Tag: music

Katie’s Roast Beef Sandwiches

Katie’s Roast Beef Sandwiches

From left to right, Jay, Kenny, and "Little Kenny."
From left to right, Jay, Kenny, and “Little Kenny.” Click on the photo to hear them play and sing.

This is what RootsLiving is all about.

My friends Kenny and Katie recently hosted what we like to call a “hootenanny,” complete with guitar singing, food, and good friends.

Kenny is a singer/songwriter and he, and my friend, Jay (who you might remember helped me out on the backyard makeover project) played guitar and sang, taking requests from the small audience in Kenny’s dining room.  Kenny’s 16-year-old son, “Little Kenny” also joined in for a few numbers, playing bass.

Katie is one of the best cooks I know. She made a slow-roasted roast beef for sandwiches with Boursin cheese and tomato. And everyone else brought one appetizer. I brought my AI (Asian-Italian) Chicken Wings.

Here’s Katie’s recipe. Please note that this takes some time (24 hours in a salt wrap in the refrigerator), but is fairly easy to make and will be the best roast beef for sandwiches, if you follow the directions exactly.

Katie's Roast Beef Sandwiches

March 14, 2010
: 24 hr
: Medium


  • Boneless eye-round roast (3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pound)
  • Kosher salt (4 teaspoons)
  • Vegetable oil (2 tsp.)
  • Pepper (2 tsp.)
  • Boursin cheese (about 5 or 6 oz. or so
  • enough for as many sandwiches as you’re making)
  • Mayonnaise (about 5 or 6 oz.
  • just enough to make the Boursin cheese spreadable.)
  • French rolls (or any good Italian bread) (Katie got her rolls at Colarusso’s Bakery in Stoneham, Mass. and they were great!)
  • Tomato slices (enough for as many sandwiches as you’re making.)
  • Step 1 Sprinkle all sides of the roast with the salt. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 18-24 hours.
  • Step 2 Pre-heat oven to 225 degrees.
  • Step 3 Pat the roast dry with paper towels. Rub with 2 tsp. of the oil and sprinkle all sides evenly with pepper.
  • Step 4 Heat the remaining 1 tsp. of oil in a skillet over medium heat and then sear the roast until brown on all sides (about 3-4 minutes per side.)
  • Step 5 Transfer roast to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. And roast for about 20 minutes per pound (Katie’s 4.25 pound roast beef took 1 1/2 hours to cook).
  • Step 6 Shut oven off and DO NOT OPEN OVEN FOR 30 MINUTES.
  • Step 7 Put roast on carving board and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.
  • Step 8 Mix just enough mayo into the Boursin cheese to make the cheese spreadable (about half and half).
  • Step 9 Put a slice of roast beef in the roll. Spread Boursin cheese mixture on top. Add a few slices of tomatoes. (Note: If you’re having a party — or a hootenanny — you can put the roast beef slices, Boursin cheese spread, tomatoes, and rolls out on separate plates and let your guests make their own sandwiches.)

This Punk Does Country Right

I’m not a big fan of country music, especially not today’s saccharin, mediocre-popped-out variety. But I’m falling in atypical, unrequited love with the new country album by former punk rocker John Doe called, “Country Club.”

Most of the album consists of country covers from the ‘50s and ‘60s: old school country in the tradition of  Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Tammy Wynette.  But Doe, along with the Canadian roots rock combo, The Sadies, make these tracks new again as they make them their own.

Fans from Doe’s days with the LA punk band “X” might suspect they’re performed as parodies, but they’re not. They are tributes that make you appreciate the fine songwriting talents and clever lyrics of some of Nashville and Bakersfield’s best.

The album (hear snippets here) kicks off with the upbeat, rockabilly song made popular by Waylon Jennings, “Stop the World and Let Me Off.”  And from there Doe’s booming tenor brings you on a journey of love-lost longing, heartache, and stories of betrayal.

