Search This Blog

Sunday, May 27, 2012


^Listen to “Key West Blues” while you read the blog!^



Well, the place voted for having the very best jerk chicken on the island, Bobalu’s, is closing. Bear in mind that the place is known for its pizza, which is a thin crust New Haven style pizza. It’s just that for me, getting good jerk chicken is a tough call. As mentioned in a previous blog, the only other place in town that I know of that has good jerk, is Blue Heaven. I don’t know what Schooner Wharf or The Hogfish serve as jerk chicken, mind you whatever it is tastes good, it’s just not jerk chicken. It also should be mentioned that I absolutely love those two bars with all my heart. On a scale of 1 – 10 they are both solid 10s.

The situation at Bobalu’s is complicated. The bottom line is the main owner of the Green Parrot (attached to Bobalu’s) also owns the Bobalu’s property and wants to revamp the entire place and re-open it in the fall as a B.B.Q. restaurant.

Keeping in mind that I’m not a restaurateur, but there are a few things that I don’t understand at play here. First off, Bubalu’s has been there for about three years and has been successful making money as a Pizza place with great live music. Everybody likes pizza and theirs is exceptional to boot. According to the local paper and the word on the street, the landlord, Pat Croce, wants to revamp the entire place. With the idea of a B.B.Q. place strikes me as odd because that was a B.B.Q. place, not once, but twice, both times going out of business. I may be a simpleton, but it strikes me that what the landlord has here is a perfect, turnkey operation. They close one day and open the next continuing to sell pizza, which is a successful business there already. Why spend, what will undoubtedly be hundreds of thousands of dollars, re-vamping a place, trying for a third time in a business that has failed in that same location twice already? Everybody likes pizza. Does everyone like B.B.Q. too?

Another big concern of mine is if it will still be open air and continue to allow dogs?

I hope it works for everyone. I may not understand it, but it’s not my field either. I’m sorry to see Bubalu’s close and I hope they look for a new place here in town. They will keep their other restaurant in Big Coppit Key as well. Good luck to Pat Croce as well with the new endeavor. He currently has the Rum Barrel and I think Island Dogs, plus he co-owns the Green Parrot, which he bought into last year. He no doubt, knows what he’s doing.

The Mohawk has left town forever, regrettably. Built in 1934, the Coast Guard cutter had a very important role in protecting allied shipping in the North Atlantic during WWII. The Mohawk will be sunk as a reef off the west coast of Florida. It was a fun coincidence as the Mohawk’s successor, The Mohawk, an active Coast Guard cutter, is also stationed in Key West, so we had both Mohawks in Key West simultaneously. The retired Mohawk was here as a museum and its sister ship, the Ingham, remains here as a museum at the Truman Waterfront. Godspeed Mohawk.

That’s what it said on the awning and also the wall on a postcard we dug up from the early sixties. But what’s a Coconga? So, Key Largo Joe, Bobby D. and I marched over there to find out armed with a picture of the postcard. I approached one bartender and ordered a Coconga. “What’s that?” she asked. “I don’t know, but apparently Sloppy Joe’s is the home of the Coconga apparently, so I figured I’d come and try one!” as I handed her the picture. She looked at it and shook her head. “No, I’m sorry, I never heard of it.” Same thing with another bartender at one of the satellite bars inside of Sloppy Joe’s. She was very pleasant, but confessed she never heard of it. We then looked it up on the iPhone, though it was quite evasive, we eventually did find it. It dates back to 1942. We were going to go to Sloppy Joe’s and hand them the recipe, but Key Largo Joe thought better of it, saying that they were busy and it would only piss them off. So, consequently we marched all around town, dug up the ingredients, and made some wonderful, tropical Coconga drinks on the streets of Key West! Delightful drink, I might add! My suggestion is that Sloppy Joe’s bring back the Coconga! After all, they are “The Home of the Coconga”.


