Bob, Bourbon, and Books: 75 Years Young

Bob, Bourbon, and Books returns for Bob Dylan’s 75th birthday!

Bob: “Ain’t Talkin’”

Daniel Ford: “Love and Theft” and “Modern Times” offer plenty of dark tracks best consumed with a glass full of brown fire. “Moonlight,” “Lonesome Day Blues,” and “Workingman’s Blues #2” spring to mind immediately. However, nothing offers the bleak landscape and weary growl of “Ain’t Talkin’,” the final track on “Modern Times.”

If Dylan had never wrote or recorded another album, “Ain’t Talkin’” would have been one hell of a swan song. Spanning more than eight minutes, it evokes epic ballads like “Highlands,” “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” and “Desolation Row.” Unlike those songs, “Ain’t Talkin’” fully embraces its despair, promising no hope in a world gone wrong. 

“Ain't talkin', just walkin'/Through this weary world of woe/Heart burnin', still yearnin'/No one on earth would ever know.”

Dylan sings of sick mules, absent gardeners, desired revenge over a father’s death, and, of course, “that gal I left behind.” He’s walking to escape the terrible burden of heartache, vowing to get her “out of my miserable brain.” Dylan’s rasp marks the dirge’s slow unravel into oblivion; it goes down as smooth as cheaply distilled rotgut. 

“Ain’t Talkin’” is also about what happens when you’re finally out of time to fully purge your mind and spirit of all the demons you’ve accumulated along your rough rode. What more can you do than walk through the hours you have left with a glass of bourbon in your hand, thinking,

“The suffering is unending/Every nook and cranny has it's tears/I'm not playing, I'm not pretending/I'm not nursing any superfluous fears.”

Bourbon: Elijah Craig 12-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

David Pezza: Bringing back the triple B in honor of the title man’s 75th calls for a classic bourbon, one with a history and a pedigree. Elijah Craig is an old school bourbon that hasn’t lost any of its touch. Distilled at Heaven Hill Distillery (in its current form, since the end of Prohibition), Elijah Craig gets its name from an 18th-century Baptist who was incorrectly named the inventor of bourbon. It’s one of those bourbon’s that you’ve completely forgot about, until it’s your only viable optional at the bar top. And then you remember, holy shit, this is good bourbon.  

Elijah Craig can hold its own with the better brands like Maker’s Mark, Buffalo Trace, and Woodford Reserve. What differentiates this bourbon, in my opinion, is its bite. It’s your grandfather’s bourbon. It wants nothing to do with those new-age, smooth-as-hell, artisanal bourbons made in some hipster’s loft in Brooklyn…or is Queens the new hipster central? They’re spreading! 

Elijah Craig packs a punch, but has an unmistakable cherry cola/cinnamon flavor to it, perfect for opening day of fishing on the chilly water or after a long morning of shoveling out the car. This bourbon, like Bob, has helped generations leer life straight in the eye, and maybe even provide a little bit of courage to get us through.

Books: Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Dave: Finders Keepers is King’s second installment in what has come to be known as the Mr. Mercedes trilogy. King’s foray into the crime/murder/mystery genre, Mr. Mercedes, has spawned what might be some of King’s most exciting fiction in a decade. 

The book’s main action picks up tangentially from the events of Mr. Mercedes, following the incarcerated thief of a literary genius’ house and the son of one of the victims from the first novel’s inciting incident. King manages to encompass a compelling and all but spate mystery plot in the trilogy’s main movement. King is truly in rare form. By the book’s resolution, you feel satisfied by the neatly managed story you’ve just finished and faith in King’s ability to pick up right where he left off in the third installment, but leave it to the master of mystery to reward that faith in a style befitting his legacy.

Bob/Bruce, Bourbon, and Books Archive

Even More Happy Hour

Bruce, Bourbon, And Books: Wreck on the Highway to Bull Mountain

This series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.

By Daniel Ford

Bruce

Since author Brian Panowich has become a mentor/Twitter friend, I let him choose the Springsteen song that would accompany my review of his debut novel Bull Mountain (which is available starting July 7). Much to my chagrin, his first choice was “Adam Raised A Cain,” a song I once described in this column as “redundant and uninspired.” I sent him back to the drawing board and he came back with the splendidly depressing “Wreck on the Highway.” Better yet, Panowich gave us permission to re-publish the following short story, which is included in Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Based on the Songs of Bruce Springsteen. The story features a loose end from Bull Mountain, but he assured me it doesn’t contain any spoilers.

Wreck on the Highway By Brian Panowich

I shuffle a crooked cigarette out of the pack and carefully drop it into my mouth. Of the three left in the box, it was the only one left that wasn’t broken. I was favored by the gods.

No light. Shit.

I should have known better. I just let the damn thing hang there, and stare out the window. The sun is coming up, although from this angle it looks like it’s coming down. I have a perfect view, as if the skyline adjusted itself just for me. I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about a sunrise right now if I didn’t have this sudden forced moment of peace. I think about how many times people wake up to that big ball of fire smiling at them, and nobody gives a good goddamn? They just keep running in the same circles, making the same mistakes, competing for the same nickel.

Like me.

I look at Frankie hanging next to me. He’s sleeping through the moment. I let him. He wouldn’t give a shit anyway. I try to remember the last time I watched a sunrise, but it’s hard to think. My head is still foggy. I’m pretty sure, the last time was from the hood of Scabby Mike’s Model T just south of Bull Mountain with…

Hillary.

Aw, Hill baby, I’m sorry. I fucked everything up again. But you knew I would, didn’t you? You knew there was no such thing as one last time. That’s why you said goodbye when you left. You never used to say goodbye. I should be sitting in your kitchen right now, drinking your coffee, watching the sun come up with you. Not with Frankie. Not like this.

There’s a scarecrow just past the edge of the cornfield to my right. He must have been on his coffee break a few minutes ago. Way to go, asshole. Nobody takes pride in their jobs these days. Nobody cares. Well, you don’t have to worry about it now, buddy. That’s a little over seventy-five grand blowing all over your hometown, so maybe now you can climb your lazy ass down off that post and retire. Go tell Mrs. Scarecrow you hit the jackpot off of some poor bastard’s bad luck.

Speaking of poor bastards, Frankie’s head is starting to look like an eggplant. I pull my knife from my jacket pocket, and cut his seat belt. He falls straight down with a hard thud. That woke him up.

“Gimmie a light.”

He doesn’t even hesitant to try get his bearings first. He digs his Zippo out of his pocket with his good hand and tosses it over. I light up and the rush of smoke is a stream of battery acid down my throat.

“The fuck happened?” Frankie says.

“A bird, I think.”

“A bird?” He tries to right himself by grabbing at the back seat above him, but can’t.

He’s busted up pretty good.

“Yeah, a big one.”

He tries to laugh, but it comes out as a thick, wet cough that sprays blood all over the roof below us. He ain’t got long. I put my cigarette to his lips and he takes a grateful drag.

All better.

“Where’s the money?” he says. Now it’s my turn to laugh, as I look out the window and see the bills scattered like confetti all over the two-lane road.

“Frankie, my friend, I think we went through a lot of trouble just to end up paying off some farmer’s bank loan.”

More laughing. More coughing. More blood.

I ask him if he can see the sunrise. He doesn’t bother to answer. I knew he wouldn’t care. Hillary would. That’s all that would matter to her right now. She’d hold my hand right up to the end, which is pretty close now, because I’m beginning to hear the sirens.

I keep my gun in my boot, but I can’t reach it. My legs are so twisted up; I don’t even think they can qualify as legs any more. I’d be screaming hysterical in pain right now if it wasn’t for all the Oxy pumping through me. Thank God for the miracle of prescription medication.

“Can you reach your gun?” I ask, “Mine’s stuck.”

No answer.

“Frankie?”

No answer. He’s gone. Shit. Sorry buddy.

I take one last drag and tamp out the bloody butt on the asphalt. Then I reach over and pull my dead friend a little closer until the .38 in his armpit shows itself.

The sun is high above me now. It’s a new day. The sirens are all over the place. I tell Hillary I’m sorry one more time and put the snub-nose to my head.

I’m never going back.

No bullets. Shit.

Bourbon

Fun fact: Fiction editor Dave Pezza and I shared an office at our day job for so long that we would be considered common-law married in some states. Our professional lives deviated a couple of weeks ago (excluding Writer’s Bone, of course), but we sent each other off the only way we knew how: with a bottle of brown alcohol. Dave gifted me Maker’s Mark 46, which I’m currently imbibing while refreshing my email waiting for a literary agent to be wowed by my query letter (or the sack of money I sent). For those of you who have gotten their hands on an advanced reader copy of Bull Mountain may question this pairing, preferring perhaps that I chose a less sophisticated bourbon given the book's setting. However, from now on, this bottle will signify to me an end and a beginning: the end of being in close proximity to one of my closest friends, and the beginning of an exciting time where both of us get to shine editorially during our waking hours. To me, Maker’s Mark 46 tastes like brotherhood, something the main characters in Bull Mountain know a thing or two about.

Book

Inspired by The Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek,” Brian Panowich’s debut novel Bull Mountain is a welcome addition to the quality Southern noir we’ve reviewed during the past year. The novel, which Apple and Amazon just named one of their top picks for July, follows the Burroughs clan throughout several decades in the North Georgia Mountains. At the center of the story stands Clayton Burroughs, the sheriff of Waymore Valley, an honest man standing at the foot of a corrupt mountain. A shadowy Federal agent gives him an opportunity by to finally extricate his family name from drug running and death, however, his hillbilly crime lord brother wants no part of any such redemption.

The narrative spans several generations of Burroughs men, always at odds with themselves, their kin, and the innocent bystanders in their wake. As with many of the other crime novels we’ve featured recently, this one shines because of its literary dedication to its main characters. They feel as old and familiar as the book’s mountain setting and are hardwired into the plot in a dramatically complex way. I’ll also echo author Steph Post’s thoughts in a recent podcast interview (which goes live on Monday), and say that Panowich’s lead chapter is a master class in how to start a novel. It feels as if the story was hatched on a foggy mountain outcrop and shot onto the page by a hunting rifle.