Highlights include the hopeful sorrow of “‘Til I Get It Right,” made famous by Tammy Wynette; “There’s a Fool Such as I,” with high-pitched harmonies from Cindy Wasserman; and the standards, “Help Me Make it Through the Night,” by Kris Kristofferson and a dramatic rendition of “The Night Life,” which starts with a far-away guitar riff reminiscent of the Animal’s version of “House of the Rising Sun.”

More proof that Doe and the Sadies have a fine appreciation for these stalwarts of Americana is found on the four original tracks on this record.

“It Just Dawned on Me,” written by Doe and his former wife and fellow “X” bandmate Exene Cervenka, sounds as if it could be an old Johnny Cash song. The duet on this number, with Doe singing low and Kathleen Edwards singing high, sounds eerily similar to a Johnny Cash/June Carter collaboration.

“Before I Wake,” written by the Sadies, is a wonderful song about hopelessness — “I can’t help you and there’s no helping me,” — where sturdy guitar riffs are the only thing holding up Doe’s and Margaret Good’s downtrodden vocals. You get a sense that both singers would collapse if it wasn’t for the steady backbeat coming from the impeccably tight Sadies.

What I’ve always appreciated about good country music is it’s innate ability to express an emotion in its raw state and its knack for taking you to another place and time. The place this album brings you to and the place John Doe is singing from is a real, country, dive: the type of place you’d like to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon drinking beer and doing shots of whiskey.

Read about other good sounds in the Music section.

Savor This Album Like a Fine Stew

Jen Kearney and the Lost Onion are playing at Toad in Cambridge on Thursday nights in September.
Jen Kearney and the Lost Onion are playing at Toad in Cambridge on Thursday nights in September.

Lowell musician Jen Kearney‘s latest work blends jazz riffs, latin rhythms, Motown grooves and a rock n’ roll sensibility into one cohesive album that should be savored like a fine meal, not scarfed down like a drive-through cheeseburger at 2 a.m. after a Saturday night out.

“The Year of the Ox” is a concept album where the songs were carefully crafted and then put together in a specific order.

Kearney’s voice has been compared to Stevie Wonder and on this album it sometimes sounds like him; sometimes like a young, screechy Michael Jackson; sometimes like a booming Joan Armatrading; and sometimes it’s uniquely her. But the music that accompanies her is truly original, blending a mixture of sounds including jazz flute with Motown saxophone, latin drums, and caressing backup vocals.

A good example is the masterpiece of the album: “Gentle and Precise.” This song is put together and built like a (pick one) masterful oil painting; a finely-tuned European sports car; or a gourmet stew; with many different things going on at once. But the arrangement by Kearney is flawless and it works.

It starts out with a riff reminiscent of Miles Davis, heads into a mariachi trumpet sound, and then Kearney’s deep strong voice belts out, “Busy fools building shrines, Got a high education, But can’t seem to lift up their minds.” Her staccato inflection is then buoyed by a crescendo of soothing backup vocals. You hear all of these rhythms and melodies at once and you can’t help but smile (and maybe even dance).

Twelve musicians play a variety of instruments which makes this a very different album. There’s a trumpet, a flugelhorn, tenor sax, flute, trombone, violin and viola to go along with the standard lead guitar, drums, bass and keyboards. There is also something called a cuica and talking drum and a theremin, which provides some of the other-worldly sounds.

Other highlights include the songs:

  • “To the Moon”: This song has a funky groove with a bopping bass line layed down by Brian Coakley, followed later by some jazz flute by Dan Abreu that sounds reminiscent of Tito Puente’s band.
  • “Succotash Blue”: Kearny sounds like a young Michael Jackson here with a nice jam session towards the end.
  • “Bossa Nova Stereo”: Opens like a song from the Buena Vista Social Club album and ends with a bossa nova beat. Nice lyrics about a wise woman giving her advice: “She said you’ll never find peace thinking the way you think,  It’s not in a man, in a pill or a drink, Keep rolling along, Keep writing your song, And you’ll learn baby.”

