Vinyl&Wine 31: Murder By Death + Girard Artistry

A movie was released in 1976 titled, Murder By Death, featuring Peter Falk, Truman Capote, Peter Sellers, and of course, Eileen Brennan. It was a classic murder mystery spoof comedy. The most recent movie I can think of that is similar would be Clue with Tim Curry. Almost 25 years later a band had begun to take shape in the college town of Bloomington, Indiana who would eventually take on the same moniker as the 1976 cinematic classic, Murder By Death.

In 2000, the band Little Joe Gould was up and running featuring guitarist Adam Turla, and Sarah Balliet on Cello. Drums and bass guitar would round out the band playing a unique version of indie rock with distinct surges of whisky-laden alternative country, and rock n’ roll. Adam is a small left handed guitar player with the huge voice of a rock n' roll monster. In 2003, Little Joe Gould was touring with some major people in the indie rock world, releasing EPs, and appearing on soundtracks. They officially adapted the name Murder By Death around this same time. It may just be a coincidence that 2003 is the same year Johnny Cash died, because Adam Turla’s voice is eerily similar to the man in black. I would like to believe that Cash was left wandering purgatory long enough to find someone to give his haunting voice to. Turla was an easy find because for the next few years Murder By Death toured and wrote the album, In Boca Al Lupo, which brought their sound to a greater audience and larger shows. I saw them in support of this tour on the small club stage at Waterstreet Music Hall, in Rochester, NY to a sold out crowd. This amount of power that came off the little stage was awesome, even when the band played acoustic, the deep resonating frequencies from Turla’s voice, and cello would ripple through my body and ears. It was over before it even started in seemed to me, but was one of the most memorable concerts I can ever remember.

After a few more albums, and major label releases, Murder By Death released Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon in 2012. Of course, I purchased this on vinyl and added it to my collection of the previous releases on vinyl. I listened to this vinyl a lot when I got it. It was a very stressful time for me when I was listening to this. We just moved into a new house back in Rochester to help take care of my dying father, busy working in a field I was not happy with, but sacrifices needed to be made. With everything going on the days fell off the calendar quickly, sometimes by weeks at a time. In February of 2013, Dad died, my taste for wine was gone, and I couldn’t play Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon anymore. It felt weird, and like I was cheating myself. Only within in the last few months, this vinyl has made it back into rotation. I don’t know who the last track, Ghost Fields, on the album is about, but it hits home for me. It is a about the loss of a relationship as far as I can tell. If I open a bottle of wine, most of the time I forget what I am even drinking and I find myself staring off out of the big front bay window of my house with Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon spinning behind me. When the track ends, I come to my senses and top off my glass.  The last bottle I was pouring from was a Bordeaux-style blend from the obnoxiously good grapes of Girard, called Artistry.

Girard is constantly hailed as one of the best wineries in the Napa valley. They are small in comparison to a lot of the other Napa Valley giants and make a handful of Cabernet based wines and a few whites. The Chardonnay in grown in Sonoma, while everything else comes from vineyards in the Napa Valley. I visited Girard a few years ago with a group from work and out of all the wineries we visited in Napa, the Girard team was by far the coolest and most laid back of the bunch. Napa valley has really become a land of lawyers and investors and a lot of the old time farmer’s traditions are not very transparent to the naked eye anymore. A lot of hospitality, showing off, and money being spent on showing off. Don’t get me wrong, the wines are all fantastic, I just like getting to hang and get to know the people, not the same rehearsed stories over and over again. Girard was cool. We arrived at their tasting room in St. Helena. It was a small facility with a main typical tasting in the front and a private room in the back with a large table and a few lounge couches. We sat down and I crashed on the couch. We were asked what we wanted to try, just a full glass, or full line up of wines. I was cool with just a glass, but the team chose the full line up. When the bottle of Artistry and I took a sniff as soon as I poured, I grabbed the bottle back from my neighbor and filled my glass. The aromatics were just layered with everything under the sun, but showed lots of blackberry, savory herbs, cocoa, plums, and old leather. As weird as it sounds to a beginner wine student, I just couldn’t stop smelling the wine. It blew me away. Upon tasting it, I quickly realized it wasn’t going to disappoint following the nose. It was layered with bright fruit flavors, intense tannins, dark and deep tones, wrapped into and overall perfectly balanced wine, much like music on Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon.

 I can’t say enough about Girard Winery, Artistry, and band Murder By Death. The essence of both mirror each other and balance out to perfection. You can order Girard wines from their website if you can’t find it at your local retailer. You know how to find music. You won’t be disappointed.