Fathers and brothers may be the bedrock of Bull Mountain, but the female characters are the soil that allows it to grow wildly. If you’re not in love with Clayton’s wife Kate by the end of the tale, then you are someone I never want to share brown liquor with. She’s more than just a Southern bell standing behind her lawman; she’s as conflicted as her male counterparts, tough as mountain stone, and has the force of a supernova when the blood starts rolling down toward the valley.

Be warned, there’s a good chance this book is going to light your house on fire, but don’t worry, Panowich is a firefighter. I’m sure he’ll squelch the flames as long as you share your bourbon.

For more Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books, check out our full archive.

Bob, Bourbon, and Books: Knausgaard and the A-Changin' Times

This series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.

Bob

Daniel: Take this lesson to heart as an aspiring author: “Don’t stand in the doorway/don’t block up the hall.” Have something to say and communicate it well. And if you don’t’ have anything to say, get the hell out of the way and make room for the people striving to have their art noticed.

Also, audiences change, technology upgrades, and writers evolve. Don’t waste the reader’s time by rehashing old ideas and characters because “your old road is rapidly agin’.” We need more rule breakers and less marketing plans.  Don’t worry about the advance, the movie rights, or your book’s positioning in a bookstore. You’ve got one job as a writer: Making your prose as great as it can possibly be. If it is, all the rest will fall into place.  

Dave: Soooo my post about this song is going to be way less inspirational and “go got ‘em” than Daniel’s. I’ve never really regarded this song as the 1960s civil rights movement anthem it was intended to be. To me “The Times Are A-Changin’” is a cautionary tale about life, ideas, and growth. Dylan sings about change as a quickly building flood of water, engulfing and encompassing everything. You’re only way out is to join it and float above it. When you’re walking about civil rights or suffrage or peace that flood seems righteous and necessary, and you sit safely in the ark of justification. But change is not always unequivocally good or right; and it isn’t always dangerous and evil either. Sometimes change is a new job, significant other, city, or maybe a whole new life. What is significant about change is that it is almost as universal as death. Everything changes, always. Some things change slower than other, some in small almost unnoticeable ways, but nothing escapes entirely. So what of it then, Dave? What to do about an inescapable force. Well you join it, naturally, if you want to survive that is. If you don’t, you surely will sink like a stone. Get moving it, get with it, wo/man up; the times are a-changin’.

Bourbons

Daniel: Author David Joy has been on me for weeks to try Elmer T. Lee. I haven’t been able to get my hands on a bottle yet, however, I was inspired to re-double my efforts after witnessing the dedication shown by author Brian Panowich in the tweet below.

Dave: We haven’t really touched upon Booker’s yet, but it’s time has come. Booker’s is one of Jim Beam’s small patch premium bourbons. It has the highest alcohol content of any of Jim Beam’s other products (between 60.5 percent and 65.30 percent alcohol by volume depending on the barrel). It’s basically some pretty hard kicking uncut booze. I never developed a taste for it as much as my older brother and some of bourbon lovers I know. For me this bourbon’s taste is a little but overpowered by its strength, but it’ll kick you off your seat for sure, and I always appreciate a spirit like that. Be prepared to spend a little bit more than you might hope because of the high alcohol content, but I’d say a good chunk of that cash is worth it.

Book

Dave: I was turned onto Karl Ove Knausgaard and the first of a six (yeah, I said six!)-part novel entitled My Struggle (one can only assume Knausgaard is more than aware of history of this title and is toying with its seriousness is erudite ways I’m not sure I totally understand). The book is an autobiographical fiction narrative, encompassing true people and true events under the veil of fiction. I was sold right there. Any writer of fiction loves the loose and ambiguous pathway between reality and imagination. It reads a bit like the longest essay you have ever read, but his attention to detail and pace lead me to believe this novel stays very true to its ambiguous device. Knausgaard is witty and serious and damned deep all the time all at once. His prose is readable but careful and precise. His flow and pace is uncanny. I think the book is so well wrought that despite a discernable plot or climax, I’m still enjoying nearly every page and will be picking up Book 2 in the very near future. Like other colossal prose writers like David Foster Wallace or James Joyce, there is some lag time before you really pick up on Knausgaard’s style. But once you’ve trained yourself on his tics and quirks and wonderful asides, his prose really shines. I’d hate to make an overly glowing review, but I honest can’t say anything entirely bad about him or this work. It’s not for everyone, and if you’re big on plot or characters I’d say borrow don’t buy, but if you like good writing (and good translating—really well done by Don Bartlett) then you must give it a look.

For more Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books, check out our full archive.

Bruce, Bourbon, and Books: Rough Rider Sets Sail With The Boatmaker

This semi-regular series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.

By Daniel Ford

Bruce

I needed an earthy tune to pair with John Benditt’s The Boatmaker, a hymn ingrained in ancient soil.

I’ve been a huge fan of artists covering traditional music throughout the last decade (particularly Springsteen’s “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions” and Neil Young’s “Americana”), so I didn’t mind replaying Bruce’s album with a glass of Rough Rider in my hand. I chose “Pay Me My Money Down” because it features many things that also appear in The Boatmaker: money, power, fighting, drinking, disrespect, and racism (be sure to check out this blog post to learn more about the song’s African-American history, as well as several renditions). Money almost becomes its own character in Benditt’s debut novel, so I can imagine the lesser workers on the Mainland singing this song after a few pops at the end of a long work day.

Bourbon

"Research." #toughjob

"Research." #toughjob

I love researching for this post because it often leads to a field trip to my local liquor store. As I was browsing the bourbon selection at the The Wild Duck in Boston, a familiar name caught my eye: “Rough Rider.” Being an avid American history buff, I read Edmund Morris’ crackling, vivacious narrative trilogy based on Theodore Roosevelt’s life and came away even more in awe of the truly larger-than-life character. Of course he would have a bourbon named after his famed military unit!

Despite having a namesake that once hunted all manner of wild game and spent considerable time in the wilderness (both foreign and domestic), Rough Rider was just about as smooth as it gets. I pulled the cork out, expecting the smell to challenge me to a duel, however, it sauntered sweetly into my living room, ready to partake in a lively discussion about today’s political climate. I normally drink my bourbon with ice, but Rough Rider’s grace allowed me to casually sip it all night while I finished The Boatmaker.

I also reached out to Richard Stabile, founder of Long Island Spirits, to find out more about the history of this top-notch bourbon.

Daniel Ford: Can you give us a little history on your distillery?

Richard Stabile: When we opened in 2007, we were the first “legal” distillery to appear on Long Island since the 1800s and we were also one of the first of new generation of craft distilleries to appear in New York. We are housed in a completely renovated 100-year-old, 10,000-square foot horse barn that backs up to more than 100 acres of potatoes and winter rye; which is also adjacent to Long Island Sound on the North Fork. The production part of the distillery is on the first floor and there is a beautiful tasting room on the second floor, where the 30-foot rectification columns pass into and are visible through glass. Our first product was LiV Vodka, which takes advantage of Long Island’s iconic potato that has been grown here on Long Island for more than 350 years. We are located on the bucolic North Fork, which features the acclaimed wine region with more than 60 wineries, so we started making brandy for a number of the wineries. We then went on to create some other wonderful and very innovative spirits including our all natural vodka-based fruit infusions called Sorbetta, Pine Barrens Single Malt Whisky, our Rough Rider Straight Bourbon and Rye Whiskies, and most recently our Deepwells potato gin.

DF: What makes your Rough Rider bourbon special in today’s market?

RS: We did not want to try and out Kentucky that state of Kentucky on the taste profile with our bourbon, so the inspiration for Rough Rider Bourbon came about from producing brandies for the wineries out here on the North Fork of Long Island. We produce Rough Rider Straight Bourbon Whisky in 10 to 20 barrel batches by first mingling older and younger straight bourbon whiskies. We then use ex-merlot and chardonnay French wine casks that have been washed with our 170-proof aged brandy and do a second maturation of the Rough Rider Straight Bourbon whisky, which is where they will rest for an additional three to six months. The extra maturation in the brandy-washed French oak casks transforms the Rough Rider into a much mellower, with the sweet brandy notes on the palate. Ironically, Rough Rider is probably one of the smoothest bourbon’s out there.

Long Island Spirits' distillery (photos courtesy of Richard Stabile.

Long Island Spirits' distillery (photos courtesy of Richard Stabile.

DF: We assume everyone isn’t a diehard Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen fan like we are. So, if you had to pair your bourbon with any song, which one would it be and why?

RS: I am huge Bruce fan. No question “Born in the USA.” Who’s more American than Teddy Roosevelt and his band of Rough Riders?

DF: Since we’re gearing up for another presidential election, if you were going to run Rough Rider for President, what would your campaign slogan be?

RS: “Walk softly and carry a big stick.” We actually just released a new 121-proof cask strength rye called Rough Rider “The Big Stick.”

DF: Can you name one random fact about your distillery?

RS: The barn the distillery is housed in has twin coppolas on it that were used during Prohibition to hang a lantern to signal to rum runners on the Long Island Sound that the coast was clear.   

Book

I can’t say enough good things about The Boatmaker. I’ve been reading at a pretty rapid pace the past few months, but I really sat down and took my time devouring this debut. Benditt does some expert world-building, breathing life into the parable style of storytelling. Most of his characters don’t just live in his world; they weather and survive it. The boatmaker begins as a simple man on Small Island, near death from a fever. He believes he’s given a directive to build a boat and sail to Big Island and the Mainland. His naivety nearly kills him throughout his journey, but his curiosity and determination to make sense of these strange lands don’t allow him to turn back. Readers see the world largely through his eyes so I still don’t have a deeper understanding about the power and cultural dynamics at play in this troubled kingdom. I guess it’s a lesson for all of us that not all countries are completely knowable, even if you’ve inhabited it forever. You might have more questions about the boatmaker’s reality (as well as our own), but, trust me, they will be questions worth asking and debating over a glass of brown liquor.

