Monday, October 5, 2009

WINE & MUSIC: CHRIS WHITLEY AND A NEW ITALIAN

Years ago it seems, a friend of a friend played a CD for me that would be an almost-surreal moment in my musical life. The artist was named Chris Whitley, and the CD was “Livin’ with the Law.” I think the year was 1991, and I was poised to embark on a strange new trip that would lead me through a frenetic marriage, the single best group of musicians with which I ever got to perform, and a stark, numbing breakdown that brought me back to my hometown and to a state of reinvention. Throughout all those times, I could always rely on the sounds of Chris Whitley to guide me on my way to a happier place and time, whether it was the heavy blues histrionics of his second CD “Din of Ecstasy”, to the accessibility of “Terra Incognita,” the simply beautiful “Dirt Floor” and on into his experimental discs “Rocket House” and “Soft Dangerous Curves” to his final releases, “Reiter In” (with his band The Bastard Club), and the stirring “Dislocation Blues” with Aussie bluesman Jeff Lang.

Chris’ music always seemed to watch over me, influencing me in some good way. Indeed, many critics thought Chris to be some wayward angel, possessed to stir our souls toward some unpronounced path to redemption. He passed away not long after my 39th birthday, in 2005 after suffering from lung cancer. His musical path wasn’t a popular one, opting to follow his strange muse down a different road, one that many never truly understood. I kind of think of him as our generations’ Robert Johnson, creating songs that seemed only the soundtrack to the thoughts and feelings within his own world and mind, and if anyone else was to hear them, that was fine with him. Take a listen to a live rendition of his song “Hotel Vast Horizon,” the title track to his 2003 release:




With music as stark and as haunting as Chris’, it seems odd to even bring up anything as trivial as wine, though there are those cherished bottles that have moved me much like Chris Whitley’s songs. One in particular is something I actually just had over the weekend, courtesy of new friend Terence Hughes, one of the geniuses at Domenico Selections, as well as my favorite distributorship, Heidelberg and good friend Brad Nichols. Unveiled to Shannon and myself, the Musto-Carmelitano Pian del Moro 2007 is 100% Aglianico del Vulture from the Campania in Italy. It is a dense, rustic, powerful red that is chock full of tannic goodness, leaving you salivating for something along the lines of an Osso Bucco or Bracciola. I like how the dark red berry fruit and the chalkiness of the wine really transported you to a happier place (wine does that for me, I guess ‘cos I gave up trippin’ ecstasy a long time ago).


Chris Whitley and the Pian del Moro from Musto-Carmelitano – it’s an odd combination, but to me, they are two gifts from the Big Man Upstairs. Saluté!

1 comment:

Terence said...

Kevin, thank you. I AM a bloody genius.

The young lady who leads the very small family winery, Betty Musto-Carmelitano, is an inspiring person who had the wisdom to bring on board another genius, enologo Fortunato Sebastiano.

One factual error: the wine is from Basilicata not Campania.

Enjoy Washington State.