Those that know me, know that I'm a total sucker for this song. Well, I also love Bluegrass (Sorry, Mr. Byrne!), so here's Del McCoury covering Richard Thompson's 1952 Vincent Black Lightning.
I love that they change "Box Hill" to "Knoxville." Some would say cultural hybridity, but the song that Thompson did is a modern incarnation of a Child Ballad, and thus resonates through Appalachia.
I've always loved this song. It's a Shakespearean tragedy scrolled out out at under five minutes. The slightly archaic lyrics give the tale a heartbreaking edge. From the opening lyric, you have to know that young James Adie will come to no good, and that Red Molly will be his hope. The song positively rings with an Scots-Irish theme of death and redemption.
Reportedly, Thompson was amazed by the reception that the song received in the United States. But it's not surprising, given the wide open spaces of this land, and our roving instincts. Couple that with the culture of the motorcycle here, and you have the makings of great American outlaw song.
Of course, there's really nothing like seeing Richard Thompson reel out this tale in his inimitable finger picking style of playing, before a rapt theater, so here you go...
That's right. The screw in coffin. Talk about really getting screwed by Death. Somehow I don't think the idea of being interred in a nine foot long dildo and being forcibly twisted into the soft, loamy embrace of Mother Gaia is gonna catch on.
Except maybe in California. Californians go nuts for this stuff.
Legend has it that during a brutal contract bargaining session, Harry Bennett, Henry Ford's enforcer, attempted to break the tension by passing around snapshots taken during a visit to Maxon Lodge, a gorgeous hideaway in the woods of northern Michigan.
Walter Reuther, architect of the United Auto Workers' rise, looked over the photographs, tossed them on the table and said to Bennett: "Come the revolution, we'll own that place."
It was no idle threat. In 1967, flush with cash from a bulging membership, the UAW purchased the lodge and 1,000 acres on Black Lake.
And, as often happens with revolutionaries, the temptations of power were too strong to resist.
I've never quite understood why people differentiate between corporate fat cats and union fat cats. They're the same animal. They've clawed their way to the top of their respective institutions and share in the wealth and wallow in the resulting corruption of their symbiotic relationship.
The unions, however, did it on the backs of their membership, much in the way the government does; through taxation. Union dues, within in an effectively closed shop, are simply a form of taxation. For awhile, it was a sweet deal. The union bosses got rich. The workers were effectively rich. In getting there, however, they sucked the blood from the ever weakening corporations.
Michigan is now a basket case and Detroit is a wasteland. Corporate ossification certainly played a role, but it was in lockstep with the unions in a long march to the cliff. When the lightning struck, they were perfectly situated stampede over the edge, never quite figuring out why as they hit the bottom.
Here’s a nice beef stew recipe I’ve been playing around with for years.
3 pounds of beef chuck, cut into 1 inch cubes ¼ cup of vegetable oil 4 large, sweet onions, chopped 6-8 cloves of garlic, crushed & minced 1 stick of butter cut in half ¼ cup of flour 1 14 oz. can of small dice tomatoes 1 pound crimini mushrooms, quartered 1 T. sweet paprika 2 t. salt 2 t. fresh ground black pepper 1 t. dry thyme leaf 1 t. ancho chili powder ½ t. rubbed sage 2 bay leaves 3 12 oz. bottles of good quality beer
Pat the beef cubes dry with paper towels.
In a large dutch oven over medium high heat, brown the beef in batches with the vegetable oil. Get some good color on those cubes. Set the browned beef aside and pour out any oil in the pot.
Add half a stick of butter, the onions and garlic and reduce the heat to low. Scrape up the glaze as the onions sweat, and keep cooking until the onions are nice and caramelized. Should take around 20 to 30 minutes.
In another small pan over medium heat, melt the remaining butter, and when is starts to bubble, add the flour and whisk it in. Reduce heat to low and cook the roux until it turns a nice butternut brown. This should take about 30 minutes.
When the roux is finished, add it to the dutch oven. Return the beef and its juices to the dutch oven and add the mushrooms, herbs and spices. Stir all the ingredients together.
Slowly add the beer, stirring it in.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Turn up the heat to medium high and bring the pot to a boil while stirring. Reduce heat to a simmer. When the oven is ready, cover the dutch oven and put it in the oven for 2 hours.
Take the dutch oven out of the oven and put it back on a burner. Over medium low heat, reduce the liquid until it’s a nice sauce like consistency.
Serves 8 to 10 people.
This recipe pretty much screams for mashed potatoes, but I also like it with roasted potatoes. I’ve also added flat dumplings to the stew to great effect.
You can leave out the roux. Just reduce longer and let the onions be the thickener.
A note on the beer:
Use the same sort of beer you like to drink. This recipe works best with lagers and lighter ales. My favorite beer to use in this recipe is Shiner Bock, hence the recipe name. But use what you like with a mind to good quality beer.
A night out, eating at taco stands and pulling beers out of the cheap styrofoam cooler in the back seat of a 1974 Camaro. Wiping the grease on your jeans. Random dragging down a near empty street at the drop of a dime for no reason at all.
So, dig it.
Coming home late after a double at the Inn. Cocktail. Soup. A beer. Relaxation.
And because the hour is late, and you're kicked back, it's time for a shave.
Slap the hot water on the face. Use a badger brush to lather up the soap. Decidedly old school. The mellow fragrance blasting into your sinuses as you lather your face. You look in the mirror and then you glance down at the razor. It's empty so you turn the knob at the end of the stem. The panels at the head spread open, and you seat a new razor blade. Turn the knob again to slowly close the panels, locking the blade into place; two opposing edges competing for you attention.
The audible scrape across the face and the swish of the razor in the water as you methodically guide the razor, letting its weight do the work, no unlike a fine chef's knife.
You dab lather occasionally with the brush and go over that patch again. There is a subtle sting to it all, with the knowledge that the slightest slip will bring blood.
It's an odd hour of the morning. Neither light nor dark and the moon peeks in as the blade glides across skin. The earlier buzz is concentrated into a hard focus, and your breathing becomes measured; exact.
You stand straight and clean your razor and brush. All the while your skin blesses and curses you in a contradictory expression of relief. The rinse and grab a towel.
The cork pops on the Bay Rum, and you pour a pool of it into the cupped palm of your hand and then...
The slap of the alcohol burn dissipated by something deeper.
I decided it was time for the two scary girls from The Shining to take a powder. It was just too sinister, and those two always gave me the willies.
So I went for something a little different. I found a neat photo in the LOC WPA photo archives entitled, "Man and woman do the Black Bottom in a kitchen with four other women looking on." I thought that was pretty neat, and after a little time in Photoshop Elements, I had me a shiny new banner!
Now I won't have to explain those two girls to everyone...