Above: Tracie B and me met Kermit Lynch in real life for the first time in May in San Francisco. In case you don’t know, Tracie B would be the good-looking one on the right.
Like so many good things that have happened to me over the last year and a half thanks to the blog, I met Kermit Lynch back in April when he commented on my post Idol and Bandol. Who knew that Kermit read my blog?
We’ve stayed in touch since then and a few months ago he asked me if I’d give him a hand organizing a listening party for his new release on Dualtone, Man’s Temptation. Needless to say, I was thrilled to get to work with him, in part because I love his palate and have always been a fan, in part because I’ve been digging his new disk and have become a new fan, and dulcis in fundo it’s just so cool to get to work with a luminary in the biz who loves country music as much as Tracie B and me.
In our trans-Atlantic conversations (he in Provence, me in Austin), he told me about how he grew up in the San Joaquin Valley, the son of an itinerant evangelist. The Grapes of Wrath was the backdrop: the souls his father saved were the same southern farmers who came to California in search of Merle Haggard’s “California Cotton Fields,” one of my favorite Merle tunes and one that Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris both covered:
My drifting memory goes back to the Spring of ’43
When I was just a child in Mama’s arms
My daddy ploughed the ground
And prayed that someday he might leave
This run down mortgaged Oklahoma farm
That’s some pretty serious country cred that Kermit’s got.
Here’s the info and the press release I composed to launch the event. I hope to see you there: if you’ve been planning a trip to Austin, this might be a fun time to make it out.
Man’s Temptation: An Evening with Kermit Lynch
Monday, November 9 @ Vino Vino, Austin, Texas
listening party and wine tasting
singer, song-writer, and wine industry legend Kermit Lynch plays cuts from his new album Man’s Temptation (Dualtone) and talks about his music, his life, and his wines
Monday, November 9, 2009, 7 p.m.
$20 (ticket price includes 1 glass of wine)
4119 Guadalupe St
Austin, TX 78751-4222
with a menu inspired by the wines and travels of Kermit Lynch
All currently stocked Kermit Lynch wines will be available by the glass and available for sale retail.
Reservations required, space limited.
To reserve, please call (512) 465-9282 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rocker Interrupted: Kermit Lynch finally yields to temptation
Singer-Songwriter Kermit Lynch releases Man’s Temptation (Dualtone), a collection of ballads, rockers, and ditties, spanning forty years of faith, temptation, and musical salvation (produced by Ricky Fataar).
The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.
From the opening lines of Man’s Temptation, singer-songwriter Kermit Lynch cinematically sets the backdrop for the multi-layers of his life as a singer, writer, and wine Svengali:
Paris and my mind is breaking
Paris, I’m in a railway station
Gare de Lyon…
But just when you think that the gravelly, smoky voice behind the old tube-driven microphone is about to head out to Lyon to taste wines with a Beaujolais producer, the melody of the track rises and steers the listener in another and entirely unexpected direction. The singer is in a railway station,
Gare de Lyon, on my way to the next concert stage.
Man’s Temptation was recorded just last year in Nashville, Tennessee with some of the great country music players in the business today but the album represents a journey that began more than forty years ago in Berkeley, California.
Lynch was born in Bakersfield and grew up of the son of a teetotalling itinerant preacher who traveled the upper reaches of the San Joaquin Valley in search of souls to save. The setting was straight out of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, as Lynch puts it, and the souls were southerners who had fled their native land and sought out the same “California Cotton Fields” that Merle Haggard’s father dreamed of as he tilled his rundown, mortgaged Oklahoma farm. It was there that Lynch discovered his first love of music (and grape juice, since no wine was to be had): Jimmy Rogers, Hank Williams, and the country recordings of Jerry Lee Lewis were the first cuts he would hear, the same music his father’s congregants listened to when not singing at church.
By 1966, Lynch had landed in Berkeley, at the height of the music scene. He began writing songs, started a band, and gigged around. But a first trip to Europe and a drummer’s cocaine habit interrupted and deferred the rockstar dream. Disillusioned by the flower power scene, Lynch decided to focus on making a living and turned to a second passion: wine.
Hit pause and fast forward: forty years later, Kermit Lynch is one of the most successful and respected names in the business and he is considered one of the world’s greatest wine writers, a pioneer in reshaping the American wine palate with wines that speak of place and the people who make them.
Hit play: forty years later, Lynch has delivered the album he lived and wrote all those years ago and in the lifetime that followed, a collection of ballads, rockers, and ditties that speak to the weaknesses and the strengths of man and his temptations.
From the original tracks like ballad “Gare de Lyon,” the Beggars Banquet-inspired country waltz “Backstreets of Moscow,” and the rocker “Buckle-Up Boogie” to covers of classic Dylan like “Girl from the North Country” and classic country like “Take These Chains from My Heart,” the verve, pathos, and fun of Lynch’s voice play counterpoint to some of the most bad-assed, finger-lickin’ pickin’ you’ve heard since the last time legendary session man George Marinelli (Bruce Hornsby, Bonnie Raitt) tuned up his git fiddle. The fresh analog-driven tones of the band provide an earthy palate of colors for the tableaux vivants painted by Lynch, whose face is probably slightly less wrinkled than his heart and whose voice is as gravelly and dusty as the vineyard roads of southern France that led this voice astray some forty years ago.
Kermit Lynch, rocker interrupted, is now waiting at the Gare de Lyon, getting ready to board a train on his way to the next concert stage.
Btw, I’ve taken a train from the Gare de Lyon to go play a gig in Lyon!