For those Bruce, Bourbon, and Books fans interested in such things, The Boatmaker features plenty of drinking, whisky, sex, women, fighting, and bloodshed. I wouldn’t try to keep up with the title character's drinking though. The boatmaker would long outlast you and then build a casket to house your pickled bones.

 

For more Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books, check out our full archive.

Bob, Bourbon, and Books Meets Johnny, Jim, and Longmire

This semi-regular series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.

Bob

Daniel Ford: How has it taken so long for us to get to this song? I blame the bourbon. This version of “Girl From the North Country” with Johnny Cash leads off Bob Dylan’s excellent “Nashville Skyline” album, and is the perfect introduction to the sound Dylan was striving for with that project. Whimsical and love sick, the whole album could easily have been sung by pioneers settling the Old West. Cash’s razor sharp voice lends the song even more poignancy, making it seem like the pair are just two old cowboys sitting around a campfire talking about old conquests and heartbreak. Dylan’s lyrics are especially haunting in this tune, giving mercy no quarter as he laments, “I’m a-wondering if she remembers me at all/many times I’ve often prayed/in the darkness of my night/in the brightness of my day.” As is often the case with Dylan songs, it doesn’t look good for our hero, but at least he has at least one beautiful memory he can envision when he meets the end of his dusty trail.  

Dave Pezza: Make “Nashville Skyline” your go-to for summer nights! It literally has everything you need: “Girl From The North Country” for a sunset driving with the windows down and the radio up, “To Be Alone with You” if you are down for a little grooving and a little dancing, “Lay, Lady, Lay” for, well, laying…, and “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You” to keep the party going and the booze flowing! “Girl From The North Country” opens this album magnificently. You can hear the history in air between Cash’s boom and Dylan’s falsetto. The best part of this song isn’t the pain of love lost both men emote so well, it is the simplicity of the song: Dylan, Cash, and two guitars. That’s it. That’s all you need. It’s not perfect. It’s not flashy. It’s real and honest. Cash and Dylan are feeling each other out the whole song, working off of each other’s voice and guitar. Cash even messes up the lyrics and Dylan just keeps on keeping on as if to say, “If Johnny Cash wants to change the words, dammit we’re changing the words!”

Bourbon

Dave:  Jim Beam. Jimmy Beam. Jim is a bourbon mainstay and was formerly my bourbon of choice. I even visited the Jim Beam distillery while on a road trip to Nashville. If you’re out at a bar, you order Jim Beam for shots, and you order it with cocktails. Anything else could cost you more Jacksons and Grants than you’d care to lose in a single night out. Jim Beam has been the face of bourbon for some time; however, since selling its distillery to Suntory Holdings Ltd. in January of 2014, Jim Beam (including Maker’s Mark) has been replaced on some bourbon enthusiasts shelves (myself included) with bourbon owned and operated by American distillers (such as Buffalo Trace’s massive distillery and wide selections). I haven’t bought a bottle of Jim since, although I can’t say I haven’t ordered it out. It might be a silly thing to protest, but something about one of the largest distillers of America’s official alcohol being owned by a foreign company rubs me the wrong way. To each their own.

Daniel: Young David and I have ended more than a few days with a shot of Jim Beam and a Budweiser chaser. I’m not sure whether my night improves or worsens after that because more drinks usually follow. Also, a slug of Jim Beam might be the kind of thing Walt Longmire’s foulmouthed deputy Vic might pour on your head after you try to hit on her. I’d love every minute of it.  

Book

Daniel: If you’re reading a Walt Longmire novel, odds are you’re drinking a Rainier, but since Pappy Van Winkle makes a cameo in Death Without Company, it’s the perfect occasion to pour something a little bit more special into your glass. I waited a long time to read another Craig Johnson novel because I so loved The Cold Dish. I didn’t want anything to sully the memory of that novel, so I held off on digging into the rest of the series. Boy howdy, I’m an idiot! Five pages into Death Without Company I remembered what made Johnson’s debut so special. The plot moves at a quick pace for sure (kick started by the seemingly innocuous death of an old woman in a nursing home), but the best moments are saved for Walt’s interactions with Vic, his best friend Henry Standing Bear, and his assistant Ruby. They keep Walt on track with cursing, Native American folklore and friendship, and Post-It Notes. Despite those warm and familiar relationships, my favorite Walt scenes might be those in which he’s alone with his thoughts, his dog, or his visions of the Old Cheyenne. Johnson isn’t afraid to show that Walt is highly educated despite his rural post, and that his scars are permanent and not easily overcome. Walt’s melancholy bleeds across every page, but it doesn’t stop him from being a badass sheriff who stops at nothing to solve a mystery. Death Without Company is set over the course of a couple days in the deep winter of Wyoming, so you’ll need a full glass of Jim Beam by your side to stay warm.

For more Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books, check out our full archive.

The Worst of Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books

This semi-regular series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly (or imperfectly in today's case) complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.

Bruce/Bob

Daniel Ford: Before you read my thoughts on Springsteen’s “Adam Raised A Cain,” become reacquainted with the lyrics and chorus. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Gah, even the lyrics make me wish I was Cain getting split open by a scythe.

I can defend most Bruce songs. (yeah)

But I hate this one. (yeah)

Adam raised a Cain? (yeah)

Okay, your father was a dick. (yeah)

You already wrote “Growin' Up” and “Independence Day.” We get it, Bruce. (yeah)

This tune is redundant and uninspired. (yeah)

Faux angst is the worst kind of angst. (yeah)

And it has the most awful backup singer cheers other than “Glory Days.” (yeah)

At least “Glory Days” knows what it is. (yeah)

“Adam Raised A Cain” is filler on an otherwise great Springsteen album. (yeah)

Dave Pezza: Let’s be honest with ourselves about something; even the best of the best phone it in sometimes. Every now and again, even power houses like Bob Dylan just come up with a total, utter dud. “Dignity” by Bob Dylan is most certainly that lemon. This song sucks out loud, in electric and acoustic. The most well-known versions of this song are probably from the “MTV Unplugged” and “Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8” albums. In both albums this song stops all recognizable audio and emotional flow. In the bootleg series it follows a double shot of prime rib Dylan blues and sorrow. This really, really, really good volume of Dylan’s outtakes/rarities series opens with a truly soulful and heart wrenching version of “Mississippi” and follows with what is, in my opinion, the best recorded version of Dylan’s hopeful heartbreak ballad “Most of the Time.” What could possibly follow up this tandem? A gritty version of “The Times Are a Changing” perhaps?  Or how about a much more listenable take on “Idiot Wind?” Nope. An aborted version of “Dignity,” a piano-based track that must have been recorded by some tramp Dylan pulled off the street in exchange for a ham sandwich. This is the Dylan equivalent of the Beatles’ “Piggies.” Not only is it a truly bad song, but it sticks it’s wretchedness right in the middle of pure audio art, like a middle-aged women who shoves her landslide of a shopping cart in front of you in line at the supermarket, just as you catch the eyes of the cute check-out girl.

Even in the “MTV Unplugged” version, Dylan punches you in the face with this preachy pile of sour milk by hiding it between a masterful eight-and-a-half minute live version of “Desolation Row” and a bluesy, harmonica-accented “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Bob should have left this one in the dumpster next to his Christmas horror movie theme song.

Bourbon

Even the logo is depressing.

Even the logo is depressing.

Dave: Old Grand-Dad is not good. It’s not good to taste; it’s not good for your body (they call it gut rot for a reason); it’s not even that good to mix. But it is cheap, like really cheap, and it is bourbon. So, there you go. Drink up.

Daniel: Dave mentioned the name of this bourbon and I grew an extra patch of hair on my chest. I know he’s going to make me drink this during a night out with Sean Tuohy when we’re trying to play the part of brooding writers. My hope is there will be multiple beer chasers nearby. 

Book

Daniel: I hated A Separate Peace, but I really hated Lord of the Flies. Everyone in my high school class seemed shocked and saddened by Piggy’s death, but I considered him lucky that he didn’t have to suffer through the end of this dystopian turd. Instead of rescuing these young heathens, the adults should have dropped a few nukes and then built a luxury resort. I’m not a huge fan of allegories to begin with, so I don’t give a damn whether or not Ralph crying over Piggy’s death symbolizes “the end of innocence” or that the whole book is a critique of human impulses. Fuck you! I’m pretty sure an A-bomb would have been a more effective metaphor. Read 1984, The Road, The Giver, or A Clockwork Orange if you’re hankering for a dystopian novel. Or watch “Blade Runner” for Christ’s sake. Anything else is better than trudging through this jungle filled with prepubescent assholes that deserve napalm for Christmas.

Dave: I don’t like Lord of the Flies either. But I really hate The Awakening by Kate Chopin. There are numerous ways to make the book better, but the most satisfying way is to have Edna Pontellier walk herself into the Gulf of Mexico over and over again until it drowns away the time I just spent torturing myself. And I don’t believe for a second the myth that this book helped turn-of-the-century female authors break-out of the male, chauvinistic writing world. If anything, this novel sets women’s rights back a decade. Yea, the only way to solve this love triangle is to have the lead female character off herself. Jesus. Melodramatic much? Skip this work entirely and pick yourself up some top quality books written by some top quality female authors like To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf or 1970s' Desperate Characters by Paula Fox.

For more Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books, check out our full archive.

Bruce, Bourbon, and Books: Jungleland

This semi-regular series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.

