Editors Note:  We continue with our Low Budget Review Guy who not only travels Texas, but apparently stays smashed on rum.  Check his great review, and he keeps it everything Texas

My newest entry in the ever-continuing search for the best rums brings to the bar a Texas-made product, Railean Rum.  I always like trying “Made In Texas” products, supports local economies, and business people.  Foods have been by and large a very positive experience, BBQ and BBQ  sauces, salsa’s, etc.  However, historically Texas made alcohol products have been an uneven result at best.  Some Texas wines are very good.  Texas booze, however, has had largely poor results for my taste-buds.  Probably because it is a new industry here, and learning to make good products takes time and patience.  That brings me to Railean Rum.  Owned by one of the few women in the business, Kelli Railean has a passion for good rums.  She founded Railean Distillers in San Leon, Tx on Galveston Bay.  She describes San Leon as, “A small drinking community with a large fishing problem.”  Sounds like my kinda place….their website advises they use Gulf Coast Sugar Cane Molasses.

Railean Rum. Very Cool

They offer three rums, Texas White, Reserve XO, and Small Cask Reserve.  My review is on the Reserve XO.  The Small Cask Reserve is produced from single barrels, which is rare.  The XO is blended as most rums are.  First, the bottle.  It  features the Railean mascot, a brightly-feathered Monk Parrot.  Evidently there is a large colony of these birds in San Leon and they have been adopted as the company logo.  (Do they get a cut?) The label is easy to read, well designed, and allows the  golden amber color of the rum to entice potential buyers.  Indeed, it was the rum’s color that caught my eye, and then the parrot on the label.  I picked up the bottle, read the label, and they had a customer.  Well done.  The label does state this is an ultra premium rum.  I am unsure what that really means, but in most establishments , that means a higher price.

Upon opening the cork top ( a good sign), I could smell the warm molasses based alcohol softly calling.  The amber color pours gently into the glass like a slow hill country rain.  The first sip was quite smooth, no harsh bite, with some chocolate and light pecan aftertaste.  It “finishes” very well, the oak barrels giving it a very smooth ride.  This rum makes you think of just sitting and watching the sun go down or hearing the tide come in.  It is an OK rum for sipping, I prefer the darker rums for that, but it mixes very well with coke or cherry coke zero.  Mixed with fruit drinks it blends well.

Overall grade:  I give this rum an “A”.  For about $18 a bottle, this is a good value and a good product.  I will buy this rum again and recommend it to friends looking to get something different than the large commercial distillers.   At this time, I am placing this rum in my ever-changing top-5.   I look forward to trying the Small Cask Preserve in the future.

My top 5:

So many Choices, So Little Time for Over Indulgence

Pyrate

Plantation Grande Preserve (Barbados)

Old Monk

Mount Gay Extra Old

Railean Reserve XO

Just dropped: Flor De Cano 12 yr

The Quest Continues….

The Rum Guy

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Editors Note:  This BBQ  joint is one of the ‘famous Texas’ BBQ joints.  I have never been, but apparantly Low Budget Review Guys stopped in recently.  Read on:

A recent trip through central Texas brought us lunch-time pangs and a billboard advertizing a BBQ place I haven’t tried….seemed like a natural magnet drawing me to exit 294 and Central Ave in Belton, to Schoepf’s BBQ.  Just a few blocks off I-35, while looking vainly for the sign announcing the establishment, I noticed a low-slung ramshackle stone building with a crowd lined up outside. Could this be it?  Lowering the window, the heavenly smoke of meat in a BBQ pit wafted to me—this has gotta be it.  Pulling into the large parking area just past an auto parts store, the sign was barely visible leaning against the front of the building.  This family owned business has been serving for 16 years.  Ronnie and Staci Schoepf bought the business from Ronnie’s parents in 2007.  Everyone in the family has worked there at one time or another.   Evidently, they had some flood damage but at the time of our visit, the restaurant was fully open and jammed with customers.  Parking in the back we walked past several outdoor BBQ Pits being manned by several employees, keeping the wood going and turning the delicious smoking and roasting meats.  Behind the restaurant is a large wooded area with numerous picnic tables and a stage for warm-weather concerts and performances.  Love that live-music option.

