The first time I went to Nashville was when Ronnie Dunn was competing in the finals of the Marlboro Country Music Talent Contest.  It was the late 80’s.

We had discovered Ronnie in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at a place called Tulsa City Limits.  He did his soundcheck before the show, and I knew he was going to win the whole competition.  He did.

And he did it in Nashville at a place called the Stockyard, a restaurant that specializes in…beef.

I fell in love with Nashville.  It’s still one of my favorite towns.

When my friend Patrick Clifford moved there a couple years ago, I started going back.  I got such a great vibe from the place.  But I wasn’t ready to make a move from my hometown of Baltimore.

My Dad was not doing well.  He was living alone in upstate New York, and it was getting tough for him to deal with all the snow and freezing cold.  The closest town was about a half-hour away.  To get there you had to drive down dirt roads.

Most old folks drive slow.  My Dad drove like he’d just robbed a bank.

A couple times, he slid off the road into snow banks.  So it was time to make a move.  He kept the house upstate, and moved to Annapolis, where he was much closer to the family.

When he got settled in, I decided to drive to Nashville.  I took Batu with me.  We looked at a couple of places, and I found a place I really liked.  It was dog-friendly.  I signed a lease.

I wasn’t really looking to make a move.  And I don’t know why I pulled the trigger right then and there.  But I did.

I went back and told my Dad I was moving.  He asked me when.  I told him…two weeks.  He was surprised, but happy for me.  I was sad, but it wasn’t like I was moving to the Amazon.  Nashville is 700 miles from Annapolis.  If anything were to happen, I could be back in a day.

So I packed up all my stuff.  I don’t have a lot of stuff.  I never really wanted to have a lot of stuff.  I could put everything I own in a Hefty trash bag liner, sling it over my shoulder, and be gone.

And that’s what I did.  I grabbed Batu, put him on top of the stuff piled in my car, and I drove to Tennessee.  My apartment in Nashville was in a place called the Gulch.  The Gulch is Nashville trying to be Manhattan.  They had a few high-rise, modern apartment buildings, and some cool little bars and cafes and restaurants, but it wasn’t real popular.  Or populated.

My building was called the Velocity.  It was maybe half-full.  It had covered parking, and it was very modern.  The apartments were very small.  Mine was 500 square feet or so.  But I dug it.

There were train tracks right behind the apartment.  Not just one or two…a bunch of them.  It never bothered me; I liked the sounds of trains going by.

I had a balcony out front.  I could see Music Row.  And I could see that the Gulch was starting to build up.  An organic grocery called The Turnip Truck was going up a block away.  A clothing and music store called Two Old Hippies was being built.  More high-rises were being built all around.

Nashville was growing up in a hurry.

My amigo Patrick was taking me around town, introducing me to some wonderful people.  Robert Ellis Orrall and I became friends.  He’s an amazing guy.  He set up the showcase at the Bluebird that launched Taylor Swift into the stratosphere.  He co-wrote a lot of songs with her.

Robert Ellis Orrall

Robert also has a very cool record company called Infinity Cat.  It’s a pop/punk/alternative label.  His sons, Jeff The Brotherhood, were on Infinity Cat.  They just got signed to Warner Brothers.  Infinity Cat has a band called Diarrhea Planet that is about to blow up—they just got a rave review in Rolling Stone.

Patrick also introduced me to Angelo Petraglia.  Angelo produces Kings of Leon.  He gave them their signature sound.  Angelo has a band called The Jane Shermans that are one of my favorites.  His

Angelo and Patrick (NY)

wife sings lead and plays bass.  They sound like The Pretenders meets Missing Persons meets U2.  I saw them at The Basement.

The Basement is a showcase club that holds maybe 50 people.  It’s in the basement of a record store called Grimey’s.  That’s right, a record store.  They used to have them all over the USA.  Now there are only a few left.  Grimey’s is one of them.  And the club downstairs is one of the coolest around.

And one of the coolest bands I’ve seen at the Basement is St. Paul and the Broken Bones.  They are amazing.  The lead singer looks like Drew Carey, and sings like Wilson Pickett.
Patrick looked at me the first time we saw them and said…“Star Time!”

