alchemy include turning lead into gold and creating an elixir of life. However, alchemy is more than insane attempts at wizardry; it's considered a "protoscience" and has contributed to the fields of chemistry and medicine through its diligent experimentation. Fermentation is a natural process where the yeast consumes and metabolizes sugars, giving off the byproduct of ethanol (alcohol). Distillation, inspired by the principles of alchemy, was an attempt to 'perfect' liquid by increasing the concentration of alcohol. Thus all of the major liquors are named from their native tongue "water or life", or something along those lines: "whisky"-Gaelic; "vodka"-Slavic; "gin"-French/Italian/Dutch/English.
Whisk(e)y is born
The first recorded grain alcohol was distilled in *shock* Ireland in 1405, and they named it in their native Gaelic "uisge", which basically evolved to "whisky" because the English like to impose their will on others, like telling the Irish and Scots how to spell their own word. Remember that at this time nobody thought to age the whisky; it was labor-intensive and takes capital as well as a working knowledge of the distillation process, so distillers wanted to sell their product for profit as soon as possible. Whisky, at this point in time, was neither spelled with an "e" nor differentiated much from the vodka that was being produced in Russia and Poland at the same time. There are only three things that differentiate whisky from the other grain alcohols, specifically vodka, and those are "ingredients, oak, and proof". See this blog post "Dissecting the Difference Between Corn Vodka and Unaged Whiskey" for a good explanation. Ingredients are usually the same, as vodka is traditionally (and was originally) a "grain" spirit, and most major vodkas continue this tradition even though technically you can make a vodka from anything that ferments. Proof is essentially a question as to how much water is put into the ethanol to cut it and make it more drinkable and when to dilute, if at all. This leaves the most important factor, in my opinion, as oak. Whisky was stored in oak barrels even before they knew that it actually made the alcohol better, so it eventually became a defining characteristic. More on barrels later.
Kentucky and the French
Kentucky has a multitude of counties. 120 to be exact. Only Texas and Georgia have more (254 and 159, respectively). But this wasn't always the case. Kentucky started as a county of Virginia, and when it earned its statehood it had only three counties: Lincoln, Jefferson, and Fayette. Fayette county was named for Marquis de Lafayette, one of the most important French generals allied with the American forces under George Washington. From the very beginning of Kentucky, we have honored the French allies that helped America earn its freedom. Kentucky's largest city is named Louisville after King Louis the XVI (of House Bourbon), and one of the earliest counties, Bourbon, was named for that same family. French culture, especially the Bourbons' love for the arts, survives to this day in Louisville, but the name "Bourbon" will prove to be an unlikely legacy indeed.
The Bourbon Whiskey Revolution
Before I get to the point, can I just say that I think it's ironic that all of the best photos of Louisville come from Indiana? Maybe it's some kind of metaphor for looking through a lens of perfection, alluding to jealousy and stuff.
Anyway, despite our Francophilia, Kentucky had large populations of Scottish and Irish immigrants and descendants from our early founding that continue to this day. True to form, they made whisky. A lot of it. And what is the most abundant grain in Kentucky? Maize, or corn. As settlers came and built Kentucky, they fought off Native American tribes such as Cherokee, Pawnee, Seneca, Mohawk and Iroquois, dreamed of having the greatest college basketball program of all time, and distilled a metric shit-ton of whisky. If this wasn't the first corn-based whisky that people had tried, it was certainly the first time it was introduced as the norm, and in such large volumes. Somehow, the Scots-Irish couldn't drink all of it themselves and they had to sell their product somewhere. Queue the Mighty Mississippi.
People built cities on rivers and other waterways to supply their crops and because cargo was moved most easily on the water. The Ohio River forms the northern border to Kentucky, and it feeds into the Mississippi, which ranks as the fourth longest and tenth largest river in the world. The goods in Kentucky were shipped down the river to be sold, and the most prominent port was New Orleans, nearly on the mouth of the meandering river. Now this brings us to three major phenomena and keys to distinguishing the corn-whisky from Kentucky from the Scots-Irish grain alcohol that was its predecessor.
First, merchants would label their products not by some marketed branding name, but by the location from which it came, usually by county. Bourbon County, Kentucky was once a huge piece of land (refer to the map above) and like most of Kentucky, boasted vast limestone deposits which naturally filtered the water used for making whiskey. Barrels of whiskey started making their way down the river labeled "Bourbon Whiskey", and the seed was planted.
