Tonight, as on most Tuesday nights, I had dinner and a few drinks at the Bluegrass Kitchen and listened to Blue Yonder play some of their “acoustic honky-tonk Americana”. Tonight was a bit different, though. The boys are releasing a new album called Rough and Ready Heart full of John Lilly’s originals and tonight was the pre-release party with all of the regulars and an indie film crew in attendance.
I can’t go on without giving the restaurant its praise. I’ve been coming to BGK since it opened years ago and the owners, Keeley and Jon Steele, are some of the finest people I know and a true credit to the East End. The exposed brick and ’20s pressed-tin ceilings mix perfectly with the loads of local artwork for sale and random bits of kitsch. Not to imply it is all style and no substance, the everyday menu has some really stand-out options like the hot-brown club sandwich, the organic tofu ‘wings’, and the stellar pork chop and meat loaf dinners. I can’t comment on the weekly special menu (coincidentally released on Tuesdays) since it’s constantly changing, but suffice it to say there is always a mix of novel and hearty options that are sure to please anyone, vegan or omnivore. And the drinks….whether it is Nick and John working during the week, or Lauren and Jeffrie working brunch or the weekends, you are in for something special. It’s a true sit-down craft bar, not the usual downtown hole that calls itself a cocktail bar because someone can make an Old Fashioned.
BGK is a special place, and Blue Yonder a special band, because they both do their utmost to bring people together over great food and great music. You may be sitting beside a coal baron, an organic tofu maker, or the maintenance guy having dinner and a few beers after fixing the compressor in the beer cooler, but everyone at the bar and at every table is cut from the same local sound and local taste loving cloth. The meals are as heavy on locally grown produce as the songs are on locally grown lyrics and they play off of each other wonderfully. Everyone, no matter where they come from, is a “walker of the high ridges” stepping in and looking for their next ramp feed, taste of corn liquor, or set of songs that makes them think of home.
What John, Robert, and Will bring to the stage is not just virtuoso musicianship but a feel for the human condition that is lacking in so much music these days. They can take you from the top with “Beats Walkin'” or “Hey Bartender” to the bottom with “Lonely Hour” then kick off the introspection with “Memories of Moonlight and You” or “Four Leaf Clover”. Every triumph and every stark failure is right there in the open and each is as valid as the other in the grand scheme of life.
To all that I say, “Hey bartender! Pull one, pull two, pull three more glasses of beer!”