The main theme that runs through this album is the desire for self-improvement and the pull of nature (specifically the moon) vs our free will. Kearney uses these primitive concepts to take us on a wild musical ride into what makes us human.

(“The Year of the Ox” is available on CD at CDBaby and for download at Amazon.com.)

(Discover more roots music in the Music section.)

Hogan’s New Album is Life’s Work, Labor of Love

The album is available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon.com and at Book Oasis in Stoneham.
The album is available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon.com and at Book Oasis in Stoneham.

Massachusetts singer, songwriter Kenny Hogan says his new album took three years to make, but if you listen carefully to him and the music, you soon realize this has been a lifetime in the making.

Hogan, who grew up in Medford (in the same neighborhood where I grew up) and now lives in Stoneham, has been a professional musician for 40 years, having played lead guitar in several bands that toured nationally.

His new album, “Frank’s Imperial,” features all original songs in a variety of genres including soul, rockabilly, blues, jazz, country, and electrifying rock n’ roll. Amazingly, he sings all lead and backing vocals and plays all of the instruments on most tracks.

Hogan’s influences are apparent: Motown, Beatles, Steely Dan, even Hank Williams. However, this album is truly original and a welcome find for music fans from the ’60s and ’70s.

The name of the album refers to Hogan’s memory of his father’s love for his 1967 Imperial automobile. The title track is a smooth, soulful tune that conjures up images of a 12-year-old boy sitting in the back of this massive luxury sedan with shiny chrome and fins while his father negotiates “rollercoaster road.”

So far, the album has gotten some play on NPR, and a few local radio stations. And the song “Backyard Barbecue,” is now the theme song for an online radio talk show called “BBQ Emergency.”

Hogan is a veteran of the Greater Boston music scene.
Hogan is a veteran of the Greater Boston music scene.

The album is available on CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes, where you can hear samples of the songs, including:

  • “Let’s Go!”: A hard-driving, rockabilly tune.
  • “Real Good Day”: An easy going melody featuring a jazz clarinet gives this track the same feel-good sentiment as the Beatle’s “Good Day Sunshine.”
  • “The Uke Song”: This number makes you think of grass skirts on a tropical island as Hogan sings about being away on a business trip in Florida while his wife is stuck up in snowy, freezing Boston. A smart DJ would play this for comic relief during the winter months.
  • “Heaven”: Lush backing vocals on this soul tune are all Hogan.
  • “Everything I Need”: Bluesy, grinding harmonica accompanies this song about “family, friends, and music.”

All of the songs on this album were a labor of love for Hogan. And it shows.

(Kenny Hogan will be interviewed live on WMBR radio on Sept. 10 at 4 p.m.  Cuts from “Frank’s Imperial” will also be featured.)

Check out more roots music in the Music section

What’s On Your Summer Checklist?

Reading a book or watching the sailboats from a beach on this Maine island is a favorite summer pastime.
Reading a book or watching the sailboats from a beach on this Maine island is a favorite summer pastime.

So here it is mid-July. You’re probably stuck, toiling away at work somewhere. Before the summer slips away, it’s time to take stock. What are your favorite things to do in the summer? Make a list now, before it’s too late. And make sure you do everything before that first nip in the air hits in late August (or September, if we get lucky in New England).

I have to confess: this isn’t my idea. I stole it from my friend: musician, humorist, and all-around creative recreationalist, Kenny Hogan. (Hey, instead of coming up with my own ideas for this blog, I need to go out and start checking off my own list. ) You can check out Kenny’s list here.