Another Famous Texas BBQ Schoefs, Belton, Texas

Finally making our way inside, we got a chance to see the many offerings.  Brisket, ribs, steaks, pork chops, sausage, chicken, turkey, pork.  These had been transferred from the outside smokers to inside smokers, what they call a serving pit, to keep warm for serving.  A great idea!  Like many BBQ places, there was a long serving line where you placed your meat order.  Watching the servers slice the meat fresh in front of you was like watching artists at work.  They were quick, decisive with no wasted motion.  With the BBQ meat piled on our plastic tray, we proceed into another room where the varied sides were offered. In addition to the usual tater salad, coleslaw and beans, were green beans, baked potatoes, “cheesy potatoes” (like au gratin) and bags of chips.  Along with the obligatory bread loafs were homemade rolls, jalapeno and regular corn bread.  Pickles and Onions offered as well.  (in Texas, I think the law requires pickles and onions)  Deserts offered were homemade pies and several fruit cobblers.

The inside décor was “Texas BBQ joint standard”  There was wood paneling on the walls, wood picnic tables, some Formica tables, with a stand-along drink stand for tea and soda.  Various pictures and stuffed creatures lines the walls.  There was a separate “Event Room” for larger groups that was well done.

For this visit, we tried the two-meat sampler, brisket and sausage, with several sides.  The sauce came served on the side.  The brisket, while very tender and moist, had no smoke ring and no char, with little smoke flavor, making it appear as if it had been roasted on the fire instead of slow smoked.  The sausage came in four options, regular, a little spicy, spicy, and venison.  Unusual, and pleasing.  We elected for the lightly spicy version and were very pleased from the first bite.  The sausage was moist without being overly fatty and sopping with juice.  It was tender with just the perfect blend of seasoning.  It was the best BBQ sausage we had tasted in several years.  The BBQ sauce was warm and molasses/ketchup based with just a perfect blend of spices.  The potato salad was good, chunky, with just enough mustard to make it interesting.  The coleslaw was fresh, with perhaps a little too much mayo, but that may have been because they were adding mayo to the pan as we walked up.  The beans were good, slow cooked and tender.  We were too full to try the desert, but did pick up a bag of their own home-made beef jerky as a present for a family member.

Overall, I give Schoepf’s an “A-“ (A-minus).  The food was fresh, the service quick and very friendly.  The brisket, while tasty, loses some points for the lack of smoke ring and char that I expect from slow-smoked BBQ.  The sausage gets big points.  The multitude and flavor of the sides very good,   The sweet tea was good, and that is always an issue with me.   We will be back to try some of their other offerings.

The BBQ road goes ever onward!

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Ozzy:The Blizzard of Odd

On January 24, 2011, in Concert Reviews, Uncategorized, by admin

Thursday night on January 20 brought 62 year old Ozzy Osbourne to American Airlines Center Dallas, Texas. This is a stop in the current tour to support his latest CD. The opening act was Slash and his band. Slash came on stage about 7:20p, about 10 minutes before the stated start time. The band was definitely tight and well prepared. A five piece group, led of course by Slash included another guitar, bassist, and a lead singer, Myles Kennedy from Alter Bridge fame. Clearly, the lead singer is trying to copy Axel Roses’ voice. When Slash played his own music, it was based in blues rock. Quite good overall. It was reasonably received by the crowd, but in the end, the quintet would have to play Guns N Roses to keep the crowd propped up throughout the set. As mentioned, the voice of Kennedy did a reasonable job of imitation, and the tightness of the band reasonably pulled off the the sound of GNR. Slash, of course, had his branded black hat and sunglasses outlining his frizzed hair…no changes here. They played until 8:10 p.m.