Over at the Boathouse I had a similar situation. I ordered a daiquiri and the bartender asked what flavor. Now, mind you I’m not one for a silly drink with an umbrella and a banana, or strawberry flavor. I wanted the real traditional Cuban daiquiri, which of course is lime flavored and made in a shaker. The bartender didn’t know how to make it. It really wasn’t her fault, as people don’t order this so much anymore. However, the underlining point here is that a traditional Cuban Daiquiri is just a perfect drink for the summer and it’s easy to make. Uh… Shaken, not blended! ;-)

Over at the Floridita Bar in Havana is where they later invented the frozen daiquiri, which is also a lime drink only and again, very refreshing indeed! If the name of “El Floridita” sounds familiar it’s because that was Hemingway’s favorite bar in Havana. Here’s their recipe for the frozen daiquiri.


On the music side of things, I was discussing recording with my friend Marc Hollander the other day. I mentioned that I was so glad that I recorded my CD here in Key West, for a multitude of reasons. For starters, I have musicians who are locally based. For those who are not in the know, Key West has a large supply of completely stellar musicians to choose from. All of them I had the privilege of working with on “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)”, which were eighteen in all, just stepped right up to the plate. First class all the way. Second, engineer/producer Dan Simpson has been doing this for over thirty years. One of the things that annoys Dan is the products coming out of Nashville, New York, and L.A. these days are focused on a very thin sound, which is geared for MP3 listening, yet omitting the high fidelity sound. As Dan points out, “Everyone goes out and buys these wonderful stereos that can reproduce the most incredible sound and the stuff they’re putting out today is…. He pauses and lowers his head as he shakes it side to side “… well it’s just shit”. Marc spent many years in the record business and when we were talking about this, he stated that when he puts my CD in his stereo, there’s a very significant difference in overall sound between my CD and another other local artist who goes up to Nashville to record. I can’t recommend Dan more to other artists who are searching for a great engineer/ producer for their next recording. Come to Key West and record something that has significantly better sound fidelity than what you’ll likely get in Nashville, New York, or L.A. It’s a no brainer really! See for yourself. Pop in my CD into a great system and sit back and listen!


Available at: CD Baby, iTunes, Rhapsody, CD Universe, and Beachfront Radio. Search "Key West Chris"
Available in Key West at: Green World Gallery, The Cork & Stogie, and Key West Bait and Tackle.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Key West Songwriter's Festival 2012


What can one say about the Key West Songwriter’s Festival? Well, for starters it’s by far, the largest musical event held in Key West. Additionally, unlike other musical events, in addition to 130+ songwriters in attendance, there are also the top executives in the recording industry in from Nashville. Basically what happens is the recording industry moves to Key West for six days, or so to have fun and let their hair down. The festival is a joint production between Charlie Bauer, who started the festival 17 years ago and BMI Nashville. BMI, Charlie’s establishment Smokin’ Tuna, and Better Angels music publishing are the main sponsors of the event, which is held in about thirty different locations around the Island. The island was packed as well for the festival! Word on the street was that if you could actually find a room, they were running $400 a night and air fare from Nashville to Key West was $900 for a walk on.

One of the fun things for everyone here during the Songwriter’s Fest is the realization that so many songs we hear are not written by those who make the songs famous, but rather by songwriters whom many of us may have never heard of. Forgive the pun, but the un-sung heroes of music today. Here in Key West we always hear great musicians playing what’s known as “Covers”; Songs made famous by other artists. It’s a two way street, as no matter how good a musician or a band are, without good songs to work with, they’ll never have a foundation to work off of. Often I’ll hear a song myself that I always assumed was written by the artist who made it famous. This year I heard the song “I Ain’t Missin’ You At All”, of course made famous by John Waits. This year I learned he didn’t write it, but rather a guy in a cowboy hat playing at The Bottle Cap did. Regretfully, I missed his name. Likewise the beautiful song done by Jimmy Buffett and Martina McBride “Trip Around The Sun”. I always thought it was a Buffett song. Stupid me, huh? Then, there I was at a completely and utterly packed Smokin’ Tuna when Al Anderson started playing it. He co-wrote it with Steve Bruton and Sharon Vaughan. When I heard it, I had to hop up from my table and tunnel my way to the stage armed with my iPhone video rolling!