Here’s the RootsLiving list:

  • Lobster and champagne (served at home or at a cottage on a small island in Maine). There’s no better combination to make you feel like you’re living large.
  • A sit-down dinner outside in the yard with family and friends. (This is an upscale version of a cookout with real dishes, several courses — some made on the grill — and great wine.)
  • A backyard hootenanny, with music supplied by friends who know how to play a guitar and sing. (This often happens after the sit-down dinner in the yard. Hey, most people with talent are used to singing for their supper.)
  • A trip to Hampton Beach, NH. (Or anyplace on a beach near you that has a boardwalk with carnival games and is a great place to people-watch. Note: It’s a known fact that Hampton Beach has more people with tattoos per capita than any place in America.)
  • Listening to a ballgame on an AM radio, preferably in a summer cottage without TV. But in a car traveling late at night is good too.
  • Eating cold, fried chicken in the late afternoon or early evening on your favorite beach (mine is Good Harbor in Gloucester, Mass). There are no crowds then, plenty of room to park. And I have to confess, I often make things easy on myself by cooking up frozen Banquet fried chicken (Don’t tell Martha!).
  • A rowboat on calm seas on a summer day --- Aaaaaah.
    A rowboat on calm seas on a summer day --- Aaaaaah.

    Rowing a boat on a lake or a kayak in calm seas.

  • Attending at least one outdoor concert, preferably a small venue where you can bring a picnic.
  • Attending a minor league baseball game, where the ticket prices and concession stand prices are cheap, and it’s all about the kids, not the players’ egos.
  • Sitting at a raw bar overlooking the ocean, eating the freshest oysters and clams and chasing it down with a cold beer.
  • Picking and eating fresh tomatoes with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Body-surfing on a beach with big waves.
  • Playing bocce in the yard or on the beach.
  • Making dinners with the bounty of the season: fresh seafood, greens, and fruits.
  • Blowing off an item on my “work to-do” list to do one of these fun things. The summer is all about playing hooky.

Please comment below on some of the things that are on your summer checklist.

(Photos by Mark Micheli)

Love Drives Shocked’s New Album

On her website, Michelle Shocked writes, "I love you America, but I think we should see other people."

Michelle Shocked’s new album, “Soul of My Soul,” is perhaps her most musically diverse, containing at least one tender love ballad, a screeching punk rock number, a gospel song and a bit of soul.

But what makes it rich are her lyrics which are all about love: love for her new man and love for this country. Although, I’m sure some would argue with the latter.

About half of the 10 songs are written about love and her boyfriend, fine artist David Willardson, and the rest are deftly crafted protest songs, the type of songs few artists, if any, are singing anymore.

Some critics have written that these attacks at the Bush era were released too late, yet they miss the point. Shocked is singing not only about Bush-era mistakes but about the history of injustices since the Revolution and the need for concerned citizens like herself to fight against them. And isn’t that the true American story?

Her songs also maintain their relevance because things haven’t turned around yet under the Obama administration and Shocked, after all, was a Kucinich supporter.

Even if you don’t agree with Shocked’s politics, you have to admire her boldness to say what few people are willing to say publicly: that this country has strayed far from its roots; her ability to put her complicated feelings not only into words, but into poetry; and finally her sincerity.

What Is A Patriot?

In one song she lets us all have it, singing about Americans being in denial, about building “our house on sinking sand,” and then asks if we are now “reaping our harvest of greed?” She then takes aim at her critics, saying you can call her unpatriotic or a traitor for saying all of this but she’s “singing this because I can,” and you know she’s also singing this because she still cares.

Raging against the government, the unchecked greed of a materialistic society, or the status quo is not new for Shocked but what is new is that she indicates on this album that she may be coming to some sort of peace about it all and she does this in the very clever song “Other People. What at first sounds like a woman about to break up with a lover turns into a song about a citizen about to take a break from her preoccupation with the politics of this country.

Right before the chorus, she reveals, “I’m saying this citizen to country, not woman to man.” And then the chorus starts, “We should see other people; I believe we should see other people.”

Honesty in a Tumultuous Career

Shocked has always been honest to herself, her music and her fans throughout her tumultuous career.

She was first discovered when someone made a recording of her singing around a campfire at a folk festival in East Texas in the 1980s. That led to her first record on a small label in London that caught the attention of some major American labels. She told a producer for Mercury Records who was trying to sign her that the budget for her first record with them was too much and why didn’t they give her a quarter of it and use the rest to sign some other artists.

