Real True Confessions With Padre Pienbique

A Junkie, a Man of Royalty, and a Writer walk into a bar.

The Junkie says: “Gimme a shot you know the kind”.

The Man of Royalty said: “I’m Important! Serve me my renown beverage of choice!”

Finally, the Writer looks up from his laptop and says: “When the other two get watered, give me their home phone numbers. Because when the Junkie throws up in the alley and the Duke of Shit stops talking to you, the owner of this establishment will still want to know who to send my bar bill to”

Ahhh writers! Less successful than bullshit royalty and poorer than a junkie, artists of every stripe suffer insults worse than Paris Hilton at every turn.

For every piece creativity offered, there are twenty objections and a hundred folks that couldn’t give a shit. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: Thanks to our advanced technology, anyone with enough gumption can publish their wisdom at minimal cost to a maximum number of folks. Do you play music? Garage Band and is open for business. Like typing? Join the millions of unheralded Hunter S. Thompsons exposing slanted facts and inside scoops to anyone willing to read your bad jokes (See: My last twenty-five columns.)

And as for whatever it is that unemployed painters do, I know they can gain some limited recognition and a paycheck by redoing by bathroom. It ain’t the Sistine Chapel, but it’ll help pay the rent.

Over the beautiful days and pleasantly cool nights this summer, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a couple of items sent to me by thoughtful and talented artists for review.

Well, not review. I hate reviews: “This is goodthis is baaaadddd Suck my diiicckkkk!”

The problem with reviewers is that they get a paycheck to judge something they couldn’t possibly do for free, for pay, for glory, or for style. They’re helpless munchkins in a giant’s world, and almost everything they write comes out like Penis Envy of the Word Processor.

So this is something like a review, but more about the stories that made the art. A Behind the Music, without the gratuitous drug references. (I’m sure the respective authors smoked pot- yet didn’t inhale- so I’ll leave it at that.)

Besides, if the any of the three items sent to me for my thoughts sucked, I wouldn’t bother writing about them. I would simply chuck em in the box where I keep the other pieces of shit that have shown up on my door.

On with the fun

Bill Cutler- Crossing the Line

First off is a CD that took so long to make that CDs weren't even invented when he started recording. Neither were cell phones. Or even cordless phones. Shit, the fucking space shuttle hadn’t even launched by the time this project was even half-done.

Not unlike his healthy head of thick, black, poodle-esque hair, time is on Bill Cutler’s side.

If the name “Bill Cutler” seems kinda-sorta familiar, but you’re not sure why, it’s because he’s a peripheral kind of guy: His brother John, was the sound guy for the Grateful Dead for a dozen or so years, but Bill has been both front-and-center and behind the San Francisco scene since 1960-whatever. He’s either played with, recorded with, or hung with each and every musician this whole scene was founded upon.

We should be so lucky.

But Bill’s not lucky; he was just there. As both a professional co-patriot (he produced The Big Wu’s Spring Reverb) and personal buddy (he’s been amazingly tolerant with me and my fat mouth), I’ve witnessed the secret of his longevity: Cutler is in the scene because he works like a motherfucker.

He’s one of the few, the proud, the men and women that never bothered getting a work-a-day job because he’s just too damn busy making music. Cutler’s resume is a dog’s breakfast of guitarist gigs, management duties, producer, and record company guy. He has always understood the principle rule of the music game- that you can’t play unless you keep your hand in- and he continually violates the prevailing standard by being really, really good at what he does.

So it’s no surprise that his “new” record features a rogue’s gallery of guest musicians, from Jerry Garcia, Jorma Kaukonen, Bob Weir, David Nelson, and probably half of the twelve disciples. Really, most of them were alive when he started the record, somewhere back in 1975. By the time he finished the CD in 2001, quite a few of them passed, including that Jerry guy.

To make a long (and trust me, it is) story short, Cutler finally received clearance from all the guests and/or their estates last year. At least Bill secured this before he found himself six feet under.

Despite all this time and effort, Bill hipped me to the intrinsic irony of recording Crossing The Line: Before the album got mixed, different parts of different songs were recorded by different players over 26 years, so the actual sound of the individual parts, not to mention the songs as a whole, came off as though they were done piecemeal over almost three decades. My thesaurus tells me the antonym for “coherent” is “illogical”. My gut tells me that Bill Cutler and his mixer, Russell Bond, found that term to be a little weak. I think a better word would be “fucked”.

However, Cutler since did employ Russell Bond to work these recordings, sonic salvation was achieved after uncountable hours of knob twisting and hand wringing.

So it goes.

As for the record itself, reviewers keep screwing Cutler by attaching phrases like “A Great Americana Singer/Songwriter” or even worse, “Classic Songs In A Modern Context.” What they don’t know, or didn’t bother reading in his press releases, is that songwriters- Great, American, or Otherwise- write the songs they write no matter what year it is. And it doesn’t matter what year it is. This is why Jimi Hendrix is still an original and Led Zeppelin rocks better than everyone else. So it’s no surprise that Cutler’s record sounds classic, but not outdated.

If you’re so inclined, hit Bill’s myspace page:

Next up is a CD by vibraphone-badass Tim Collins, followed by a children’s book based the Jesse Fuller-penned and Grateful Dead-covered song, “The Monkey and the Engineer.”