Second, distillers were storing their whiskey in barrels for shipment, but barrels could sometimes be expensive or time-consuming to make while you are harvesting corn and distilling whiskey, so sometimes they bought used barrels. (See this great blog post for more on the process of making fresh barrels for making bourbon). There is no record of the first person to char the inside of a barrel prior to using it for whiskey, but it's largely thought that it would be charred to sanitize the inside after it was used for storing literally anything else.
Third, we have what is likely the beginning of the aging process being discovered. Waterways were faster and cheaper than travel on foot or wagon, but it still would take weeks or months before flatboats would reach New Orleans, and the distillers would usually have to wait for the spring for good rains for the safest travelling, and the whiskey was made in late summer and autumn after the corn harvest which led to longer amounts of time that the whiskey would sit in the barrels. Nobody intentionally held onto finished whiskey, and nobody knew that the whiskey is made smoother and more flavorful by absorbing elements of the wood, but people were drinking whiskey that was shipped in barrels labeled "Bourbon Whiskey", which used corn as its primary grain, and was sitting in charred oak barrels for months before they even got to smell it. The whiskey began to take on an amber color and had more complex flavors thanks to the charred oak barrels.
Many of the things that make bourbon great were discovered inadvertently through happenstance, accident, and many years of influence. Some of the accidents that led to the understanding of bourbon proper in its final form may have occurred in places other than Kentucky, although never all at once, nor were they consistently repeated until they became the norm. Only bourbon is made with a sour mash of grains that consist of at least 51% corn, is distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% ABV), is stored at no more than 125 proof (the whiskey is diluted with clean water after distilling to make it more pleasant to taste, limestone-filtered water, if its from Kentucky), is stored in new, charred white oak barrels (usually at least 4 years although no age requirement exists, but less than 4 years of aging requires a statement on the label) and bottled at no less than 80 proof (most are 90 proof). These practices evolved from the history of Kentucky whiskey and their distillers, and with many thanks to the loyal French drinkers in New Orleans that snatched up whiskey by the name of "Bourbon" faster than a French guillotine. Here is my case that bourbon is distinctly and exclusively a Kentucky product. Any whiskey made outside of that state is merely borrowing the name that made this style of whiskey so awesome, unique and enjoyable!
If you disagree, tell me why! Join the debate, or contribute your thoughts on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/guitarsandbourbon or on Twitter via https://twitter.com/guitarsnbourbon (@guitarsnbourbon). Use #kentuckybourbon to tell me what you think!
I had a fun weekend, thanks for asking. I guess I'll talk about it, or, technically, blog about it. I visited New Orleans this weekend and I got to see my fiance and some old friends. A stop by Dos Jefes cigar bar and Harrah's casino trigger a certain tune about a nun-named-Maria's favorite things. I ate brunch at a place called Surrey's which featured some eclectic but distinctly New Orleansy artwork, with clay sculptures of architecture and paintings of skeletons, alligators and birds playing brass instruments all colored with bright pastels. Yes, the food was great too.
My fiance got me some Beats by Dre headphones, and they are everything they are hyped to be. Super distinct sound with low bass and bright treble, the clarity and definition is hard to beat in any sound environment. As I simultaneously tested my new headphones and checked the Twitterverse, I ran into a tweet by Dierks Bentley and CMT promoting Dierks' newest album, "Riser" and the album's namesake song (yes, "Riser") and I am really excited about it. The album will be released, at least on iTunes, on 25 Feb and I will be putting "Riser" in my country playlist. It features an awesome set of guitars with combinations of picking and strumming that was nothing if not enhanced by my new Beats. Dierks talks about it being an inspirational song and album, about rising after failure. Wait for it... maybe Kentucky's Basketball team will be a "Riser" after that miserable showing on Saturday. There it is.
I watched the promotional video, which is great, linked from the tweet. but you can click straight to it here.
This album includes his newest singles "Bourbon in Kentucky" and "I Hold On", and Dierks has proven he is more than relevant. This is going to be a great new album of country music.
That's a shot of my Monday evening. You can see two helicopters and a Navy Destroyer in the background and the "Hornblower" in the foreground. You guys remind me that my everyday routine is anything but.