I told everyone who would listen to watch out for St. Paul and the Broken Bones.  Last week they were on CBS TV.

Nashville is cool.  It didn’t used to be cool, but now it’s on fire.  GQ calls it “The hippest town in America.”  The New York Times calls it “The It City.”  I’ve seen more beards and skinny jeans there than Brooklyn.

Me on TV!

Artists, bands, songwriters are flocking to the place.  Record labels, music biz people, are moving there in droves.  The Black Keys, Jack White, Sheryl Crow and tons of other acts now call Nashville home.

There is more construction going on in Nashville than I’ve ever seen in one city.  Houses, apartments, malls, restaurants, cafes, clubs, office buildings…the town is blowing up.

The TV show ‘Nashville’ is bringing a lot of attention to the town.  I’ve done some acting on that show.  It’s pretty cool–since they had me on it!

The only thing missing in Nashville is a cool jazz club, a place where a guy like Slim Man could play.

Or cook.  Or clean…

Seared Salmon

I had a hot date.  It was a hot day in Nashville.  I had tickets to the Sade concert that night at the Bridgestone arena.  Patrick got me tickets at the last second.  He’s a well-connected man.

So I had this idea to do a little seared salmon with a glaze.  I went out to the store, bought what I needed for the glaze, went to the really expensive organic grocer to get the really wild Coho salmon, and I went back to the Slim Shack to put it all together.

I was going to do a glaze with soy sauce, scallions and ginger, similar to my Salmon Ella recipe.  I put together some soy sauce, some grated ginger, some scallion, some garlic, and some hot sauce…and it sucked.  It was salty, so I added a little honey.  It didn’t taste right.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t get it right.

Hot Date was coming over in 20 minutes, but I didn’t panic.  I threw the soy sauce glaze in the disposal, and started all over.  Tried it again with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead of soy sauce.  And I nailed it.

I put the salmon over some organic mixed greens, and took an heirloom tomato and sliced it into small wedges, and placed them around the edges of the plate.  It looked great.  It tasted scrump-didlly-umptious.

Oh, and Sade?  It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.  I’ve seen Hendrix twice.  Saw the Doors on the first tour, and their last tour.  Saw U2 at the Ritz in NYC on their first tour.  The Police on their first tour.  I saw The Stones (The Rolling Stones, not the Flintstones) in 1972 when Stevie Wonder opened up.  Earth, WInd and Fire, Gladys Knight, The Spinners…I’ve seen so many great shows.

And Sade’s show–August 1, 2011–in Nashville was one of the best I’ve ever seen.  The staging, the production. the pacing, the musicianship, the lights, her voice, the songs…just excellent.  And Sade was born the same day as a guy named Slim Man.  January 16, 1914.


The Salmon:

2 pieces of salmon, about 1/3 pound each, filets, skinless, about an inch thick

kosher salt (just a sprinkle)

brown sugar or turbinado sugar (just a sprinkle)

1 tablespoon of butter

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

The Glaze:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped scallions (use the middle green part)

1 teaspoon grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

The Salad

Organic mixed greens

One heirloom tomato, sliced into small wedges

Here we go…

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Rinse off the salmon and pat dry with paper towels.

Put all of the glaze ingredients in a jar, and shake it up.  Set aside.

Sprinkle a little kosher salt, and a little brown sugar (just a little!) on one side of the salmon.

Get a small fry pan, put it on medium-high heat.  Add the butter and the olive oil, and when it starts smoking, add the salmon, sprinkled side down, and cook for 1 MINUTE AND THIRTY SECONDS!

While it’s cooking, sprinkle the un-sprinkled side with a little kosher salt and a little brown sugar.  Turn the salmon over, and cook for 1 MINUTE AND THIRTY SECONDS!

Remove from the heat.  Get a baking dish, put just enough olive oil in the bottom to keep the salmon from sticking, and place the salmon in the dish.  Pour half the glaze over one piece of the salmon, and the other half of the glaze over the other piece of salmon.

Put the salmon in the oven and cook for five minutes.  Don’t overcook.

Put some greens on a plate.  Place the tomato wedges around the edges.  Put the salmon on top of the greens, pour a little marinade from the baking dish onto the salmon, and a little onto the greens, and…