A few years later when Mercury wouldn’t allow her to create what she wanted to create, she sued them for slavery and won. The lawsuit took several years to come to its conclusion and in the meantime she was not allowed to release anything new — a hardship that threatened to ruin her newfound success with her hit single “Anchorage.” It was an act of defiance that other artists admired, including Bruce Springsteen who said he wished he had as much courage as she did to willingly sacrifice her fame and success for her principles.

For Shocked it’s never been about the money, the success or the fame. I once saw her in a small club in Lowell, Mass. Before the show she distributed small flyers on each table with a list of the songs she intended to play that night. She handed me one and explained that on the back was a list of most of her other songs and the audience was going to vote on what she would play for an encore.

I was stunned that she was mingling with me and others as they arrived at the club and asked her “What are you doing mingling with us mere mortals?” She patted me on the back and replied in that sly way of hers, “Oh, I’m mortal. You can be sure of that.”

She may be, but her music and her story which are one in the same, will certainly outlive us.

(Photo Courtesy of MichelleShocked.com .)

Read more RootsLiving music articles

A True Roots Woman

Click on the photo to watch a video of Jen Kearney singing an acoustic version of her latest album's title track, "Year of the Ox."
Click on the photo to watch a video of Jen Kearney singing an acoustic version of her latest album's title track, "Year of the Ox."

Now, here is someone you need to check out: Musician and culinary school-trained chef Jen Kearney.

I saw her and her band, “The Lost Onion,” at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, Mass. last year and was blown away. Her band –six pieces including trumpet, sax, and trombone — played a mix of soul, latin, funk, reggae and rock n’ roll.

Most of the songs were originals. However, one of the surprising highlights was when they ended a cuban-fusion number and then started in on the Led Zeppelin hit, “What Is And What Should Never Be.” The band left the stage for this number, leaving just Kearney on the keyboards and a lead guitarist. The sound was ethereal.

The husky-voiced Kearney (who sometimes sounds like Stevie Wonder or Joan Armatrading) is playing some dates next month in Cambridge, Mass., New York, and her hometown of Lowell, Mass. She also plays in Lowell on Aug. 8 opening up for the Derek Trucks (of Allman Brothers fame) Band.

But what I didn’t know until today is that Kearney is also talented in the kitchen. An article in today’s Lowell Sun reveals she inherited “an Italian cooking gene” and includes a recipe and slideshow of her cooking what she calls “Lost at Sea Frutti de Mare.”

Now that’s a true rootsliving woman!

(I haven’t had a chance to try and make Jen’s dish, but when I do, I’ll be sure to write about it. It sounds – like her music –  incredible.)

Under the Summer Moon

Video: Watch this Moonflower open up in real time.
Video: Watch this Moonflower open up in real time.

It’s not too late: not too late to start planning to see one of the most amazing natural phenomenon of summer. I’m talking about Moonflowers (includes audio).

They are the exact opposite of Morning Glories. Instead of blooming each morning, Moonflowers bloom each evening: large 6-inch or more white flowers pop open right before your eyes in a matter of a minute or two.

Video: Even Carlos Santana's guitar sang the praises of the Moonflower. (Photo courtesy of focusonthemusic.com on Flickr)
Video: Even Carlos Santana's guitar sang the praises of the Moonflower. (Photo courtesy of focusonthemusic.com on Flickr)

You can still get these babies at most local nurseries. I picked up a few at Mahoney’s in Winchester, along with a few Morning Glories. I like to plant them side-by-side and have them twine up along my 2 front-stair railings.

The Moonflower plant, just home from the nursery.
The Moonflower plant, just home from the nursery.

But the ideal place to plant them is somewhere you’ll be at night: maybe your back deck or patio or near your outdoor firepit, or perhaps along the fence of your swimming pool. That way you’ll be certain to see them.

And because they only take a minute or two to open each evening you can watch this phenomenon in less time than it takes you to finish that glass of Chianti. Cheers!