Bruce

Daniel Ford: Big Man. He’s all I can think about when I hear “Jungleland.” Clarence Clemons’ desperate, aching, urban, gritty, and spiritual saxophone solo transforms a solid Bruce short story into a musical masterpiece. Here’s what Clemons told Rolling Stone about recording the finale of 1975’s iconic “Born to Run:” "All we could do was hold on—smoke a lot of pot and try to stay calm." Considering that this album was Bruce and the band’s last shot at achieving musical relevance, it’s no surprise the recording scene was filled with anxiety, drugs, booze, and the pull-out-all-the-stops determination only artists who have everything to lose find to create something epic and lasting.

I’ve replayed Clemons’ solo a couple of times now, and each time I forget the rest of the song exists. And the rest of the song is a brilliant display of songwriting and musicianship! Clemons doesn’t suck the air out of the room; he supercharges it with a throaty exhale that cuts through Bruce’s preaching like a serrated knife to the belly. And then the song goes on! There’s a rightful few moments of pause, articulated with a few wistful piano notes. Bruce’s voice then reminds everyone that the sermon isn’t over and that the story must go on even though the come-to-Jesus moment has already passed. Like any good preacher, Bruce saves one of his best lines for the final stanza: “Outside the street's on fire/In a real death waltz/Between what's flesh and what's fantasy /And the poets down here/Don't write nothing at all.”

Jesus Christ, indeed.  

Clemons died at the age of 69 in June 2011, leaving us without the E Street Band’s thumping heart and brassy onstage presence. You’d think that songs like “Jungleland” and “Tenth-Avenue Freeze-Out” would be tough to get through during live shows, but thanks to the spirited play of Jake Clemons (the Big Man’s nephew) the tunes have become celebrations of Clemons and the sweet music he made with his energetic front man. Start your happy hour today off with a shot for Big Man and then hold on, try to stay calm, and craft something brilliant with your words.

Dave Pezza: Yep. That about says it all. Anything I would add would be a weepy tale of lost college love…and no one wants to read that shit just before the freakin’ weekin’. So drink up!

Bourbon

Daniel: Last August, I regaled our Happy Hour audience with the tale of me besting a former co-worker in a dark alcohol drink off.

After vanquishing my opponent, I thirsted for a fitting night cap. I approached the makeshift bar that had been set up in my former employer’s living room and pointed at the bottle of Pappy Van Winkle.

“Um, you’re the only one who has asked for it,” the bartender said, looking around for help as if I were holding a gun and demanding money from the register. “Are you really going to make me open it?”

I glanced around. The party had fizzled, but I was still loitering on the premises like a vagrant alcoholic who had just gotten $20 shoved into his change cup.

“Why don’t you go ahead and pop that thing open,” I said, nodding my head as if I had more power than my asshole demeanor conveyed.

The guy sighed, opened it, and poured the bourbon into a glass. He handed it to me roughly, and I took a satisfying sip right in front of him. I left him a couple bucks and enjoyed the best glass of bourbon I’ve ever had in my life while the hosts gently suggested I should get the hell out (and take my defeated coworker with me).  

Soon after, I stood in the rain with several young women (including the glamorously dressed Stephanie Schaefer, who would eventually ignore my boorishness and become my anchor in life) and waited for a cab that took at least 30 minutes to arrive. However, I still felt the warm aftereffects of the smooth, almost soulful, glass of Pappy Van Winkle. That’s the thing about great bourbons, all the good stuff happens after you drink them. Well, except if you’re Dave Pezza that is…

Dave: Pappy! You have to love Pappy, arguable the best bourbon out there (if you can find a bottle of the damn stuff). I’ve only had Pappy once. Some family and friends of mine got together last winter for a bourbon and steak night. Yeah, you read that right. Needless to say it was freakin’ awesome. One of the guys works at a local packy (what we call mom and pop liquor stores in Rhode Island) and had been on the list to buy the next bottle of Pappy that came through. Like fine gentlemen of worth, he brought that bottle with him. This stuff is smooth, warming, and highly addictive. It hits all the right notes: it’s rough like brown liquor should be, it’s easy on the way down, and it warms just below burning once it’s in your gullet. If you have the opportunity to try some, try as much as you possibly can. Just don’t have three fingers after a night full of steak and five other bourbons, because despite its high pedigree, it doesn’t taste half as good on the way back up.

Book

Dave: Green on Blue, Eliot Ackerman’s debut novel, follows a young Afghan by the name of Aziz. Aziz and his older brother are orphaned by Afghan militants. Soon Ali, Aziz’s brother, is maimed by the same men, and Aziz is recruited by a freedom fighting group funded by the CIA, who offer to pay for his brother’s medical expenses in return for his service. Green on Blue offers a rare perspective of the War in Afghanistan: the perspective of the Afghans who found themselves caught between violent, religious extremists and American sentiments of freedom and self-preservation. The result is a captivating narrative of a young teenage boy who wishes only to do right by his family and honor. Ackerman perfectly balances on the line of critiquing American ideals in a Middle Eastern society and the illuminating the struggle of the honest Afghan men and women who try only to survive in this contested land they call home. As America tries to put behind its recent wars in the Middle East, Green on Blue give us an understanding of the country and its people that we wish we could have had 14 years ago.

For more Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books, check out our full archive.

Bruce, Bourbon, and Books: All The Light Tends To Go To Atlantic City

This semi-regular series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.

Bruce

Daniel Ford: There are a handful of songs that immediately send me back to stumbling toward my potential in a small New York City apartment, not knowing when my limited supply of money would run out, leaving me with “debts no honest man can pay.” Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” might be at the top of that list. Despair permeates every lyric, but hope—even if it’s a fool’s hope—muscles itself in only to be smacked down again by unyielding obstacles. I’ve heard this song performed live multiple times, and the crowd reaction is immediate, guttural. We’re in the car with Bruce headed toward the hell that surely awaits us in Atlantic City, screaming as if we’ve finally discovered the only place we’ll feel at home. It’s a song about last chances, big dreams, the darkness that eclipses the small amount of light we’re allotted, and getting the fuck out of our own ways. “Put your makeup on/fix your hair up pretty” because damnation awaits and you’ve got to look your fucking best.

One of my favorite live versions of “Atlantic City” is the track on “Live in Dublin,” which features Bruce with The Sessions Band. The rendition, which breathes new life into early American music, hardwires even more desperation and bite into the tune. Blowing up chicken men in Philly has never been more fun.

Dave Pezza: Thank God, I thought we’d never make it to “Atlantic City.” This song has been my favorite Bruce song for as long as I can remember. It struck a chord with me in high school as a dowdy and socially frustrated teenager. The thought of having the balls to pack up your life, no matter how little is left of it, and risking it all on the open road felt so freeing, so hopeful in a sad way to me then, never mind the romantics of trusting that she'll meet you once your there, that you two will share it all or nothing at all with you. It made a deep impression on my psyche and always will. As I got older this song has always reminded me of the how much of a real bitch life is. Bruce’s somber, all but defeated tone makes you feel honest, desperate hope, a hope that I have since realized is such a daily necessity, just to get you up some morning, just to get you through some days. So much hangs on the balance in this song; he has no idea if he’ll make it to Atlantic City, that what he is running from won’t catch him before he gets there. He has no idea if she’ll even meet him there. And even then, once he gets there, he’s still got to risk everything.

Bruce’s mournful, gorgeous harmonica and his chilling guitar fade out reminds you that there always a hope that you can pack it up and make one last go of it. You might not make it, she might not follow, and you’ll still be screwed even if you make it there, but you sure as hell still got to try. Because maybe, just maybe, everything that dies someday comes back.

Bourbon

Dave: This week’s bourbon fits really well with our song and book, and we didn’t even plan it that way. Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr.’s Small Batch bourbon whiskey is not for the faint of heart. My aunt bought me a bottle of Colonel Taylor’s for my birthday this year, and I was saving it until we needed to try out a new bourbon. I honestly could not form an opinion on this bourbon for the first few sips. Colonel Taylor’s is harsh like strong whiskey should be but finishes like some of its more refined brothers. This is a bourbon for when you want to drink. Period. It’s not for the weak of palate nor the faint of stomach. I can picture Bruce gulping down a few fingers before heading to the tables in Atlantic City to toss it all on red, or Jacob McNeely, the main character in David Joy’s Where All the Light Tends to Go, drinking it straight from the bottle as he loads his shotgun at his dining room table. I wanted to dislike this bourbon on first taste, but I couldn’t. I just hadn’t mustered up the stones for it. Next time I’ll be ready.

Book

Daniel: As Dave correctly proves above, David Joy's Where All the Light Tends to Go pairs perfectly with "Atlantic City" because both involve characters' burning desire to flee a bad situation (and isn't bourbon usually the elixir to either get you moving, more likely, tie you to the dark place you're in?). You’d swear some of the perfectly crafted lines in this work swam out of a high-end bottle of bourbon, picked up the first shotgun they saw, and blasted their way through Appalachia. A few examples:

“Outlawing was just as much a matter of blood as hair color and height.”

“A girl like that couldn’t stay. Not forever, and certainly not for long.”

“I’d been around crank my whole life, so it had never been a drug, only money.”

“There are some souls that even the devil wants no part of.”

If that’s not enough for you, Joy’s debut novel also features vinyl records, redneck meth dealers, teenage angst, and bulls (aka police officers). Where All the Light Tends to Go closes with an final scene as shattering and powerful as: “Everything dies baby that's a fact/But maybe everything that dies someday comes back.” Based on the author’s answers during our recent interview, I have a feeling David Joy is going to be supplying readers with bourbon-infused material for years to come. 

For more Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books, check out our full archive.

Bob, Bourbon, and Books: Tinker Tailor Solider Basil Hayden’s

This semi-regular series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.

Bob

Dave Pezza: We bent the rules just a tad this week. “When I Get My Hands On You” is the lead single off of The New Basement Tapes’ one-off album “Lost on the River.” Comparable to the Traveling Wilburys, this collection of artists, including Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Elvis Costello, Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), and Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), were asked to create music based on a collection of uncovered, unused Bob Dylan lyrics. The album is worth checking out, if only for this single and “Down on the Bottom.” The whole collection has Bob Dylan’s fingerprints all over it. Although Dylan wrote the words, these artists managed to infuse his blues/folk simplicity and sarcastic, rueful emotion into every track. “When I get My Hands On You” fits well with our book this week, John le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but I’m sure Daniel will subtly tell you why.