I wanted to talk about the Superbowl, but that sucked. I could have talked about the halftime show (great job Bruno Mars, could've had more from the 'Chili Peppers, though) but it was too short to say anything but "solid live performance at the break between what's supposed to be the biggest game in sports". I didn't catch much of the Olympics this last week, being at sea and all, but my peers and I did decide 1080's in snowboarding are vastly superior to 720's or 900's.
I wish I could talk about my experiences this last week in what eventually led to a long week-plus-weekend at sea and culminated in returning to port late Monday with the view you see above; however, the folks we were working with do dangerous things to get the bad guys, so all I can say is our ship was a literal lilypad for helicopters and boats with tough and dangerous men on them training for dangerous missions. Like I said, our routine is anything but.
First of all, thanks for reading! A reader named Ryan politely pointed out an incorrect statistic for the UCLA Bruins Men's Basketball Team, so I have corrected that! Thanks for the comments, keep checking back!
Thanks to Lex for pointing out Kentucky Lake! Kentucky Lake is the largest man-made lake east of the Mississippi (still Kentucky!) The correction is reflected below as well.
I've been writing on this blog for over a year, and it's been a lot of fun. I'm grateful and ecstatic for people who are returning readers. If you can read between the lines, I'm from Kentucky. I'm fairly well-traveled for a 25-yo and would like to speak of my experiences. Louisville, the largest city in Kentucky, is known as the Northernmost Southern City and the Southernmost Northern City. I like the former, but feel free to disagree. We have a unique heritage, with bloody fights in the civil war and long traditions of distilling bourbon and breeding horses. I hope this post brings non-Kentuckians closer to our state, and opens locals' eyes to the different world beyond the Bluegrass State.
#5: People don't understand your pronunciation of "Louisville"
You've seen the T-shirts. Printed "Luis-ville" "Luey-ville" "Loo-i-vuhl" "Loo-uh-vuhl" and "Louisville"; we have our own pronunciations and accents, but generally, if you're from Kentucky, you lean towards the "Loo-i-vuhl" and "Loo-uh-vuhl" pronunciations. I've lived in Kentucky, Louisiana, and California, and I've visited countless other states, including Hawaii, Alaska, Florida, New York and Rhode Island. When I say I'm from "Louisville" the first response is usually "What?" or "Where?". It's not that they haven't heard of Louisville, Kentucky. We are the 16th largest metro area in the country, with around 1.3 million people, but most recognize it as "Luey-ville". I've found that our pronunciation of "Louisville" is comparable to the way Baltimore residents say "Baldimor". It's a lazy and blended word that only residents can recognize and appreciate.
#4: The First Saturday in May isn't a Holiday
Remember when every Kentucky Oaks Friday gave us a day off of school? Did you go to "Derby Parties" and talk about what you were doing for "Derby"? "Derby" is just a generic word outside of Kentucky. It's not a special day, kids don't get out of school, and few people even care about it outside of "Horse People" circles. Sure, people have heard of the "Kentucky Derby"; it's a national icon, the first and most important of races in the coveted Triple Crown. Celebrities from Hollywood and around the world visit for the sites, smells, and fun hats (remember when the Queen of England and George W. Bush sat side by side at Churchill Downs?). It's a unique race fought through mud and dust and sweat and blood and the sound of thundering hooves and screams and yells and the smell of horse and Mint Juleps, but in order to reference it outside the Bluegrass State you must put "Kentucky" in front of "Derby". Don't even think about trying to explain the Steamboat Race, the Hot Air Balloon Race, or Thunder over Louisville.
#3: "Bourbon" and "Whiskey" are Interchangeable.
This is one of the inspirations for my blog in general. When I waited tables in New Orleans I would input orders of alcohol and all of the whiskeys were under the category "Bourbon". Jack Daniels, Crown Royal and SoCo are NOT bourbon, and there are even some Kentuckians that don't quite get it, but most of us do. Bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. Kentucky has a "Bourbon Trail", a stretch of two major interstate highways that touch all of the major bourbon distilleries including Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, Buffalo Trace, Maker's Mark and Jim Beam, but some folks don't know that 95% of bourbon is distilled in Kentucky, nor what makes the difference. If it were up to me, I'd add that it must be distilled in Kentucky to the list of legal requirements for labeling your product as "bourbon". The name comes from Bourbon County, when products were labeled by county ("bourbon whiskey") and shipped, largely by river, to be sold. "Bourbon Whiskey" from Bourbon County, Kentucky, was shipped down the Mississippi and sold in a major port in the south, New Orleans, where a large French population had settled and they took quickly to the product with the French name. Remember, all squares are rectangles.