Click Pic for larger version

Slash Looking Like Slash

Ozzy was sporting a lot of new blood in his band lineup. Gone is Zak Wilde. A new drummer sits atop the kit perch. At a certain moment, when you see Ozzy out there, you wonder when Sharon is going to let him kick back, as he kind of needs to. The show was typical Ozzy. The same old “the louder and wilder you are the longer I play” statement over and over to the crowd, even though the corporate stopping point on this venue is 10:45.  I have seen Ozzy now 9 times, and it has always been the same. It is getting old. Also also consistent to Ozzy, was the high pressure fire hose, this time it was filled with a foam/water combination, a sort of Ibiza foam party, if you will. In fairness, Ozzy douses himself as well. This leaves the overly conservative venue cleanup crew mopping the first 20 rows while the concert is going on. Get a grip AA.

Ozzy’s performance was quite good overall. Now when I say this, I am evaluating based upon his past performances, and the fact that he is a 62 year old that has fried himself 80 times past the electric chair over the years with consistent abuse of whatever….his voice was OK. For the most part, he was on key, which has been a consistent issue in the past times I seen him. His mannerisms consist of truly the odd. At a certain moment, he shuffles across the stage like as if he has an imaginery walker in front of him. He shuffles his feet, his hand before him limply faced to the ground, head sort of preceding the body; kind of like Nicholson in “One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest” after the character has had his frontal lobotomy.  And when Ozzy tries to get into the music, he jumps in place SORT OF to the beat of the music. There is no question is trying to give it his all. In spite of the fact that I joke that if he was not Ozzy, the Sharon branded Ozzy, he would be simply odd looking in his old white guys rhythm.

(Click on each pic for larger size)

Ozzy Larger Than Life

Sharon drives him in order to cash every red cent in on his branding. I really think, like most musicians, his ego requires himself to be up in front of the thousands of people playing his music, so maybe he is fortunate to have such a business minded wife.  Toward the midpoint of the 2 hour set, I noticed his hands shake everytime they were free of the microphone. This is probably another reason he hangs onto the mike with a death grip. Sure enough, in comes the drum solo, the guitar solo, and whatever. Bottom line, though Ozzy technically played a two hour set, he was absent from the stage for 20 minutes while we had to struggle through musicians banging wildly on the set.  OK.  We know you can play the instruments guys, it is why you are up there and I am not.  No need to prove yourselves.  But really, Ozzy needs this break.  He came out after nearly 20 minutes to finish approximately 30 minutes worth of material.  His strength renewed, he proceeded, as usual to throw buckets of water on the front 5 rows. Enter in the moppers once again. So he had the strength to pick up buckets of water….this is good.  The sound was a bit different from when I have heard him in the past.  The band was tight as usual, but this time, the sound has been mixed differently to really kick in the guitars.  Heavy, heavy guitar sound that drove the quintet signature with each song.  I appreciated this, and a great improvement. It really makes the songs sound truly heavier metal, once again.   Good touch. It makes the music drive more squarely into your head, perhaps bypassing Ozzy’s ever weakening voice. He played all of his solo material and good renditions of Iron Man and War Pigs from the Sabbath days. The new guitarist is named Gus G.  They are trying to brand him as a viable replacement for Wilde.  He was good, no doubt, but it just is not Zak Wilde, who plays and drinks on stage as if he will not live another day.  There have been too many good guitarists sharing that stage with Ozzy, he should just let this Gus G. develop on his own instead of trying to market him down our collective throats.

After nearly two hours, and right on time to meet the corporate deadline (I love these, how we have come along from the days of concerts where the band ((read this the Doors and others of the day)) shows up two hours late and plays until whatever).  Ozzy did one encore, and left 8 minutes on the table before his and the corporation’s collective bed times. In attendance was about 9,000 fans on a Thursday night. In order to create a more tight scene for Ozzy given the lighter attendance, they sealed of the third deck, and transferred all of those nose bleed ticket holders to the lower bowl….no doubt pissing those people off who really paid for the lower bowl.  But it did make for a much more energetic scene.  The lighter attendance can be blamed on the bad economy, yes, but really, there have been a lot of shows competing for Dallas area music buffs dollars this year, so I think it was as much a Thursday night thing as much as souring economic times.

