figs. a & b: a postcard from Cornwallville
Way back in June, we found ourselves back in Upstate catering our favorite young summer bonanza. The Caretakers were pretty happy with the job we did the year before, so they signed us up for a repeat performance and we were all too happy to oblige.
The menu was pretty much the same as it had been the year before, except that with the number of prospective attendees having swollen to 70+, the quantities were substantially bigger.
How much bigger? I'll give you an example. As you'll recall, we smoked 2 x 10-12 lb pork shoulders slow & low for last year's bash. This year, however, we smoked 3 pork shoulders slow & low, and they were all in the 17-20 lb range (!). This took more kettle barbecues. It also took more time, more applewood, and more attention. You may also recall that we were pretty enthusiastic about last year's shoulders. This year they came from our friends at Fleisher's and they were the very nicest pork shoulders we'd ever seen. Real blue-ribbon specimens. So nice, in fact, that all that smoking turned 'em into candy.
Anyway, aside from the quantities, the menu looked very similar to last year's:
3 x 17-20 lb pork shoulders, applewood-smoked and pulled
6 x full racks of MO-style Ribs
Down East Baked Beans
Smokehouse Potato Salad
fig. c: "what'll you have?
We even dusted off the same PBR sign we used last year to add a little bbq shack-charm to the proceedings, although this year T. upped the bbq shack-charm with a lovely chalk rendering of a happy pig.
fig. d: mystery band
One thing that entirely new about the young summer bbq 2.0 was that it came with real, live musical entertainment.
The rumor that circulated prior to bbq day was that the mystery band was a "bluegrass outfit," possibly from New York City.
When two dapper young gentleman in suits and slicked-back hair arrived, looking not unlike The Stanley Brothers in their youth, we thought the rumor had been confirmed.
But then they laid into their first number, and the lead singer began a-hollerin' the blues Charley Patton-style, and we knew we were in for something altogether different.
I, for one, was fully mesmerized. The well-chosen selections, the bare-bones arrangements, the full-throated vocals, the tangled woods, and the warm, humid weather all added up to a performance quite unlike I'd ever seen. I don't remember them performing any Dock Boggs tunes, but for some reason I was left thinking about the lives of itinerant musicians like Boggs who played a wide variety of occasions (weddings, parties, anything) all through the mountains and hollers of western Virginia and eastern Kentucky. Again, it might have had something to do with those vocals. Greil Marcus once wrote of Boggs that he "sounded as if his bones were coming through his skin every time he opened his mouth." I'm not sure the exact same analogy applies here, but, like I said, these were full-throated vocals and these two gents were obviously well-schooled in the sounds of the "old, weird America" that produced Boggs.
Anyway, when they finished their set, I went up and asked them what they called themselves and whether they were regularly gigging. Malcolm, the singer, told me they went by the name of The Dough Rollers and that, yes, they played regularly in New York.
The other night, I looked The Dough Rollers up again for the first time since late June/early July and found that, sure enough, they had been doing quite a bit of gigging. As a matter of fact, on that very night they were playing a gig in Oakland, CA. I looked up the venue they were playing and it was the venerable Fox Theater.
"Jeez, The Fox," I thought. "They must be opening for someone pretty big."
Ready for this? Bob Dylan.
Looking for barbecue recipes of all kinds? You can find a whole mess of them here, here, here, and here to throw your very own bbq breakdown.* Good things happen when you do. Be forewarned, though, your guests may be moved to acts of reverence.
p.s. Many thanks to the Caretakers for having us, and to all our NY area crew for showing the love.
* Musical act not included.