#2: Kentucky is Beautiful
When you tell people you're from Kentucky, they usually are a bit surprised. Whether it's actual concerns over lack of footwear and incest or just that Kentuckians don't travel much (except for basketball, see below) and it's a relatively low-populous state, they don't know a whole lot about us. The biggest thing they usually will remember is that it's absolutely gorgeous. Even people who only briefly drove through the state or visited for short periods of time will compliment me on my home state's beauty. We are truly the "heartland" of the U.S. Fort Knox is famous for its gold reserves, but was chosen because of its central location to the rest of the country. We have a mix of all the best the nation has to offer. We have tall southern pines, eastern mountains, vast grasslands and crop fields, a large metropolitan area, long and winding waterways and all of these are complimented by a full four seasons. We have bits of the north, south, east and midwest, but the seasons give life and color to each. The south is just as green, but is far flatter and can't boast the rolling hills and horse-fields we do. The north has more trees and valleys, but is far colder. The midwest is just as flat as the south, but starts to dry out. Lake Cumberland is the largest man-made lake on our side of the Mississippi by volume (that baby is deep!) and boasts some serious shoreline: "The shoreline of Lake Cumberland — at the theoretically maximum possible elevation of water — is 1,255 miles. The coastline of Florida, not including islands, is 770 miles in length. The total Atlantic coastline of the United States from Maine to the tip of Florida is 2,069 miles. The total Pacific coastline of the continental U.S. (California, Oregon and Washington) is 1,293 miles." - http://heartoflakecumberland.com/lake-cumberland/history/. The only outdoorsy thing that we can't really compete with is skiing and snowboarding. We get snow, but not nearly as much as this anomaly-winter is giving the east coast. Go northeast, or far west. To Colorado. To Steamboat Springs.
#1: Nobody Understands Our College Rivalry
You are Blue. You are Red. There is no in-between. There are no others. You have no Superbowl to yearn for, no Stanley Cup to defend, no World Series curse to overcome, you know two teams, and they are Kentucky and Louisville. You must pick a side. Children in the middle ages were chosen at birth to be high-born lords and ladies, knights, or blacksmiths, and Kentucky children are born to cheer for the Red or the Blue. We are bordered by Tennessee, who has the Titans; Missouri, who has the Rams; Illinois, who has the Bears; Indiana, who has the Colts; Ohio, who has the Bengals and Browns; West Virginia, who has the Hatfields; and Virginia, who has nobody. We don't have legitimate professional teams (I was at a San Diego Padres game once, and a friend used the "Riverbats" as trash-talk to another Kentucky native hating on the Padres), so we grew to appreciate our sports for what they were, and we excel at basketball.
Our football teams are in their own situations right now; Louisville with a seemingly waning supremacy after the loss of Charlie Strong and Kentucky's dawn on the horizon with Mark Stoops' reign, but our basketball teams have always been elite. Louisville itself holds three NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championships, and Kentucky has 8. UCAA has 11, winning 10 in a span of 12 years (1964-1975) with the same coach and one more in 1995; Indiana winning 5, 3 with Bobby Knight. Those are the only teams that come close to the dominance of college basketball in Kentucky. UK holds records in all-time winning percentage and games, NCAA tournament appearances and wins, Sweet Sixteen appearances, Elite Eight appearances, and is second in championship appearances and wins (UCLA holds the most for both). Come March every year, we are well-known and feared, and when we stumble, people are shocked and startled. The south (SEC schools), get the southern sports rivalries, but no one has a rivalry as deep and strong as Louisville vs Kentucky. The SEC has strong football roots but also has professional teams, so the contrast isn't as solid, as bold, as deep. To live in Kentucky is to Bleed Blue or Red, and that is no small claim. Choose a side.