The American Airlines venue is not my favorite concert hall. Too big, questionable acoustics, and generally leaves a limp feeling toward the show. But Ozzy did an appreciable job, along with management on the venue to make it look and sound a bit smaller, to create a good buzz in the venue.  The crowd, who looked to average around an age of 40 or so,  was definitely responsive and appreciative. I am sure Ozzy will be back.  If this tour is coming to your city, check him out.  It is worth the investment of time and money overall, if nothing more than to see him hopping on the stage as the Blizzard of Odd……

Once again, Low Budget Review Guy is out and about in Texas

On a recent business trip my spouse and I headed to east Texas, the city of Nacogdoches.  Having never been there before I was looking forward to this visit.  A beautiful day greeted us as we headed out HWY 79 to Centerville where I-45 crosses it path.  We were not headed towards Dallasnor Galveston this trip but picked up Hwy 7 through the Davy Crocket Natl Forest.  As we headed continuously east, the changing soils became apparent with the appearance of towering pines trees mixed in with the stately Oaks, and Sycamores lining the road.  The National Forest’s myriadhiking trails and lakes beckoned but must wait for another time, perhaps on the way home.  Through the hilly town of Crocket, and finally, after just under 4 hours we arrived in Nacogdoches.   This city of 29,000+ is a hub for east Texas.  It bills itself as “the Oldest City in Texas”.    Archeological evidence seems to indicate human presence older than 9000 years.   The Spanish were in Nacogdoches before 1542 when DeSoto explored the area. However,  descriptions of the town date from Frenchman LaSalle  in 1685.  DeLeon, in 1690, made an effort to colonize.  When the French mapped out El Camino Real from the Rio Grande to Nacogdoches in 1713 and 1716, the Spanish decided to set up settlements in the area.   Don Antonio Gil Y’Barbo built the Old Stone House in 1779, and laid out what would become the city streets.  It became a center for timber, cotton, and later oil.  In 1861 the first oil well in Texas was here.

The city was a hotbed of Texas Independence and hosted such famous luminaries as Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, Thomas Rusk, William Travis.  The New Orleans Grays stopped on their way to the Alamo and legend.  The city actually had 9 different flags hoisted overhead at one time or another: France, Spain, Mexico, the Magee-Gutierrez Republic, The Long Republic, The FredoniaRepublic, The Lone Star, The Stars-and Bars of the Confederacy, and The US Flag.

Entering the city, we headed for our night’s lodging, to check in before exploring.  Our stay this visit was at the beautiful Fredonia Hotel, built in 1955.  The lobby was spacious and inviting, the light coming through the windows accented the grand piano in the corner.  Our corner room was very comfortable and relaxing.  The sports bar, at the opposite end of the lobby from the wine bar,  was a perfect place to either root on your favorite team, or enjoy a quiet glass of wine with friends.  The restaurant, J McKinneys, is well known as a delicious place for meals with an enticing menu for all tastes.  They advertize the best breakfast in town.  Just steps from the lobby, the pool area was surrounded by trees with a patio for outside relaxing.  A wide variety of live music is frequently heard on the patio, lit by Tiki torches and soft lighting.

But now it was time to explore lunch.  Always interested in BBQ, we got recommendations for several places, but settled on The Barbecue House.  (see my earlier posting for that separate review)  After lunch, we headed to the campus of Stephen F Austin University.  The beautiful campus of approx 12,000 students, was well-laid out, with lots of huge trees framing the buildings in green.  A visit to the recreated Old Stone Fort museum was worth the short time spent.  From there, it was out about 20+ miles on Hwy 21 to Caddo Mounds State Historical Site.  This site, while perhaps not appearing to be much more than some small distinct grassy hills, was fascinating once we learned the history behind the mounds from the visitors center.  The mounds all had different functions and were well over 1000 years old.  Some were burial mounds, others ceremonial mounds.  The area had been abandoned by the time “civilization” found them.  After a brisk walk around the area, we noticed the weather was turning colder, it was January after all.  Heading back the warmth of The Fredonia Hotel, we relaxed before our business meeting.

