Ted Hawkins - Watch Your Step
I treasure moments when the allure of a song is such that it forces you to stop and say, just what the heck am I listening to? "Watch Your Step" by Ted Hawkins is such a song, one I listen to on repeat, totally transfixed. And while I'll admit that I much prefer the tracks with just Hawkins and his guitar, the backing band on several tracks is just so, so good. It struck me when I first listened to the album, also called Watch Your Step, that he sounded like if Sam Cooke had done time in prison. I was dumbstruck to find out that Hawkins actually was largely an unknown street performer who spent his peripatetic life in and out of prison. In fact, the album cover shows him out in front of a prison where he'd done time. Hawkins, too, credits Cooke, a fellow Mississippian, as part of the inspiration for his musical endeavors. Hawkins' tattered, rough-around-the-edges vocal style belies a hard life, one fraught with struggle and disappointment, which is rendered even more poignant by Hawkins' death from stroke at 58—just mere months after his first breakthrough record. What are you listening to? The best blues album you've probably never heard. - Kevin Smith, Head Roaster
Chelbesa - Gedeb, Ethiopia
It wasn't too long ago that we had Chelbesa on our menu, but let me assure you this is a totally different coffee even if it's the same. I know that doesn't make much sense, but, thanks to our freezer friends here in Portland, seasonality has taken somewhat of a backseat. This coffee is the same coffee we were roasting back at the beginning of the year with the only difference being that this is fresh crop. We were previously roasting a coffee we froze as soon as it arrived stateside, and because the freezer is able to achieve such low temperatures, it tasted as clean and fresh as the day it had arrived. This lot of Chelbesa was one of our first to arrive in the warehouse this year, and we couldn't be more excited. There's tons of florality and classic Ethiopian flavors of lemon and black tea. This is what we want to be drinking all summer long.