Daniel Ford: Number of men who sang this tune to George Smiley’s wife in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: 578 (“Oh, sorry George old boy, I didn’t realize you were sitting right in front of me when I called your wife a dirty whore.” “Ricky, I’ve been asking you questions for two hours.” “Spot on, sod off!”). 

Bourbon

Daniel: Basil Hayden’s was my first bourbon. I had strictly been a scotch man before someone slammed a bottle of this joyous brown liquid down on a picnic table in front of me while I was attending a wedding in Tennessee. This guy had asked the local liquor store owner for a good bourbon and he had recommended Basil Hayden’s immediately. The next thing I knew, I was sitting in the back of a small yacht meandering the Tennessee River while sipping this sweet, satisfying bourbon. We drank the bottle all day, which gave us a warm glow and insatiable hunger for the smoked pork ribs served during the rehearsal dinner. I don’t interact with any of the people from that wedding (with good reason), but Basil Hayden’s remains a friend for all seasons.

Dave: I hadn’t tried this bourbon until a company outing with an open bar, so obviously I ordered a top-shelf bourbon. Basil Hayden’s is a terrific upper class bourbon, a little pricey, but worth every drop. Hayden’s always tends to go down fast for me, and not because of a particular smoothness or dilution.  It has a really rounded taste and kicks just the right amount. It’ll keep you tipping the bottle, especially on a cold, snowy night. Not a bad choice as a companion for an old school spy novel.

Book (and Movie!)

Daniel: It took me a while to get into John le Carré’s style, but once I did, I devoured Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in two lengthy sittings (there were a few good things about these Boston blizzards). It reads more like a play at times, just two or three characters at a time talking in a quiet setting. How information is revealed throughout the novel is brilliant; the readers starts with a small morsel of intelligence that grows each time he or she turns the page, so that by the time George Smiley has his eureka moment, you’re exhausted, yet hungry for more. I’m eager to read the rest of the series and find out more about our pudgy, slightly rundown hero. 

Sean Tuohy: The movie adaption shares DNA with another era. You feel as if you have taken a step through a portal into the 1970's and landed right in the middle of the Cold War. The film is filled with a lot of long shots, which makes the viewer feel as if they are peeping Toms watching deeply private interactions. You have to keep your eyes glued to the screen and pay attention, which is very easy because of the way the film is shot and acted, because otherwise, you’d miss important clues that led Smiley to crack the case.

Dave: I saw the most recent film adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy a year or so ago, and loved it.  It’s the British version of “The Good Shepherd,” but better because it stars Gary Oldman! Like most good movies, I learned that that it was based on the first of novel of John le Carré’s Karla Trilogy that follows the exploits of British intelligence officer George Smiley and his hunt for the KGB mastermind codenamed Karla. Le Carré fully immerses his readers in Cold War espionage, a subject he’s more than familiar with as a former MI6 and MI5 employee. If you’re looking for a well written, accurate, and entirely suspenseful spy novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy will hit all the right notes.

For more Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books, check out our full archive.

Bruce, Bourbon, and Books: Jefferson’s On Fire

This series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or tweeting @WritersBone.

Bruce

Daniel: "I'm On Fire" is an anthem to youth, infidelity, and mischief. Every emotion every young man in love has experienced in the history of mankind can be summed up in this one line: “Sometimes it's like someone took a knife baby/Edgy and dull and cut a six-inch valley/Through the middle of my soul.”

While the lyrics are inspired as always (no one has used the word “baby” in a song so expertly; it rattles your demons every time he sings it), the music drives the tune. It is constantly building in this song, but never boils over (a Springsteen hallmark). All the bubbling happens under the surface, and by surface, I mean his pants. Bruce has a hard on for this woman that’s stronger than a chrome engine, but he’s not scumbag enough (at least not in this song) to follow through with his desires.

This song could easily be about a writer struggling with the desire to create something truly original. It’s suicide to chase the muse full throttle at times, but keeping your emotions in check through a sweat-soaked restlessness can be just as soul-shattering.

Before I hand the mic over to Dave, I’d like to point out that if Springsteen told any woman (and most men for that matter) that he was on fire for them, relationships and families would be destroyed instantly. Yes Bruce, we’re on fire too.

Dave: I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m relatively new to the majority of the Springsteen catalogue, however, I’ve been playing “Born in the U.S.A.” since I was old enough to steal my older brother’s CDs. For me, “I’m On Fire” has always been a song that gripped my heart in a special way. I didn’t quite understand how or why until college. “I’m On Fire,” in accordance with its lecherous and soul-torturing tone, anthemed my blundering efforts to capture the heart of a beautiful and dangerously intriguing woman. Bruce couldn’t have captured the angst of young, unrequited love better; it still cuts, edgy and dull at my heart (we would date throughout college but never quite made the transition into real adult life). But the song, and Bruce’s own love life, captures love and life at its core: desire is just that, a wish. At some point, that aching is either cooled or explodes, changing yourself and reality for better or for worse. So when you wake up in the middle of the night, that freight train rumbling through the middle of your head, you gotta ask yourself, “Is she worth it?”

Bourbon

Dave: It just so happens that I moonlight as a college volleyball coach, and, after returning from a tournament in the badass state of New Hampshire, I couldn’t help but stop at the state line and indulge in some tax-free, price-slashed booze (damn does New Hampshire know how to sell hooch!). There, after spending my paycheck on a variety of bourbon, I came across a special stock of Jefferson’s “very” small batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, specially distilled for the State of New Hampshire. Sold. A month later, a couple buddies and I opened it before heading to the bar. I poured two fingers worth, and then two more…and then two more before we headed out into the cold December night.

Jefferson’s, especially this special batch, is smooth and tasty with a healthy dose of vanilla. You can put back the Jefferson’s like it’s your job, or like you’ve survived another week of dream-torching, life-numbing corporate banality. How does it pair with this week’s Bruce pick? Well despite the fact that nothing is more American than Bruce Springsteen, bourbon, and Thomas Jefferson (@JeffsBourbon, we accept cash, credit, and money orders). Jefferson’s is a pleasant reminder that, at the end of hard days, loves lost, and choices regretted, friends and a finely crafted brown liquor can help you look past it all, if only for the night. But be careful, for goodness sake, this stuff packs a punch. Definitely do not have six fingers with no supper, followed by numerous beers; you’ll end up on all fours in front of porcelain on Saturday morning.

Daniel: Am I drinking Jefferson’s out of a Superman travel mug right now? Does it make me feel like a superhero? Am I being quietly judged by Dave, a known Batman homer?

All answers point to yes because there is no wrong way to consume alcohol. Unless…

I’m happy to say this bourbon is unlike its foppish namesake. It only takes one sip to discover it’s a sweet, enjoyable dark alcohol sure to put out or stoke your fire depending on your mood.

Book

Dave: I was introduced to George Saunders by a college professor friend of mine. He suggested I check him out after a conversation about postmodernists and humorists (yeah, we’re pretty cool). I finally picked up a copy of Tenth of December, Saunders’ latest collection of short stories. The collection features 10 terribly well-constructed short stories ranging from attempted kidnapping to questions of social conformity and bigger questions about the value of life and death. It was a 2014 National Book Award Finalist, which I don’t find surprising. Saunders’ style comes across as a mix of humor and macabre that has you fighting to decide which emotion to express page after page to great effect. The book’s eponymous story rounds the collection’s emotional careening. Tenth of December is a story you think you’ve pegged from the first few pages, but manages to reel your heart in directions you didn’t know it could be wretched. There is plenty of hurt in this book, but, much like our Bruce song this week, Saunders’ leaves you stronger at the broken places.

For more Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books, check out our full archive.

Bruce, Bourbon, and Books: Blanton’s on a Sunny Day

This semi-regular series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.

Bruce

Dave: Ahh finally, “Waitin' on a Sunny Day!” This is an all-time favorite song of mine even before I became a proper Bruce Springsteen fan. This song will always remind me of my sophomore year of college: spring on the quad, new major, new girl. As a result, it always brings a mournful reminder of all the good things in this world and why all the suffering we go through individually and as a society is worth it. In my opinion, it’s the best track of Springsteen’s 2002 heartache “The Rising,” an album that helped mend the open wounds for many Americans. Following the solemn and grave “Into the Fire,” “Waitin' on a Sunny Day” wades light into the rest of the album. Just the drum beat open can lift my day in a way that, honestly, only Bruce can accomplish.

Daniel: It won’t be surprising to our readers that I prefer the live version of this song. While working at JCK magazine, I’d signal I was in a good mood by buying a round of coffees from Pret A Manger, getting high on caffeine, and blasting this song on my computer. It never failed to inspire creativity, especially when the British kid starts belting it out at the top of his lungs (starts at 3:53). As an added bonus, I would be so hopped up on rock ‘n’ roll and coffee that I would incite former intern and Writer’s Bone contributor Hailey Reissman into debating inane topics only I would find interesting.

This tune also reminds me of my freshman year at St. John’s University. I bought “The Rising” right before I left home and played the album everyday on my way to classes. I felt pretty badass walking around Queens with my Sony Discman, when it actuality I probably looked like a huge nerd. It didn’t matter because I had Bruce lighting my way.