The next morning brought winter to Texas.  It was cold, raining, dark.  The forecast called for ice and snow later in the day.  Given the conditions, we packed the car and headed out.  Home-bound? Well, not yet. We still had things to see in town.  We drove around the historic city cemetery, whose oldest grave dates to 1837. We drove around the downtown square, with numerous historical markers.  We promised ourselves next visit we would take a walking tour of the area.  Many beautiful old homes lines the city streets, quiet for now, being early Sunday morning and the city hunkering down for the oncoming storm.  We drove to the Sterne-Hoya house, still closed, but felt history’s pull from the outside.  Also saw several ancient Caddo Mounds that were in the city proper, and drove past the Zion Hill Baptist Church, built approx 1879 and a state historic site.  Impressive.

However, time and Texas Winter storms wait for no one, so we headed west towards home.  The Davy Crocket Natl Forest would also have to wait for another day.  We stopped in Crockett for a break and some maintenance on our car tires, and stopped in Centerville, when I couldn’t resist “Country Cousins BBQ” (see earlier review).

Overall—a very nice first visit. Cool small town vibe, energetic but not hurried, with very friendly people.  The hotel was fabulous and we are looking forward to a schedule return trip in April.

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One again from our very own Low Budget Review Guy….eating his way across Texas once again.  He always comes up with interesting places that are easy on your billfold.

A recent trip to East Texas brought the opportunity to try some new BBQ places, always a treat.  The first stop was The Barbecue House inNacogdoches .  This large, stone building with a bright red facing, looked encouraging from a food standpoint.  Inside, we were directed to the traditional serving line where we ordered our meats, placed on paper plates on plastic cafeteria trays, then slid further down the gleaming line to the sides, where we could serve ourselves two choices  from the many options.  There was an interesting assortment of additions as well as the complementary white bread loaf.  There were individual packages of cheese, freshly made jalapenos stuffed with pimento cheese and several types of cobbler for desert.  We were a good sized group so we were able to try many sides and meats.  Upon ordering your meat choices, they were cut and placed on the plate.  A dry rub was then massaged into the order and then BBQ sauce was ladled on.  We were not given an option of rub or no rub, sauce or no sauce, but perhaps locals know what to expect so they can advise the servers beforehand.  The rub was quite good, the sauce a thin, vinegar based sauce, pale orange-almost yellow color, as most vinegar sauces are.  The overall mixture of the rub and sauce gave the flavor a spicy kick.  There was an ongoing debate as to which of the two was more responsible.

BBQ House

Barbecue House, Nacadoches Texas

The brisket was tender had a nice smoke ring, but not much charred edge.   The pork ribs were less tender but meaty and flavorful.  The sausage was bland, but not overly full of fat, like many are.  The sides were a mixed bag.  The mustard potato salad was just OK, mostly pureed potatoes.  It could use more mustard and seasoning.  And I prefer my “tater salad” to be chunky.  Perhaps they make it blander to offset the spiciness of the BBQ.  The beans were not traditional Texas Pinto beans, but more like the beans from Campbell’s Pork and Beans.  These were quite good, tasted as if slow cooked with molasses and brown sugar.  The best side dish was the coleslaw.  It was mayo based, but tasted as if it had just been made (and maybe it had been), fresh, crisp, delicious.  The best coleslaw we had tasted on the BBQ Road (so far).   The blackberry cobbler was warm, filling, a good choice.  The tea was a disappointment, commercial  and tasting as if it had been in the container for a while.