The Pro Bowl is an anomaly in professional sports. It's one of the highest achievements and a noble honor to be asked to play in the Pro Bowl, and hence is a game of All Stars. The problem is that generally nobody cares about it. No player wants to risk injury to himself or others, and there's very little incentive to actually play hard to win the game (usually the players are paid ~$25,000 for losing and ~$50,000 each to the winning team.) It also boasts an extremely modest viewership, both on TV and in the stadium. It's basically a vacation in Hawaii every year and the players don't have to try hard. This makes it boring.
So they changed it up. First, the uniforms were upgraded from a cheesy red, white and blue that looked like it was copy-and-pasted from an Olympic team in the 80s to the sleek, modern green and orange above. I don't personally love the chosen colors, but it's an upgrade. Before, the players were asked to play and if their team was in the AFC they played for the AFC, and if they were from the NFC then they played for the NFC. Boring.
It sounded kind of ridiculous at first, but the brilliant idea was to turn it into a backyard-captain-picks style of team selection. Many comparisons were made to a fantasy football draft. Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders were brought in to build the teams, and they and their first three picks chose the rest of the team, alternating. Grown men were visibly butt-hurt about being "picked last", and emotions were already heating up. The intense rivalry between Sanders and Rice became a rallying cry for the teams, chosen by them, to play for bragging rights that went beyond a corporate logo. It was brilliant, and the game was a lot of fun to watch. Players from the same team were hitting each other just as hard, if not harder, than everyone else, and it was a low-scoring, action-filled football game. I'm very excited about the future of the Pro Bowl and hope to see legends such as Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Tony Gonzales and Richard Sherman come back as honorary alumni to pick a team to play for them one day.
I was lucky enough to visit Colorado with my family this winter. We went to Steamboat Springs, a big gorgeous mountain that's famous for its consistent "champagne powder" snow. Even during "mild" winters when we visited there was deep powder to be found just off the beaten trails, but usually we would get fresh, dry powder dumped on us more than once during a 5-or-so-day visit. See below.
We all (7 in our group, with 5 to join us later in one packed condo) flew into Hayden/Steamboat Springs airport, a tiny little tarmac that I think was converted from a helicopter pad. Some 20-somethings had been drinking and talking loudly with each other throughout the flight, all with slight but noticeable Texas drawls, and when we piled into the shuttle I was slightly dismayed to find they were joining us for the 30-45 minute ride into town. You see, Steamboat was promoting their mountain with a big Texas music festival, so there were more cowboy hats than usual (even for a western Colorado town) and these boisterous folks were in town to listen to local Texas country stars. I thought, "Great! I love country music!" After my personable brother befriended and lent the group his mini-speaker to use to play music, we learned that this wasn't what we were used to hearing in the South.
You see, there is Nashville country, and there's Texas country, and now I'm sure there are plenty of other sects where the local sound differs from other regions. I think our (somewhat ironically) favorite song that was played was called "Snake Farm" (click to watch the YouTube video and listen to this weird song). It's kind of hard to describe sounds, but either trust me when I say this ISN'T Nashville country, or watch the video. There were some comments about Nashville being superior, but mostly the odd western twang and the inebriated early-20s girl trying to sing every word with an exaggerated drawl drowned them out.
But we did find a diamond-in-the-rough. The photo above is inside a ski-in bar and grill where we were gathered to watch the Florida State/Auburn BCS Championship (RIP BCS Championship, welcome NCAA Playoffs!). The first picture has the name of one Josh Ward. He's the guy playing in this photo. His big album is called "Promises" and features some great songs; some of hurtin', some of cryin', some of whiskey and some of love. There are great fiddles crescendoing throughout a western Texas twang, but I swear to you the man sounds like Travis Tritt, and that's what I loved so much about him. I recommend "Promises," "Pony Town," and of course "Hard Whiskey." The album is on Spotify, so if you want to hear a new country singer that you won't hear on southern radios and sounds like the guitars and pianos are echoing off of wooden slats in a small western saloon, give it a listen. You won't regret it.
I attached a GoPro to my helmet and snowboard while I rode on the mountain all week, and yes, it's as awesome as it sounds! I'm currently cutting the video with some music that I hope to show to friends and family. I'll definitely try to embed a video here when it's ready!
I'm late in wishing everyone a Happy New Year, and late in updating this blog. 2013 helped me start this blog, gain a small audience, and learn a few things about my voice and style. We explored music, football, a bit of basketball and golf, and lots and lots of bourbon.