For me, this was my second year as a performer. Special thanks and tons of gratitude to BMI, Charlie, Dani Holiday, and McClure and Trowbridge Publishing Nashville for getting me involved in this fantastic event. Dani Holiday is the point woman for the festival here in Key West. Everything seems to go through Dani and she’s one very, very busy woman! She always kept a smile however, which in turn keeps everyone else smiling as well! As with last year, I was one of her poster deliverers. It’s a fun task and as I’m local with some time to burn, I’m always happy to contribute.

This year my gig was at the Best Western Key Ambassador, which is over by the airport. I was teamed up with my pal, Misty Loggins, whom I recorded Island Blue with earlier this year. Additionally, my old buddy Bobby D, who played a lot of the lead guitar on my CD “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)” had just moved back into town the day before and was kind enough to video both Misty and my performances. Our gig went great, as well. We were poolside. What a great setting! Misty kicked ass on her songs too! What a performer and a great honor to share the stage with! She was just flat out fantastic! We also did the first solo acoustic version of Island Blue that we’ve ever done. With the song getting airplay from California all across the country… and across the Atlantic in Europe as well, wild horses couldn’t drag us from the stage to keep us from doing that one! The last time we were together doing it was when she recorded her vocals back five months ago at Danny Simpson’s Private Ear Studios. We never got to rehearse it, but Misty being the pro that she is, aced it!


In addition, I got to meet not one, but two Facebook friends Flip Flop and also, Kent McCoy! What fun and we also hung out here and there throughout the festival at additional events. My buddy Key Largo Joe also made it after automobile trouble on the way down the Keys Thanks Joe!!!

It being just the nature of the beast, there are so many events going on simultaneously, it’s just impossible to see them all. Two performers that I caught for the first time that left a big impression on me were Chuck Cannon and Lauren Lucas. This was Chuck’s seventeenth appearance, so he’s been in every event since the beginning as this was the seventeenth annual event. Chuck’s an amazing guitarist who plays in a very bazar tuning all of the time. At the same time, he’s also a marvelous wordsmith. It was a treat to meet and also hear him. As a matter of fact, he and Misty wrote a song and played it together on her set! Great stuff indeed!

I bumped into Lauren Lucas’ set at Island Dogs by chance and was very impressed. Great chord changes, not typical and wonderful lyrics to go along with them. It was a great surprise! Regretfully I didn’t get to meet her. I was at an outside table, so there was a bit of crowd noise and the camera was a good deal shaky, however her audio cuts through quite well.

Since Charlie Bauer started Smokin’ Tuna back last summer, it only made sense that Smokin’ Tuna was the central location for everything. It’s a great music venue as well. Local songwriter, by way of Texas, by way of Nashville, Clint Bullard had what had to be the best audience reaction of the entire festival. Everyone in the crowd was singing along with the choruses/bridges in all of his songs! I didn’t see this with any other performers on this magnitude. It was truly awe inspiring! Clint did a great set as well and having such fantastic support left me in amazement of both his great performance as well as his fans enthusiasm for him. It made me feel good all over!

Also at Smokin’ Tuna were sets from the writers at Better Angels. What a marvelous group of writers they are as well! In one forty five minute set, I heard three #1 hits. Amazing really! The head of Better Angels, Rob sat in on the Cajon on all of his players sets. I had a couple of nice short conversations with him both this year and last. What a positive guy! We’re all grateful for his support of the event!


I already can’t wait for next year’s Songwriter’s Fest! The Key West Songwriter’s Fest is a celebration of writers. No, you won’t hear any covers… but you may just know a lot of the songs you hear, done by the artists who are the ones who actually wrote them. (Additionally, I can promise you that you’ll hear a boatload of just incredible songs that you never heard before as well!) Without them, the artists who made them famous, or cover them in bars as solo, or as bands, would never have had them to play to begin with. This isn’t a matter of what came first, the chicken or the egg. The song is always born first. Everything else comes after that, the arrangements, the production, the musicianship, the performances, the recordings, everything. The song always comes first in music. The song is the nucleus of music.