For hundreds of years folks have found ways to produce their own whiskey. In the Great Depression, when grain prices were at rock bottom, the Moonshine Whiskey Rebellion became a way for homesteaders to turn excess corn into quick cash. Federal taxes on whiskey were enforced by revenuers sent to prosecute unlawful distilling.
Moonshiners operated along river banks to tap off free water generating 20 feet pipes connecting to their copper stills that would be hidden in the undergrowth, to avoid detection. Should the stilling process backfire and it often did, alcohol would blow back out the feed pipe into the water creating an image as “If The River Was Whiskey”.
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This happens to be the title of the new album by the Spin Doctors, released in the UK on May 6th, a delicious collection of deep blues with a homestead feel. The songs and music were originally compiled to be a follow up release to their 1993 album, “Pocket Full Of Kryptonite”, but never came to recording fruition.
Due to the immense surprise success of “Kryptonite” the Doctors became involved in touring obligations, continuing to spin the globe and preferring to be recognised as a live band rather than booking studio time. Hence, the material for the planned second album, although played live, would be laid down in the cellar to ferment and mature, until now.
In the summer of 2012 the original four Doctors met up in Manhattan at the home studio of drummer Aarron Comess, aptly named His House. The original plan being to get together and practice the unreleased material. It turns out the three day sessions produced vibes so fresh that the band decided no studio overdubs were needed. Consequently, 20 years of buried treasure rises into a performance which, according to vocalist Chris Barron, ‘makes every note feel dangerous’.
With his knowledge of cooking up classic recipes, Barron could be a judge on “Hells Kitchen” or, heaven forbid, “Masterchef”. Getting thirsty and hungry for more?
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In order to make your own original Spin Doctor River Whiskey Mix, you will need to have at hand these essential ingredients:
Chris Barron; for the vocal chords, keep lubricated.
Aaron Comess; provides baterie, utilize when no mortar and pestle can be found.
Eric Schenkman; provides fluent strings, use as substitute for virgin olive oil.
Mark White; creates backbone and bass line, nothing fishy.
Now follow these steps:
Step 1: Take four guys, who write and create their own music, lay them down in the cellar, keeping apart for up to twenty years, bring them back together on the boil. Mix in some Deep Blues. Wait a while to settle. Go outside ‘walkin the dog, especially in heavy weather’ but ‘Don’t make the cook look silly’ and if arguments arise in the kitchen, respond with ‘When you said you loved me, you must have meant another man instead.’
Step 2: Source the liquid elements as “If The River Was Whiskey” wake up in the morning and add a bottle full of “Kryptonite” found only on a distant planet, be warned, could take twenty years to locate. ‘Take it down to New Orleans and wait a while, don’t get into trouble, don’t drown in the brew on the boil’.
Step 3: Distil the mash to create the “Sweetest Portion”. ‘I have been searching for my heart but could only find my head, and maybe I’ve been thinking I need a damn sight more than bread’. This is a stirring vocal pouring out of the heart of a man that can not live on…. bread alone’.
(Chefs Note : The song was actually written by Barron aged 19 when he ran away from home, only to return to find his friends were all worried sick that he may have died, consequently Barron claim’s he will probably never write such a great song again. Be your own judge but the evidence in his favor is overwhelming.)
Step 4: Un-tap and so flows the “Traction Blues”. By beating ingredients swiftly, the riffs and vocal break traction, important not to get bits stuck to the pan. With proper listening preparation a classic Spin Doctors dish is on the menu, guaranteed!
Step 5: “Scotch and Water Blues” go to Church and pray your recipe will work out.
Ensure your ingredients do not go “So Bad”. Initially all ingredients will appear pure but messin’ with the blues can quickly lead to a vision of a certain John Lennon shooting Coca Cola. Be careful with the oven temp!
Step 6: If your recipe goes haywire ‘Go to New Orleans, won’t be back till four. If I do it a little better, I won’t be back at all’
Finally: The Spin Doctors have been away for 20 years on legal recordings but there are many bootlegs out there. Front man, Chris Barron explains there has never been a commercial pursuit ‘We get up on stage and we turn it on and sing and play our hearts out. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, just make real music, give people something from my heart’. Enjoy it and if you want to start making Whiskey on your own, just make sure you don’t leave a trail on the river bank for the Feds to pursue.
Review by Tim Price April 21st 2013