Bourbon

Dave: I have been coveting trying this bourbon for months. On an excursion to New Hampshire I found a bottle in the magical and heavenly place that is the New Hampshire State Liquor store. I bought the bottle as a birthday gift for my brother, a consummate bourbon guy. We opened it on New Year’s Eve, smelling the cork and bottle before tasting. To our frustration, we caught little to no scent. We were crushed and entirely dubious of this purported top shelf bourbon. We were entirely surprised. This is quite possibly the smoothest bourbon I have ever tasted. It got the right amount of smoky oak flavors, the right amount of vanilla, and it goes down without a hitch. Smooth taste isn’t a huge surprise for a single barrel bourbon, but I could have easily downed half the bottle before crawling to the bathroom. Blanton’s is sold in its signature small egg shaped bottle with a metal figure of a man on a horse attached to the cork stopper. Blanton makes eight different types of this cork, each with the horse in different positions. So if you line then up in order you get a stop motion scene of a horse in full gallop!

Be warned, you’re going to have to shell out some dough for a small bottle, upwards of $50.00. But if you consider yourself a bourbon fiend, Blanton’s is an absolute must.  It is certainly a more than adequate pair with this top shelf Bruce song, especially if you need to chase those blues away!

Book

Daniel: Max Hastings is one of my favorite historians. His book on the Korean War inspired me to delve into that conflict for my master’s thesis (completion expected sometime in 2024). He has a fluid style that makes historical eras accessible for the modern reader.

Hastings’ Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War lacks some of the breeziness of his past works in large part because the beginning of World War I is so complicated. It also didn’t help that I don’t know that much about World War I and struggled to keep all the alliances straight.

However, here are some stats that made me start hitting the bourbon pretty hard:

  • “In 312 hours 11,000 trains carried 119,754 officers, 2.1 million men, and 600,000 horses across Germany to concentration areas on the frontiers of France, Belgium, and Luxembourg.”
  • One in six Serbs was killed during World War I, “the highest proportion of the population of any belligerent nation to perish in the conflict.”
  • Between Aug. 20 and Aug. 23, “40,000 French soldiers died.” By Aug. 29, “total French casualties since the war began reached 260,000, including 75,000 dead.”

The French soldiers weren’t helped by the fact they went to battle wearing bright blue coats and red pants. They also marched out a poor musical troupe to announce the army’s presence. German machine guns took care of that noise in a hurry.

This might not be the easiest read, for a variety of reasons, but it’s an important one. Besides, there are only so many valuable reading options for this time of year. What, are you going to attempt Infinite Jest for the third time? Come on, get serious.

For more Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books, check out our full archive.

Bob, Bourbon, and Books: Tangled Up in Blue

Official GIF of Bob, Bourbon, and Books

Official GIF of Bob, Bourbon, and Books

This semi-regular series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.

Bob

Daniel: In my opinion, there isn’t a bad version of “Tangled Up in Blue,” but Dave Pezza is hung up on the bootleg version. What makes choosing a favorite tough is that Dylan changes the lyrics every time he features it on an album or sings it live in concert (of course, you can say that about a lot of his songs). “Tangled Up in Blue” is essentially a short story about a character that can’t get his life together. Some cool things happen to him (“she bent down the laces to my shoes), but he doesn’t grow or find any enlightenment during the course of the tune. If you’re a writer and you don’t listen to this song at least once or twice a week (okay, fine, a day), then you’re not doing it right.

Bourbon

A first for “Bob, Bourbon, and Books:” An interview with a bourbon distillery! More specifically, one with Harlen Wheatley, master distiller for Buffalo Trace, which we paired with “Most of the Time” and Ecstatic Cahoots: Fifty Short Stories by Stuart Dybek.

Daniel Ford: Can you give us a little history on yourself and your distillery?

Harlen Wheatley: With a history dating back 200+ years, the best way to relay it is here:

DF: Buffalo Trace is home to some impeccable bourbon labels, including the exceptional Pappy Van Winkle. What makes your brands special in today’s bourbon market?

HW: I would say two things really stand out in my mind: consistency and variety. By that I mean we have very controlled taste profiles for each of our bourbons and we follow those taste profiles to maintain consistency. So the bourbon you order today at the bar should have the same taste profile if you go to the liquor store and buy that same bourbon off the shelf today or a year from now. As far as variety goes, we have a range of bourbons for everyone, starting at 4-year-old bourbon and going up to a 23-year-old bourbon. We also have multiple mashbill recipes we use as well. So if you like bourbon, chances are good we’ll have a bourbon that you like.

DF: I assume everyone isn’t a diehard Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen fan like I am. So, if you had to pair your bourbon with any song, which one would it be and why?

HW: I believe you could almost use “Born in the USA” as a theme song for Buffalo Trace, since it is an authentic Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and it cannot be born anywhere else. “My Hometown” might work too.  

DF: Can you name one random fact about the Buffalo Trace Distillery?

HW: We have 378 acres here at the Trace!

Book

Sean Tuohy: Master author David Morrell takes readers on a journey through pre-World War I America in his fast paced historical fiction novel, Last Reveille. The well-researched book explores a time in America before it became an overwhelming super power. The story follows a young calvary solider as he enters Mexico with an American force to find and capture famed bandit Pancho Villa. The young solider builds a relationship with a wildness fighter named Miles Calendar. Calendar is an aged fighter who has been part of every military action since the Civil War. Morrell paints a vivid picture of a Mexican landscape filled with danger and dotted with rough and grizzled men. At its heart, the novel is a western about violent men living in a violent world. It pulls you by the collar and forces you to down a stiff drink.

For more Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books, check out our full archive.

Bob, Bourbon, and Books: Simple Twist of Fate

Bob Dylan live in Providence, R.I.

Bob Dylan live in Providence, R.I.

This semi-regular series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.

Bob

Daniel: There are three things in my life that I take more seriously than all the others: love, brothers, and Bob Dylan. I’ve somehow convinced the love of my life to hang out with me on a daily basis, my brothers are my heroes, and I’ve been lucky enough to attend more than 10 Dylan concerts throughout the years. I knew introducing live Dylan to Dave was going to be fun, but I did my best to temper his expectations. When I first started going to Dylan concerts around 2002, he played for several hours and busted out covers like The Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar,” Neil Young’s “Old Man,” and The Band’s “Tears of Rage.” His voice, not great to begin with, can no longer handle that kind of musical workload, so he’s stuck to tunes off his four bluesy albums from the past decade (“Love and Theft,” “Modern Times,” “Together Through Life,” and “Tempest”). Like a rookie, Dave was under the impression that Dylan would mix up the set list he’d been playing for the past several months just for him. I shook my head and told him to be happy with “Simple Twist of Fate,” a song about tortured heartache the two of us had been listening to non-stop in Writer’s Bone HQ for the last couple of weeks. Well, fuck if Dylan didn’t throw in “Love Sick” and “Tangled Up in Blue” just to make me look like an asshole. His hatred of the Ford brothers (would it kill you to sing “Desolation Row” live one time before you die, Bob?!) continues unabated. Regardless, this concert instantly slotted itself in my top five because Dylan’s voice sounded the best it had in years, his band is better than 90% of the blues and rock bands out there, and I got to run into my younger brother whose wife surprised him with tickets at the last minute.

Dave: If I heard one more person tell me that I wouldn’t understand a word Dylan said, I was going to implode in anger. Seeing live acts like Dylan or Bruce Springsteen are just something any music lover has to shell out the cash for, regardless of how much their shows have degraded over the years. Dylan did anything but suck. His rasp worked perfectly with his blues set list, and he played the harmonica with soul like a true New York City street performer. I had been telling Daniel for weeks that I fall ass first into great set lists when I see a band live. Daniel, in his fan boy douchery, ridiculed me endlessly for the last few months. But what do you know, “Simple Twist of Fate,” “Tangled Up in Blue” (two of my top five favorite songs), and “Blowin’ in the Wind.”  And yes Daniel, it might actually kill him to sing all 11 minutes of “Desolation Row!”

Needless to say, Dylan earned even more of my respect, and really rocked the elegant and classy Providence Performing Arts Center the way only the master of Americana rock can. The night had only one regret: not flipping off and belittling the asshole woman who shushed us when I asked Daniel the appalling question of the title of one of the songs. For shame on you arrogant woman! There is a level of hell reserved for people who shush at rock concert.

Bourbon

knob_creek.png

Daniel: A Ford hasn’t been out drinking in Providence since the early 1970s. I was determined to make the college-era version of my father proud. Dave and I were already a couple drinks in when we arrived at the Red Fez on Peck Street. Our bartender was personable, tattooed, and bearded. Dave ordered two fingers of Knob Creek and somehow convinced me it was wise to order the bar’s mac and cheese (which was extraordinary with an added drop of hot sauce). I wish I could say that the drinking and suspect food choices stopped there. A responsible editor-in-chief wouldn’t have smoked a Black and Mild before the show, drank several more beers during the show and a couple of regular Budweisers at the bar following the concert, and then ate half the dollar menu at McDonald’s at the end of the night. I can’t even tell you how good or bad Knob Creek is because it blended in so well with the mac and cheese and my Miller High Life chaser. All I know is that I was infinitely more responsible than the women who shushed Dave and I at the concert. May she go directly to the section of hell occupied by the people who thought 8-track tapes were a good idea.

Dave: I have no recollection of drinking this bourbon…

Book

This is the best way to start a Bob Dylan concert weekend.

This is the best way to start a Bob Dylan concert weekend.

Daniel: Any project involving Dylan tends to warp into something weird. Just check out his prose/poetry collection, Tarantula, the movie he starred in, “Masked and Anonymous,” and the film based on his life, “He’s Not There” to truly understand what I’m talking about. I finally started reading Dylan's Chronicles: Volume One and expected a tapestry of incoherent, mystical, and unintelligible thoughts (much like Neil Young's Waging Heavy Peace) that just happened to be set in New York City in the 1960s. I figured that the only person who could make sense of it would be the gray-haired hippy sha-woman hawking her book of Bob Dylan love poetry and lyric analysis (which my younger brother bought). However, I was surprised to discover Dylan's prose is crystal clear and his knack for turning a phrase is still better than most published writers. This is the section that convinced me the book was an excellent bourbon partner:

“LPs were like a force of gravity. They had covers, back and front, that you could stare at for hours. Next to them, 45s were flimsy and uncrystallized. They just got stacked up in piles and didn’t seem important. I had no song in my repertoire for commercial radio anyway. Songs about debauched bootleggers, mothers that drowned their own children, Cadillacs that only got five miles to the gallon, floods, union hall fires, darkness and cadavers at the bottom of rivers weren’t for radiophiles. There was nothing easygoing about the folk songs I sang. They weren’t friendly or ripe with mellowness.”

