Houston to Major Tom: a song for shipwrecked souls (new track by the Parzen Family Singers)

Above: the Parzen Family Singers covers David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (for better audio quality, check out the SoundCloud below).

Every since the Parzen family moved to Houston nearly two and a half years ago, our daughters and I have been obsessed with astronauts (the “real astronauts,” as the girls call them) and NASA’s Johnson Space Center, which lies about 40 minutes away by car from the house where we live in southwest Houston.

The girls and I go there once or twice a month (Tracie P, not so much).

Somewhere along our journey into space, we came across this video-cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who recorded vocals and an acoustic guitar overdub for the track on the International Space Station.

That YouTube led us to our obsession (especially Georgia P’s) with this vintage David Bowie video version of the original song, shot on analog film.

Major Tom and our beloved “real astronauts” have become central to the Parzen family narrative.

Our daughters — ages 3 and 4.5 — don’t yet tap into the astronauts as metaphors for the unknown and unknowable. I’m not really sure where the appeal lies for them. I am certain however that like dinosaurs, astronauts are an interminable source of fascination for (our) children, perhaps because they innately intuit their significance in the unsignifiable.

For me, Major Tom and the real astronauts (like Ulysses) are allegories for our own shipwrecked souls and the human condition driven by our very real need and desire to face our aloneness (tell my wife, I love her very much, she knows…).

It’s so powerful to sit in the original gallery of the original Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center and hear the docent recount the 1969 moon landing.

“The first time words were heard from the moon,” she said on our most recent visit (with my bromance Giovanni), “they were heard in this room. That’s pretty cool.”

(Our dear friend Elaine also visited the real astronauts with us earlier this year.)

Like Columbus, like Magellan, like Ulysses, the real astronauts travel into the unknown so that we may know it, making the unknowable knowable. They haven’t unlocked the mystery of the universe and our existence. But with each step they take, they chip away at and assuage our aloneness.

And so on this sleepy Friday, the hottest day of summer so far, I offer you the Parzen Family Singers’ cover (SoundCloud follows below and the YouTube lies above).

One giant step for a middle-aged wine blogger… Thanks for listening.

girls in space

NSFW: “Smooth (oh Paolo),” Parzen Family Singers’ new song about Paolo Cantele #bromance

paolo cantele winePaolo Cantele (above) is one of my bestest friends and my bromance (and my client) and I wrote him this song (embedded below).

This was one of those ones that just tumbled out of my brain and body: I hadn’t intended to write him a song but then a beat led to a riff and a riff led to a wah wah pedal and a lyric.

I hope my guitar playing makes up for my crappy singing and I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed recording it (here in Houston at Baby P Studios Gulf Coast location).

See you next week and thanks for being here. Lyrics follow the YouTube below.

Smooth (oh Paolo)

He’s got the crib
He’s got the clothes
He’s got the ride
And everyone knows

He’s got the look
He even wrote a book
Doesn’t have the hair
But the girls don’t seem to care

Oh Paolo
Some say he’s a gigolo

He’s got the wine
And he’s got the time
When the ladies are looking so fine

Likes heavy guitars
Likes hanging in bars
He’s even friends with a dude who’s named the Jar

You know he’s moving in the right direction
Gonna get some California sun
You know he’s making all the right connections
He’s America’s newest son
He’s gonna get the rock ‘n’ roll injection
And he’s gonna have himself some fun
He’s a son of a gun

Oh Paolo
Some say he’s a gigolo

Bitter herb and salty tears for Prince… wishing everyone a good Passover #hagsameach

passover foodsThe bitter herb and salted water will be especially acidic and savory this year.

Tracie P and I are both reeling from the news that Prince has left this world for a better one.

Just a few weeks ago, Michael Z., a friend from Australia who works in the music industry, sent me a video from a private performance by Prince he had attended. What an electric, magical entertainer he was, a triple threat as they used to say…

After everyone else went to bed last night (my mom is in Houston for the holiday), we stayed up and sipped some Venica Pinot Grigio as we watched all the remembrances on CNN and listened to our favorite Prince tracks on our phones.

He gave us so much through his music, energy, activism, and charity. Now he’s gone. It makes both of us so sad.

Tonight we’ll be celebrating the Passover with my mom and Tracie’s parents, Rev. and Mrs. B.

And when we dip our parsley into the water and remember the bitterness and salty tears of the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt, I will also remember how Prince brought us so much joy and light and sweetness in the daily toil of life. The world isn’t the same without him.

Wishing everyone a happy Passover… hag sameach, yall…

A sexy song for Tracie P and a new album from the Parzen Family Singers

Stream or download the whole album here for free!