Tim Collins- Fade

Every once in a while, somebody sends me a CD to listen to, and if I have the time, write a “review” for, despite my loathing of record reviews. And every once in a greater while, the CD is worth taking some time with.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to do with this one when I first got it. That’s probably because nobody sends me vibraphone records with rock drums and Charlie Hunter playing Mike Watt-style punk bass on it.

As we all know, vibe players live in the back of jazz bands, play jazz notes and if they’re audacious enough, make records that immediately fall down the Jazz Hole of No Return. (Who knew “jazz” was so much more than a dirty word? Almost like a musical kiss of death)

But New York City does more than swallow musicians whole. Sometimes it spits them back out just to see if they can thrive outside of musical vortex on Planet Manhattan. And I think Collins has something here.

Now, let’s make no bones about this: The record is produced by Charlie Hunter. Charlie Hunter plays bass. Charlie Hunter’s name is on the cover. But this is not a Charlie Hunter album.

Tim Collins will tell you that Charlie’s fingerprints are all over it, but that’s because Hunter did what a good producer should do: Make a record sound even more like the artist than the artist could do by themselves.

Tim Collins takes a wide-open approach to Fade: He plays the vibes straight-up, he plays them through Fender guitar amps, he employs digital delays and other sonic toys keep Fade from being another CD by a guy in NYC.

The opening track, “Loud”, could successfully be copped by Medeski, Martin & Wood- Simon Lott cracks a rock beat on the drums, Hunter plows through with a simple bass line and the vibes join right in. Good stuff.

Since the album is instrumental, writing about the songs is like trying to dance about architechture.

But there are a few things about the CD that are notable in itself: First off, Collins fiddles with what he calls “bowed vibes” (I’m not sure what that is, but it sounds cool), plays some piano (“Dear Old Friend” stands out), and programs drum machines. Secondly, he scored out parts for a string quartet on two tracks, the title bit “Fade”, and a tribute to his grandparent’s estate on “Lake George 1983.” If it matters, the string section set him back $600. I only bring this up because making CDs isn’t free, so you should feel bad if you steal it off your buddy’s iTunes. To make you feel worse, Tim spent around $9,000 to make the album out of his own pocket. Just so you know.

If there’s anything to bitch about, Tim doesn’t pull any ripping, impossible-to-duplicate riffs on Fade. But that’s not a fault of his, just a peeve of mine. He’s tasteful with his craft, so there’s no reason for me get grumpy.

Ropeadope Digital, Official Release Date: 10/14/08"

Monkey and the Engineer– Story by Jesse Fuller and Illustrations by David Opie

When Jodi NewDelman of RedPsych Productions asked me to review this book, I simply said “Sure.”

I mean, I’ll say “yes” to just about anything (much to my physician’s chagrin). Not that I’m in any medical danger from reading a children’s book based on an American standard-turned-Dead song, but I keep thinking there should be some kind of moral to the story. I’m sure there’s a moral to “Casey Jones” but my head just naturally combines ambitious monkeys, six thousand ton runaway trains and Columbian marching powder into one big fuckup.

Alas, Monkey and the Engineer is just as innocent as it’s supposed to be- No crashes, horrific decapitations, trips to detox, etc. Just a nice song about a curious chimp and a train.

Since you already know the actual story, (and pre-approved of its content, I’m sure) the best part of the book is the wide-page illustrations and bold font so one can hold it out and show all the kids the pictures just like we all enjoyed in our youth.

Although tragedy is avoided in both the song and the book, the last page has one of those mysterious “The End?” pages, as if to taunt me into drawing up and stapling in a few more bonus panels where perhaps Casey Jones and his merry band of drug addicts take over the train and terrorize the village where The Engine That Could delivered the toys. (Bruce Willis and Steven Segal show up to kick some righteous crackhead ass)

Or something like that.


Last weekend I attended the kind of fun dinner party where everybody brings a dish complementary to a theme. In this case, Hawaiian was the order of the day. And that’s where the trouble started.

I happen to live in Minnesota, so I don’t have the foggiest idea what someone in Waki-Waki fancies for dinner. Perhaps some other inappropriately two-times named fish, like Mahi-Mahi. Served for no reason with pineapple-pineapple.

I was not okay with this. Not that I mind pineappled Mahi-Mahi with a pineapple relish served on a bed of pineapple, but originality counts at parties like this.

So I got smart and adjusted a recipe to follow suit. The best part of this culinary winner is that there is no need to add said pineapple. It’s only useful if you’re going to a Hawaii party and refuse to use well ummmm pineapple.

If you do feel compelled, simply place one small slice of pineapple (if out of pineapple, one flake of coconut will suffice) somewhere in the dish. Otherwise, just make this and rejoice in the fact that you’re still alive.

Thai Beef Salad (Add one slice of pineapple for silly Hawaii parties)

1 lb. New York strip, sirloin, or whatever tasty cut you like
Fish sauce to marinate

1 cup sliced tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup sliced cucumbers
1/2 cup sliced red and green bell peppers
1/2 cup sliced red onions
1 bunch of green onions sliced
1 bunch of cilantro chopped

6 T fish sauce
3 T lime juice
2 T sugar
6 cloves garlic minced
4 Thai chili peppers finely chopped (this can be pretty spicy)

Marinate steak in fish sauce for at least 5 minutes. Grill steak and then let rest. Slice the meat against the grain and reserve all juices. Place
the steak and veggies into a bowl. Pour the meat juices and dressing over all ingredients and toss.

Summer isn’t going to last forever, so do your self a favor and try this out. Your super-hot 20 year-old Hawaiian love slave will thank you!