This is a special post for me, not just because it's been a long time since I've written, but also because now I have some history and feedback from family and friends to reflect upon. I'm encouraged by kind words from readers and statistics showing that my website still draws modest traffic, despite my last post being in October.
With all that being said, I'll share a few New Year's Resolutions with you. I won't bore you too much with the standard "lose weight and work out" goals, as my resolutions are tailored to what I think is an enthusiastic and thirsting entertainment blog audience which I hope you are as excited about as I am:
In 2013, I worked very hard in my job, started this blog, improved my infantile golf game, saw a most disappointing end to Kentucky Basketball in the NIT, watched a very hopeful beginning of Mark Stoops' reign of Kentucky Football, got engaged, and made it here, to 2014. There is much promise in this new year, and I hope you all will travel with me through it to cherish new hopes and reach new goals.
My Kentucky readers sometimes forget that its football season (how 'bout that slogan "This is why we camp" at Big Blue Madness?"), but here we are in week 5 of the NFL season. Last week, Tom Brady and the Pats took on the Dirty Birds from Atlanta and Peyton Manning and the seemingly unstoppable Denver Broncos took on the Philadelphia Eagles. Why are these two so interesting, besides them being in the top tier of elite quarterbacks who consistently win games for their teams and break NFL records? I'll tell you.
Peyton Manning, who was deemed by some to forever be "the mystery of the Bionic Neck", comes to Denver and completely changes their team. The guy is on fire; through only 4 games Manning has completed 117 passes out of 156 attempts (that's 75% completion) for 1470 yards and 16 touchdowns. WHAT? Yes. Oh, also he has zero interceptions and has a quarterback rating of 138. That's stinkin' good. Don't ask me about this stupid scale, but 158.3 is perfect.
But when I'm older I'm not going to be telling my kids and grandkids about Manning's stats. They will have access to the numbers. I'm going to be telling them the stories about watching Peyton Manning, who people thought was past his prime, unequivocally control football games. If you haven't been watching this guy, you need to. I will forever hold onto memories of him crouched behind his center, eyeing the defense, then inventing a new play. The man swivels his partially mechanical neck, then shouts things like "ZEBRA! ZEBRA!" or "OMAHA!" and then picks apart the confused defense. The guy knows football arguably better than anyone else in the history of the game, and nobody else controls games like him.
While Manning is in his 16th season, Tom Brady is in his 14th. At first, their 2013 seasons don't compare; Brady is 93 of 158 (58.9% completion) for 1014 yards, 7 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. But the difference lies in Brady's track record and some more intangibles. Brady brought his team to 5 Superbowls, and won 3 of them, twice making Superbowl MVP. Peyton has only 2 Superbowl appearances and one Superbowl win (as well as the MVP award). This alone would lead some to argue that Brady is better, but I wouldn't leave it at that.
Tom Brady's stats are hardly fair; I watched 3 of the 4 games so far, and Brady is hitting his receivers' hands. He's that good. So why so few completions? Well, Julian Edelman is Brady's only trusted receiver through the first 4 games. Rob Gronkowski has been injured, and Danny Amendola, who was brought on with the loss of Wes Welker, is new to the Patriots AND injured. Oh yea, did I mention the Pats gave up Wes Welker, Dieon Branch and Matthew Slater? Tom is playing, yet again, with an almost fresh set of wide receivers. I tried to find the number of different receivers that Brady has completed a pass to, but all I found was this article which goes into some depth on the subject. That guy really loves the Patriots. The number itself isn't as important as the implication, and that is that Tom Brady makes players around him great.
Brady has played with a higher receiver turnover rate than Peyton Manning (or any other QB, for that matter) and yet he continues to make them great. The improvements in the Patriots' receivers over the first 4 weeks is testament to his impact on his teammates. This is why these two are so interesting: Manning controls games with a confidence and effectiveness that confuses and overwhelms defenses; and Tom Brady seems to be such a talented QB and inspiring leader that the players around him improve constantly. Keep in mind that Peyton Manning's receivers on the current Denver Broncos squad are some of the best in the game, with Wes Welker, Demarius Thomas and Eric Decker just to name three. So who's the better quarterback? That's up to you, tell me what you think!