Just enter “0” for the amount you want to pay or stream from your computer.

The Parzen Family Singers’ long-awaited album “Songs from Texas” is finally here! Nine new songs about their life in Texas and beyond, written and recorded in Austin and Houston between 2008-2015.

Songs from Texas (cover) thumbChristmas Comes Just Once a Year

The dream of every Jewish song-writer? To write a great Christmas song.

She Can Change My Whole Wide World

The world I travel but only Tracie P can change my whole wide world.

Georgia Ann

A love song for Georgia, who always gets mad when I go away for work but forgives me when I get back.

Lalala Lila Jane

This song was borne out of how much fun it is to say Lila’s name. It rocks out, just like her.

Lady (I want to make sweet love to you)

What can I say? My wife is hot! Don’t believe me? Watch the Youtube above.

Hey Joe

I wrote this for my bromance Giovanni for his 40th birthday. He’s a regular Casanova.


Dindo is one of my best friends in Italy. Knowing him makes me happy, just like this song (my good buddy Nathan Smith from Houston plays killer sax on this track).

Tracie B (Won’t you marry me)

I proposed marriage to Tracie P, then B, with this song, one of the first I wrote for her.

All We Need Is Grapes

The lyrics of this track actually have a deeper meaning than meets the ear.

Click here to download or stream.

Songs from Texas (liner notes) thumb

An Italian wine cellar grows in Austin at Italic

best pizza austin texasAbove: the soppressata and taleggio pizza at Italic, Austin’s latest Italian entry.

Tuesday found me in Austin where I finally got to eat at Italic, the latest Italian-concept to open there and just one of the seemingly countless new Italians to open or to launch before year’s end.

The wine director Master Sommelier Craig Collins is a good friend from our years in the River City. He started my party off with a bottle of Lambrusco di Sorbara and expertly sliced prosciutto, a thoughtful pairing and a lovely gesture (especially because, and I just have to say this one more time, the prosciutto was sliced perfectly).

His list there is fantastic, with a focus on indigenous grape varieties and a balanced selection of northern, central, and southern. That alone was enough to make me a fan: It’s great to see southern wines well represented at restaurants like this, where the marketing target is generation Z. I love to think about how current UT students might wash down their pizza with Aglianico instead of the predictable and unavoidable stainless-steel Merlot from Tuscany that you see so often by-the-glass in pseudo-Italians today.

But thing that really blew me away about his program wasn’t the current offering but the wines that weren’t on the list.

Before we sat down, Craig gave our party a tour of his 1,000+ reserve cellar, chock full with Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Aglianico that he’s aging. He has laid down a serious allocation of 2010 wines and he plans to start opening them a few years from now.

“I’m going to do 2010 Produttori del Barbaresco [classic] Barbaresco by-the-glass,” he told us, “just because I want people to experienced what aged Nebbiolo tastes like.”

Beyond New York, it’s rare that you find programs where directors are cellaring wines like these.

So for me, the thought that someone like Craig is holding back these wines in a youth-oriented market like Austin gives me confidence that a new generation of Italian wine lovers will emerge there.

And that’s good news for all of us, across the board, from Italian winemakers and purveyors of Italian wines to Italian wine consumers.

Italic is a big restaurant located in the heart of downtown Austin on 6th street not far from music row. When I moved there in 2008, no one could imagine such an ambitious Italian restaurant and wine list in one of our nation’s party-hardy epicenters. Today, this sleek joint packs ’em in and plies them with pasta, pizza pies, and Frappato.

Bring it on, Craig! I love your program. Chapeau bas, my friend! It’s great to know that an Italian cellar grows in Austin.

italians austin texasAbove: a little Texas hospitality outside Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, where they still deliver the righteous country jams.

After dinner, I just had to take my clients, Giovanni (above, left) and Francesco Minetti (right) to Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, one of me and Tracie P’s favorites honky tonks from our years in Austin.

That’s Tracie Lynn (above, center), one of the Live Music Capital of the World’s standbys. She and a super smoking band delivered a bitchin’ set of country standards.

Super fun night and after her last set (yes, we stayed to close the place), she meet-and-greeted fans outside the club in classic country fashion.

When she learned that it was Giovanni and Francesco’s first time in Texas, she insisted on gifting them CDs!