Overall, I give the BBQ House a “B”.   Meats were good, not great, earning points for the unusual flavors, losing points for not giving us the options of wanting the rub or sauce, and the sides ranged from OK to very good.  I would go back again.

Country Cousins BBQ in Centerville Texas

On our way back to central Texas, my companion spotted, “Country Cousins”  a small red building on the side of the road, just off I-45 and Hwy 7 in Centerville. On a cold, wet, raw winter’s day the place seemed to offer a warm inviting embrace of comfort food—BBQ.

Even though it was mid-morning and not even lunch time, there was already a line at the walk up counter on the wooden porch. A good sign.  While waiting,  I realized that this was a food trailer, like those that are popping up all over Texas, although this was wood not metal.  This trailer had been there long enough the owners had added the porch, some ground facing, and on the far side of the large parking area, a screened-in building that I realized had a large smoker and stacks of oak wood, getting seasoned and ready for cooking.  The aroma was enticing.  When my turn finally came, I ordered a sliced brisket sandwich and a small side order of potato salad.  The brisket was extremely tender, the tomato-based sauce warm and delicious, a perfect accompanist to the meat.  The potato salad was mostly pureed, with a few small chunks.  It was OK.   While we did not get the opportunity to sample their other options, so the grade is incomplete,  I rate Country Cousins an “A”.  It was the best sliced beef BBQ sandwich we have tried in years.  I look forward to my next trip, so I can try other items on the menu.

Now Thats A Brisket Sandwich

ED Note: This is part of a continuing feature on reddgranite.com on best BBQ joints in Texas. Each trip our Low Budget Review Guy, who normally writes about travel in Texas and other interesting items to do on a low cost basis, stops at BBQ joints rating them to standards we have set in our very own reviews. While there is a lot of debate on the best state that you can find the best BBQ, few can argue with Texas Best BBQ. Many of these are served in interesting locations throughout Texas.  In most cases, the small towns across the face of Texas offer consistently the Best Texas BBQ

Peace – ed.

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A Day To Remember from Ocala, FLA

It was suggested to this site that I obtain and review A Day To Remember’s latest album release, “What Separates Me From You”. Previously, I have not been familiar with the group  in detail.  I had of heard of them, but never exposed to their music.  What Separates Me From You was release on November 15 of 2010, obviously to catch the Christmas buying season. This is the fourth release from this quintet from Ocala FLA. These guys are considered punk/pop/metalcore.  Interesting designation. I find this quite descriptive. The band has a full sound laced with heavy guitars that anchor each song. As is consistent with the metal side of this designation, there are few guitar riffs or leads in the music.  With each offering, there seems to be a a formula for the song that includes the metal portion on the song followed by a much more melodic and listen able chorus that drives the song home. The punk designation is not entirely fitting in my opinion.  Outside of the fact that most of the songs are shorter overall and consistent in length, I hear few indications of punk in the music…..I guess I can see it somewhat, but really, this is much more metal and melodic metal than anything.  From my perspective, this is good. Once again, the sound is full, vivid, and the musically, the group is very together in their their sound.

As with most true metal bands, the vocals are not  the charismatic souring voices of rock.  It does contain the usual gravel growl voicing that is normal for Metalcore offerings. I am OK with this, but in the end, I would rather have strong vocal that drive the music rather than the what we see from lead singer  Jeremy McKinnon…But I quickly admit I come from another era of vocals in rock music. Also, harmonies are non-existent as well….consistent with metal and punk designations.

What Separates Me From You

Stronger offerings on this album are those that do offer a strong pop choruses coupled with the strengths of lyrics in the versers of the songs.  “All I Want”  is one that stands out on the album.  This appears to be the most downloaded song from iTunes from this album, yet I am not convinced this is the strongest of the songs on the album.  I thought “Better Off This Way” was the clear winner on this album.  Again, it followed the same formula I discussed above. The album turns much heavier in sound with “Sticks and Bricks” and “2nd Sucks” and “You Be Tails I’ll Be Sonic”.  These balance out the more poppy side of the sound in the others, although Sticks and Bricks, although considerably heavier than most on the album, follows the formula of a more pop ridden chorus as well.