Fuck him and his talent. May he live to 100 and tour the whole time.

For more Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books, check out our full archive.

Bruce, Bourbon, and Books: Wild Turkey in the Night

This semi-regular series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.

Bruce

Hazy Dave Pezza: “Spirit in the Night” has become one of my favorite Bruce songs and defines, in my opinion, the magical nature of Bruce’s debut album “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.”  “Spirit in the Night” is, has been, or will be every 20-something’s mantra: a few kids living through the spirits in the night, drinking, screwing, and fighting their way to sunrise. How Bruce manages to get your body moving, your eyes tearing, and your libido boiling simultaneously is a mystery that has inspired generations. This early, but legendary, track features some of Bruce's best lines and innuendos and keeps you alive all night, from cocktail hour to nightcap.  My only suggestion: grab your own Crazy Janey and a bottle of Wild Turkey first.

Daniel Ford: I must admit that “Spirit in the Night isn’t one of my favorite Springsteen songs. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a brilliant display of songwriting and musicianship, but not a song I can listen to on endless repeat. A little bit of this tune goes a long way for me. And unlike Dave, I’m partial to the live versions from 1973 and 1975. That being said, I think “and she kissed me just right, like only a lonely angel can,” is one of the best lyrics in the history of songwriting, and any song with a characters named “Wild Billy” and “Hazy Davy” and settings like “Greasy Lake” and “Gypsy Angel Row” is the perfect companion to this Friday’s bourbon.

Also, I have to confess that while Hazy Davey and I were listening to this song repeatedly in order to accurately capture our feelings about it, I was pounding my foot on the floor, dancing manically in my chair, and singing the entire time. 

Bourbon

Hazy Davey: Ah, finally we have made our way to Wild Turkey 81, the definitive working man’s bourbon. Wild Turkey is not smooth, at all. Named 81 after its proof, Turkey 81 will remind you what drinking bourbon is all about. Harsh and warm, it makes it easy to keep tipping that elbow on a cold fall night. Wild Turkey 81 might not be the fanciest or best-tasting bourbon on the market, but it’ll get you where you need to go with some attitude. Perfect as a shot with your night’s first Budweiser, Wild Turkey might be a dangerously good companion to “Spirit in the Night.” Drop the needle, pour a shot or two, crack a few beers, and toast to a weekend well-earned. See where it takes you…

Daniel: One of my favorite journalism professors (the late, great Kalev Pehme) ended every class by telling us how eager he was to be reunited with his bottle of Wild Turkey. It was tough for him to hand out compliments, but I received two during my college tenure. I like to think he was at the bottom of a bottle when he graded both of those papers. In his memory, I bought a bottle of Wild Turkey 81 while stocking up for Hurricane Sandy in 2012 (hurricane preparation in New York City typically involves buying copious amounts of alcohol). Let’s just say, the lights in my apartment weren't the only ones that went out. The events of that evening convinced me that I should opt for Wild Turkey only when I’m in the deepest depths of writing despair and need as many “spirits in the night” as possible. 

Book

Daniel: What goes better with a working man’s bourbon than a book featuring good ole American ass kicking? Rick Atkinson completed his epic Liberation Trilogy last year by expertly depicting the Allied Force’s liberation of Europe in The Guns At Last Light. Much like the first two entries in the series—the Pulitzer Prize-winning An Army At Dawn and critically-acclaimed The Day Of BattleThe Guns At Last Light details plenty of glory, but also military incompetence, poor leadership, and smoking (the amount of cigarettes the armies went through every month is truly staggering). If you need a drinking game in order to plow through the 896-page tome, take a shot of Wild Turkey 81 every time Ernest Hemingway pops up. You’ll be drunk by the time you reach an Allied-occupied brothel in Paris (I’d recommend drinking every time British General Bernard Montgomery acts like a wanker, but I don’t want to kill you).

Hazy Davey: Canny Danny recommended this book to me some time ago, and I only just picked it up and began devouring it. Atkinson has been praised for creating one of the best World War II narratives from the American perspective, and the praise is entirely earned. I started at the end of his Liberation Trilogy, jumping right into the invasion of Normandy. Atkinson paints the war effort in remarkable broad strokes from the highest general to the lowest private. He throws in facts so unprecedented that your head begins to hurt. He even traces the roles famous American and British figures throughout the war, such as Kurt Vonnegut’s capture and imprisonment by German forces in Dresden (surviving the inferno caused by Allied bombing that would inspire Slaughterhouse Five) and Ernest Hemingway, who was reporting on the war for Time magazine and lead a cadre of resistance fighters behind the Allied  troops during the liberation of Paris (he and his irregulars entered into the Ritz and ordered a round of drinks soon after). Atkinson makes it all too easy to be a proud American in this large final volume, while not forgiving the U.S. of it major flaws. Bruce, Wild Turkey, and American World War II badassery? Happy Friday!

For more Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books, check out our full archive.

Bob, Bourbon, and Books: Most of the Time…Buffalo Trace is On Our Minds

Official GIF of Bob, Bourbon, and Books

Official GIF of Bob, Bourbon, and Books

This semi-regular series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.

Bob

Daniel Ford: Someone told me recently that I had more angst in my little finger than this person did in their whole body. A slight exaggeration to be sure, but it’s probably more true than I’d like to admit. I blame it on listening to Dylan’s “Most of the Time” in college when I was a poor Connecticut boy trying to find himself as a man and a writer in New York City. The original version was Dylan’s underrated album “Oh Mercy,” which includes one dark tune after another, such as “Everything is Broken,” Man in the Long Black Coat,” “What Good Am I?,” and “What Was It You Wanted.” Pour that over a glass of scotch and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a tortured writer capable of writing a personal, honest novel about heartbreak and unfilled potential. An alternate version of “Most of the Time” was included in 2008’s “Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8” and it instantly eclipsed the original. It better balances hope and despair, which coincided with my own evolution. I may still be angsty, but I have way too many reasons to be happy to stay in a prolonged funk. The song will remain on my writing playlist though, just in case I need to tap into the psyche of that lost boy in New York City. He makes for damn fine novel fodder...most of the time.

Dave Pezza: For anyone who has ever recovered from a broken heart, Bob’s got your back with this masterful reworking of a mediocre song off of his equally mediocre “Oh Mercy.” (Daniel: How dare you). Part of Dylan’s terrific bootleg series, “Most of Time” instills the type of blue collar strength we all must put on day to day when we are forced to shelf our mounting problems of love and life. Most of the time we manage to put it all in the back of our mind, but every once in a while, like when this Dylan jam turns the corner, we have a tiny breakdown, a small crisis of confidence and will. Having one of those days or weeks? Throw this track on and pour yourself a few fingers of well-earned bourbon.

Bourbon

Dave: As far as bourbon goes, Buffalo Trace is never a bad call. Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon is the old reliable of the massive Buffalo Trace distillery responsible for a number of terrific bourbons, including Blanton’s, Hancock’s President’s Reserve, Eagle Rare, and Van Winkle (!!!). With a stronger taste than most bourbon, Buffalo Trace is a perfect standalone, no water or ice necessary (the way bourbon was meant to be imbibed). Chances are your liquor store has a bottle; it has pretty good distribution. I’d pick one up the next time you’re looking for a new bourdon to try. Be warned though, you might never turn away from this moderately priced top shelf bourbon.

Daniel: I already had a glass of Bulleit in me when I decided to try Buffalo Trace. I was jealous of the two fingers Dave ordered after I made my first drink selection. Did I ask him to try it? You’re damn right I did! I’m Ebola-free and needed to test it out before I requested a glass of my own. I have no regrets. The man points I lost for defiling bourbon with ice and asking to drink out of another man’s glass were worth it. Buffalo Trace is delicious.

Book

Dave: This week’s book, Ecstatic Cahoots: Fifty Short Stories by Stuart Dybek, fits astoundingly well with “Most of the Time” and Buffalo Trace. No. I have that backwards. “Most of the Time” and Buffalo Trace fit perfectly with this book, which could make toilet-distilled wine taste good. Dybek was entirely unknown to me until I read The New York Times book review about this collection. I cannot recommend this book enough. Dybek wonderfully tight walks the line between gorgeous prose and soulful poetry. The 50, yes 50, short stories in this collection span love, sex, loneliness, death, Chicago, masculinity, femininity, and the love-hate relationship between contemporary man and woman. About three quarters of the way through this multi-read collection, it struck me that Ecstatic Cahoots is a contemporary version of Hemingway’s Men Without Women, written in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s style, using an impressively mitigated American vernacular. Individually these stories take you on an emotional and aesthetically pleasing roller coaster. From collegiate make out sessions over Spanish poetry in the middle of a Chicago snow storm to a crazed castaway haunted by an island made of knocking doors, Dybek keeps you turning the page. As a whole, this collection plunges the reader into a world where sentiment, emotion, and subtly bleed out of the stories' walls, streets, and characters. If you buy a new book this fall, make it Dybek’s.

Bob, Bourbon, and Books: Maker’s Mark Will Be Staying Here With You

Official GIF of Bob, Bourbon, and Books

Official GIF of Bob, Bourbon, and Books

For those of you expecting Bruce Springsteen, he’ll be back next week. We decided to alternate this series between Bob Dylan and Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.

By Daniel Ford and Dave Pezza

Bob

Photo by Dave Pezza

Photo by Dave Pezza

There isn’t a reliable YouTube clip of either of the following versions of "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You," so go out and buy the albums we mention below. It’ll be worth the money, trust us.