The guys had a blast (as did I) and afterward, I couldn’t help but say to them, adding a double-shot of irony for the road: “visting Texas? I’m so sorry…”

All wine and no jams make me a dull boy: Tonecraft rocks my home recording world

Happy May Day!

tonecraft bass preEven though my band Nous Non Plus hasn’t been performing or recording lately, I still keep my chops up by writing and tracking my own songs. It’s something that I enjoy immensely and it’s also a way — you’ve seen as much if you visit here regularly — to get our daughters into music.

The professional music and audio world often overlaps with the wine and food world. Off the top of my head, I could name many more than a handful of winemakers and restaurateurs who all played (and continue to play) music professionally or semi-professionally.

My good friend Jon Erickson isn’t just one of the best bass players I’ve ever met and the co-owner of one of my favorite San Diego restaurants, Jaynes Gastropub.

He’s also — and I’m not exaggerating by any means here — a legendary audio designer. In other words, he designs audio devices that are used in the recording arts. The Pacifica microphone pre-amp, an industry benchmark, is arguably his most famous patent.

His newest entry is the Tonecraft All-Tube Direct Input Preamplifier. And I have the great fortune to own one (above) thanks to a wine barter he and I did a few months ago!
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Wine glasses that sing and sexual chemistry in wine pairing coupling for V-Day

pizza champagne pornAbove: a little soft gooey porn to get your Valentine’s Day weekend started off on the right slurp.

First of all: happy Valentine’s Day weekend, everyone!

I had a lot of fun with my post today for the Boulder Wine Merchant: “Sexual chemistry matters: Valentine’s Day wine couplings.”

This year, put some sexual chemistry into your V-Day wine pairing.

glass harp michael andrews composer musicianAbove: while in LA this week, I got to play a glass harp.

Secondly, check out the video below of my friend Mike Andrews’ glass harp (you know Mike’s music from his career as a film composer and music producer; his break-out score was the sound track to the 2001 film Donnie Darko).

Mike is a collector of vintage instruments and it’s always a wonderful experience to visit his studio in Glendale.

But listening to him play and then getting to play his glass harp, the latest addition to his collection, was truly magical. We paired it with a bottle of Cirelli Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Anfora that I swiped from Sotto (wine directors get to do that, btw).

Happy Valentine’s Day weekend, everyone! Squeeze and hold your loved one tight tomorrow. And remember what a blessing it is to live in this world, to love, and to be loved.

Song of mine on Guillermo del Toro’s new show “The Strain” this Sunday

les sans culottesWord from my agent in LA arrived yesterday afternoon: a song I co-wrote and co-produced, “Sa Sabine,” will appear this Sunday on the pilot for a new show, “The Strain,” written and directed by Guillermo del Toro for FX.

I wrote the music for the song (one of my favorites) back when I was living in Brooklyn and gigging with my then-band, Les Sans Culottes (above). It came out on our album, “Faux Realism,” in 2002 (Aeronaut).

At the time, our breakthrough song hadn’t happened yet. In 2003, we sold a song from an earlier recording to a major ad campaign by Hewlett Packard. The spot — played in primetime during the World Series that year and beyond — gave us the bandwidth and exposure that made us a nationally known act.

We were a Brooklyn favorite and we headlined regularly at venues like the Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan.

It was a crazy and crazy-fun time in my life: I had been working in New York as a freelance writer and copywriter for a few years by then and I was writing, playing, and recording music by night (and not just with the French band).

I can’t share the song here because of copyright issues. But if you want to check out the original recording (which was made on two-inch tape — yes! — in a studio in pre-gentrification Bushwick), you’ll find it on all the usual platforms (iTunes, Amazon, etc.).

When we mixed it, we used a technique developed by engineer Eddie Kramer on Jimi Hendrix’s “Axis: Bold as Love.”

After we made an initial mix of the track, we played part of it back slightly out of sync with the original, thus creating a “phaser” effect that gives that section of the song an otherworldly sound (otherwise known as the “spaceship” or “doobie” effect).

I make a decent living by writing about Italian gastronomy and culture and have nothing to complain about. Life’s been good to me so far (je suis j’étais un rock star).

But selling one of my songs and knowing that my music is still out there is one of the greatest rewards of my professional life.

Thanks for listening.

The pilot for “The Strain” airs Sunday night at 10 p.m. EST on FX.

Scenes from the “Pasolini in Rome” show at the Cinémathèque Française

Comrade Howard graciously sent me these images from the current “Pasolini in Rome” exhibition at the Cinémathèque Française where he toured the show last week with the museum’s director.

It runs through January 26.

La poésie, la politique, le sexe, l’amitié, le cinéma… The stuff that life is made of.

The track “Pasolini” in the slideshow comes from my band Nous Non Plus’ release Le sexe et la politique (Terrible Kids Music 2012).