The lyrics are strong, and the album loosely contains a theme.  The beginning entry starts with McKinnon growling “I am fueled by all forms of failure”. I like that. Other song titles and themes follow suit to a degree. Of course, you will have to get a hold of the liner notes in order to review the lyrics in more detail, as they are not easily discernible in the metal voicing on the songs, sans the choruses. The strong lyrical content lends credence to the band’s credible musical approach.  It would seems these songs were not necessarily written with the goal of getting airplay….that always makes for better music.

That said, I believe this band should received good airplay.  When researching the sales of this album, one of the designations noted was that this week, it was marked by billboard as one of the albums that have received increased airplay over the last ratings period.  It was listed #64 in the Billboard hot 200.  Up from #117 from the prior reporting period, it is apparent that airplay must be making a difference.  The album peaked at #11 during its release “bullet”, so the momentum seems to be reversing based on this airplay. I apologize, I do not have total sales figures.

Overall I give this album a 7 out of a total of 10.  Good offering.  I am happy I invested.  If you would like to purchase, the link here (immediate following this sentence)  takes you to Amazon for truly the lowest price for this CD. Or if you prefer, go through the the iTunes link below this post.  What Separates Me From You

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A humble message to the Baylor Nation:  First off, please note that I am not a communist to the Baylor Nation. So please do not take what I am about to post out of context. True. I prefer basketball, and support the Baylor basketball teams with season tix for men’s and women’s basketball programs. And also true, it is far easier these days to support Baylor Basketball than football. Even with Skippy’s Thugs not playing well and blowing the highest school ranking in history (9) by loosing three games to stunningly mediocre teams, I am staunch basketball. (Thank you Lady Bears for your first Number 1 school ranking in history).  But in the end, I really wish to see the football program excel.  You just cannot get around it, football brands the school programs stronger than basketball (although you could argue with me on this one, think: Butler, Marquette, Duke)

Baylor Fell Short of the Glory of The Baylor Nation

The Baylor Nation seemed pleased with the football program.   They went to a bowl for the first time in over, what 15 years? Great. Success. But, really Baylor Nation? Success?  I guess it is on one level. That was clearly a goal of Briles to get to a bowl. But in the end, I have a hard time thinking that this was a resounding success. I was proud of the program putting up a 7-2 record.  I knew the last three games would be tough.  But in the end, great teams, and great programs have to win the big games.  Not all of course, but you have to win some, and certainly be competitive in the rest.  Look at the A&M game.  What happened? Up 18 at half, and you loose the game scoring a big zero in the second half? Seriously? You are blown out by OU and OSU (ah, that Oklahoma State for you Yankees on this site).  You loose the consolation bowl game significantly to a mediocre Illinois team? Time to wake up everyone.  The Baylor Nation deserves more.

Hats off to Briles that he brought them to the bowl.  Great. While I have called for his head in previous posts, I must admit, we are better today than the littering of bad coaches in the immediate past.  But truly, with the talent this club had, I expected so much more. I am not hanging the last four losses in a row on the kids.  I am squarely hanging it on Briles.  He was simply out coached. No adjustment at half time at A&M game (at home, mind you). Play calling that worked straight into the the other teams strategy, because, as good teams, they studied film on Baylor and knew what to expect, . And of course, Briles delivered.  The defense, in spite of some real talent, failed miserably. This was a highly penalized team, which always smacks of lack of discipline. Bottom line, I am just not sure that we can get there with the current coaching formula.