Dave: (studio version) I’ve always liked Bob Dylan, but it was only recently that I really began to really appreciate his music. I’ve hit my folk phase in my mid-20s, and nobody can folk out like Dylan. I recently picked up a copy of his 1969 album “Nashville Skyline.” I bought it on vinyl at a local used record store in Cranston, R.I. called the Time Capsule (decent selection, really cheap prices, and every once and a while you find a gem). I hit up the smaller than usual Dylan section to feed my new addiction. First record of the bunch, “Nashville Skyline.” I flipped it over to check the tracks and found side A, track one, “Girl from the North Country Fair,” the version with Johnny Cash. Sold! I took it and my other purchase, The Edgar Winter Group’s “They Only Come Out at Night” (the one with “Frankenstein”) and seven bucks and 10 minutes later “Nashville Skyline” is playing on my turntable. Enthralled to hear Dylan and Cash right off the bat, I stayed for a really enjoyable Dylan record from start to finish, especially the finish. Lying in wait at the very end of the album is “Tonight I’ll be Staying Here with You.” This quite perfect mix of folk and blues undertones will have you dancing before you know it. Dylan beams about ditching his bus ride home to stay with a lady. In case you haven’t experienced the feeling of sheer jubilance and excitement about a night with a pretty girl in a while, Dylan will conjure it all back in three and a half minutes. This track croons with slide guitar and dangerously catchy lyrics. It’s Dylan at his most enjoyable. Perfect to pair with this week’s bourbon: smooth, warm, and full American flavor from start to finish.

Daniel: (Live 1975 version) The studio version of this song is a love sick high school boy’s wistful dream compared to the raucous, brassy live version from “The Bootleg Series, Volume 5: Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue.” In fact, we’re going to call this the “wet dream version” from now on. This is what burning down your life to be with the woman you love should sound like. Guttural. Dylan screams this song more than he sings it. You can imagine him throwing middle fingers to the world. The bus? No one likes the bus. It’s a necessary evil. I once had to take the bus every weekend to see my girlfriend and every time I left Boston, I wanted to incinerate my suitcase, hop a cab back to the burbs, break down a door, and announce, “I should have left this town this morning/But it was more than I could do/Oh, your love comes on so strong/And I've waited all day long/For tonight when I'll be staying here with you.”

It's fitting that this song leads the album. You know right away what you’re in for. You’re not sipping bourbon to this song; you’re pounding fingers while shouting from your open window you’re staying put to have crazy, experimental, and neighborhood-awakening sexual relations with the beautiful woman you just gave everything up for (put a little Maker’s Mark behind your ears so she can enjoy the experience along with you if having a full glass isn’t her thing). If this song doesn’t rev you up and make you plant a deep, passionate wet one on your lover’s lips, you aren’t alive and should report to the cemetery immediately.

Bourbon

Dave: This week’s bourbon is the very recognizable, but always reliable, Maker’s Mark. It's the standard “good bourbon” at most bars. Not too expensive, it is a sweeter, smoother bourbon. As a result, it is perfect for drinking neat, but also makes a damn good cocktail. My pallet catches a definitive vanilla and cherry flavor on top of that always amazing oak. It warms more than it burns after it’s all the way down. It pairs really well with this cruising, swaying Dylan song. Shockingly well. To top it all off, the bourbon is packaged with an incredibly cool wax top. Maker’s Mark, named after the seal used to distinguish its product, dips the tip of every bottle in wax. Each bottle remains sealed until you crack it open with your own two hands. Nothing like a little bit of class with your buzz.

Daniel: I hadn’t tried Maker’s Mark until a recent visit to Sweet Cheeks Q near Fenway Park (I highly recommend this barbeque joint to those that live in the Boston area or those that plan to visit it in the near future). Dave incessantly tells me that this is his “go-to bourbon,” so I decided to order one to judge for myself (and to finally get him off my case). First of all, Maker’s Mark is an excellent bourbon to pair with copious amounts of barbeque. Taking hits of it from my mason jar after pile driving pulled pork into my gullet was heavenly. It provided the right amount of smoothness and fire to go along with my sides of potato salad and macaroni and cheese. The best part was that Stephanie Schaefer said my drink looked like a urine sample. I’ll admit that Sweet Cheeks was a little stingy with the amount of bourbon they poured into my jar, but come on, doesn’t this look gritty and man-tastic?

Okay, fine, the mason jar doesn’t do it any favors. Still, Maker’s Mark will now have a reserved spot in my whiskey drawer at Writer’s Bone HQ.

Book

Daniel: What is it about westerns that make them the perfect complement to bourbon? Is it the questionable cowboy ethics and worldview? Or the lonely, dusty prairie bars that cry out for brown liquor salvation? Or is it the need to drown your sorrows after reading about the treatment of Native Americans during our country’s bloody history? Whatever the case, drinking bourbon is always better when reading a western, and there is no better western than Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. The novel features every western trope imaginable, but it feels fresh and feisty rather than quaint and dated. All of the characters are intriguing and you find yourself fully immersed in the plot’s last chance cattle drive. Plus, sex is referred to as “a poke” throughout the entire book. The novel was also made into an acclaimed mini-series in 1989 staring Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Duvall, and Diane Lane. So that means if you imbibe too much Maker’s Mark and can’t decipher the English language on your own, you can just pop in a DVD and watch the story unfold while you drink the rest of the bottle. Lonesome Dove also features two names that belong on a Maker’s Mark commercial: Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call. I’d buy brown hooch from those two gentlemen. It’s their friendship that defines this book, and you’ll need all the whiskey you deal with how their story ends.

Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books Archive

Bruce, Bourbon, and Books: Bulleit Brings the Devil Out

Official video of Bruce, Bourbon, and Books

 By Daniel Ford and Dave Pezza

This semi-regular series will expertly pair a Springsteen song, a good bourbon, and a quality book for your listening, drinking, and reading pleasure. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.

Bruce

Daniel: Dark. Moody. Apocalyptical. Hypnotic harmonica. In short, the perfect song to pair with a glass of bourbon. This tune had a prominent spot on the playlist I listened to while writing my first novel. I have a feeling it will make an appearance on the one I’ll use for my next one.

Bourbon

Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey

Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey

Dave: A 90 proof bourbon, Bulleit Frontier Whiskey is smoother than Jim Beam’s White Label or Wild Turkey’s 81 proof, but a little more expensive. As a result, it is a dangerous night cap well worth the price. You’re a few glasses into the bottle before you know what hit you. It lacks a bit of flavor right out of the bottle, replacing flavored accents with a bite that feels right for a dark mood. Add a cube of ice or a dash of water, and this bourbon opens up a little, sweetening up as the night goes on.

Book

Dave: Quite a good pick to accompany bourbon and Bruce. The Hot Kid is one of Leonard’s last handful of novels before his death in 2013. The novel follows, surprise surprise, a U.S. Marshal by the name of Carlos Webster and his exploits against the bank robbers and gangsters of 1920s. Carl is Leonard’s quintessential hero: straight forward, possess well-developed comedic sense, is a hit with the ladies, and is as honest as possible while trying to do his Spanish American War-decorated father right. Carl takes down and teams up with gangsters and outlaws, in stand offs and badass lines what would later come out in the Leonard-inspired “Justified” television series. Just like this week’s other picks, Leonard writes Carl and the story’s whores, gangsters, reporters, and U.S. Marshals smoother than they look, with a rough edge to remind you of the true way of the world. It’ll get you to where you need to be by the night’s end. Devour this thriller with large doses of whiskey, like you’re hiding out in one of Leonard’s speakeasies for the evening.

For more Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books, check out our full archive.

Bruce, Bourbon, and Books: Welcome to Nebraska

Official video of Bruce, Bourbon, and Books

By Daniel Ford and Dave Pezza

It’s important to take a step back from the daily grind and pay attention to what really matters in life. You know, like good music, alcohol, and literature. This semi-regular series will expertly pair a Springsteen song, a good bourbon, and a quality book for your listening, drinking, and reading pleasure. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.

Bruce

Daniel: That sound you hear is Dave playing Springsteen’s “Nebraska” album on repeat. He had never heard it until a few days ago and I was pleasantly reminded of how much I enjoy it. There’s really not a bad song on the album. It is horribly depressing and moody, which should suit writers and alcoholics alike.

Bourbon

Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve

Dave: This bourbon has all classic qualities you want in an American-made dark liquor: strong whiskey smell, smooth to the pallet, and heats up on the way down. Two fingers of Woodford Reserve can mellow out a crap night and pairs beautifully with this Bruce deep cut. It’s strong and a little harsh, but it’ll bring your night some hard-nosed optimism.

Book

The Son by Philip Meyer

The Son by Philip Meyer

Daniel: Westerns are the perfect companion for Bruce and bourbon. Have you listened to "Devils & Dust?" Sounds like it was written on the Plains in the 1800s. And I don’t have to tell you how much drinking happens in westerns. I don’t know how those guys had the energy to kill all the Native Americans in support of Manifest Destiny with all the booze they consumed.

Modern westerns tend to be hit or miss. For every "Unforgiven" there is a "Wild, Wild West." One could argue that most modern literary westerns are limited to apocalyptic novels. However, Philip Meyer’s The Son goes a long way to restoring my faith in the western genre. Meyer intertwines the stories of three members of the McCullough clan, starting with Eli, the family’s patriarch, who is captured by a Comanche tribe as a child. I was a big fan of Meyer’s American Rust, which also pairs well with brown alcohol, and I am impressed that his storytelling has gotten even stronger and more confident in this novel. It’s a long book, but never feels that way. The pages turn without you really thinking about how far along you are in the tale.

I’m not done with the novel yet, so I can’t give anything away, but it appears that all three people Meyer focuses on are headed for a rough landing. I plan on drinking copious amounts of bourbon when it all goes down.

For more Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books, check out our full archive.