So what is the answer?  As a life long Chicago Cubs fan, I hesitate to say simply “wait till next year”. Lets think out of the box. Cast your darts in my direction if you must. I propose a compromise.  Lets dream the impossible for a moment: Mike Singletary is suddenly on the market again. I am completely aware that he poo poo’d Baylor last time in the coach search convinced Baylor was not committed to put the resources to really win (read, facilities, on campus stadium) ((oh yeah, for those of you that think this will not happen, think again, it will in the near future…trust me on this one)). At least that was the party line.  Now the Baylor Nation largely is in love with Briles based upon what I view as low expectations.  I understand. He brought us to a bowl in three years. Cool.  So, lets dream a bit, or as I put it, think out of the box. Bring Singletary in as the defensive coach. Let him insert discipline in a group that could get it done, but needs good leadership.  Let Briles continue as the head coach. Obviosuly, egos would have to move to the side lines for this to happen. Yes, Briles would feel threatened. Singletary would want a head coaching job.  Look, I understand all of this.  But I am just saying, if the Baylor team had a strong dose of the Mike Singletary intensity, we would have done much better this year. Although I do not think that Singletary is the best strategic coach, I do believe he can get the most out of a group of kids whose talents are buried deep in the desert sands. And for those of you who think he would not take a lower level coaching job like this, who knows.  He may just use us a holding job for the next NFL job, although he would make a much better college coach than NFL.  OK, back to reality. But really, anything to return Baylor to a strong program, that is what I am interested in.  It can be done. TCU has proved this (and for you people, and you know who you are that says it is all facilities and such, read again.TCU facilities suck overall). I would love for Baylor to have the issue that TCU faces every year in the whole BCS debacle.

Whatever the answer, I call on the Baylor nation to expect, and demand more.  Do not accept the fact that we got to a bowl and that was great. Look at the whole picture. We can do this. It takes more. It takes true commitment to make programs great.  Demand that Baylor Football excel at any cost. Whatever it takes.  Any maybe, just maybe, the football program can catch up to the basketball program, which right now, is really putting the Baylor Nation on the map

PS: Go out and support your Baylor Basketball teams.

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Wings Of Steel – 15 year olds playing hair band rock….go figure

New Years Eve proved to be another installment of interesting times in an interesting place. We took our troupe down to one of our favorite watering holes in the homeland territory in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  “Cooler Near The Lake” (yes, that is the name of the bar and if you lived in this town of roughly 100K on Lake Michigan, you would understand the rather creative name for a bar) is a small but nice family run local watering hole in Kenosha. Redd Granite and the Dazzling Weasel Faces play here on our annual Wisconsin tour. Host Jodi always has something creative planned, and tonight was no different.  Music was provided by Boys and Toys, a local 3 piece electric outfit that plays rock music largely from the 90’s and 00’s.  This was a solid, well coordinated outfit that provided strong entertainment for a ready and willing NYE crowd that had to exceed at least a 150 people coming through this smallish bar throughout the night. Dancing was plenty, a sign that the band was entertaining.

But what really struck me is when the band took a break. The Boys and Toys basis asked if it would be alright that his kid’s band play a few songs.  “Wings of Steel” as a three piece group, using Boys and Toys equipment that got up there and played……80’s hair band rock?  Really?  Seriously?  They started with Dokken, went into several other artists of the genre, although they would regularly return to Dokken. Boys and Toys bassist dad insisted it was not all his influence.  They were fairly tight in the few song set played.  Vocals needed to come out stronger, but overall, I was impressed.  Not sure where their market is, since I regularly get dogged about my love for 80’s hair bands.  Not sure how deep their knowledge went as they seemed not to know who Great White was, but alas, they are 15 and such. Pleasantly surprise, I enjoyed the rest of the night with the primary band Boys and Toys, the excellent hosting of Jodi, and the great time hanging out with the locals.  I appreciate them letting them into their circle, because, overall, even though I am from here, I have been gone a long time and only return generally around the holidays and when Dazzling Weasel Faces play here.
If you are ever in Kenosha, Wisconsin, stop in at Cooler Near The Lake and say hi to Jodi….and tell her that redd sent you.
Make 2011 a great year.
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