Music Review: Jared Deck – Bully Pulpit

By Brent Wilcox

We were lucky and privileged to be able to attend the show for Jared Deck’s release of his new album “Bully Pulpit.” This is his second solo album.

Deck’s live show at the Blue Door in Oklahoma City was filled with energy and entertainment. At times it felt like a music revival with the sold out crowd joining in with hand-clapping and foot-stomping. At times I expected some to stand up and shout “Hallelujah!” (Several did stand and dance in place! And I think I heard a few Amens!)

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Deck writes almost all of his own music. His art of scribing emotions, feelings and stories in verses and melodies has won awards for good reason. He excels at songwriting.

Rolling Stone Country included Deck’s first single “Great American Breakdown” from the new album as one of the ten new country or Americana songs to listen to. With the release of his first solo album Deck described his music as Mid-Americana. And Deck is a country boy. He grew up in Thomas, Oklahoma (Pop. 1,181).

But with Bully Pulpit, Deck proves he shouldn’t be labeled with one genre of music. He’s country, he’s Americana or Mid-Americana, but he’s so much more.

Deck served as the music director for at least two different churches in western Oklahoma. One of those churches had a majority membership of African Americans. Deck’s gospel music background shines through brightly in Bully Pulpit.

To illustrate the diversity on this album, and Deck’s wide range of musical talents I thought it would be fun to pick other more famous artists that I could imagine performing his songs.

In my mind I can see and hear Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones performing “The Great American Breakdown.”

The forth track on the album, “Make Your Mama Proud” would be a natural fit for Garth Brooks.

When I hear “In the Name,” the sixth track, I envision the late English rocker Joe Cocker performing this soulful Deck original.

With the seventh track, “Sometimes I Miss Being Lonely,” I could honestly hear Garth Brooks or Tricia Yearwood, Tim McGraw or Faith Hill, Vince Gill or Amy Grant, Elvis Costello or Diana Krall singing this song. I mention all those because they are married couples and this song was co-written by Deck and his wife Jacy.

Maybe it’s the horns and piano on the 2nd track, “Money Back,” but I can hear Billy Joel performing this song.

Reba McEntire could have another smash hit if she recorded Deck’s eighth track, “Tulsa Sound.”

I can hear the great Mavis Staples singing several songs on this album, including two traditional songs – “I Don’t Know What You Come to Do” and “There’s a Leak in This Old Building” – and the Deck original “True Believer.”

I think the other two tracks on this album (11 in all) are my personal favorites. I’m a sucker for slower songs and these two songs get stuck in my head. Both “Where I Fall” and “Over and Over” get stuck in my head and play over and over.

I’m not suggesting any of the artists I mention above would do a better job on these songs. Jared Deck is a multi-talented artist who holds his own with any of the above artists. These are his songs, he wrote them brilliantly and he performs them superbly. I just wanted to express the diversity of his talent.

I highly recommend “Bully Pulpit.” It is available on iTunes, Spotify, or his website jareddeckmusic.com. And if you ever have the chance to see Deck perform live – take it and you’ll be in for a really good country-mid-Americana-soulful-rhythm-and-Rocking fun time!

Laughing with Lucas

This is a review I wrote back in July. This would make a great Christmas gift or stocking stuffer for any young ones in your family.


Laugh with Lucas at the Banjo Farm

By Brent Wilcox

“I want to hear Lucas Ross again,” said Kai from the back seat of the vehicle as we were driving from Oklahoma City to Minco.

I had no problem with that request so I started Banjo Farm playing again.

The comedic genius of Lucas Ross is that he makes me laugh (I’m 51 years old) and he makes seven year old Kai laugh too. Lucas also happens to be a darn good musician.

On Ross’ new album his banjo playing shines on all eight tracks, but it stands out even more (in my opinion) on the last three tracks. These three songs were recorded live with the Oklahoma Community Orchestra.

On the first of those three songs, we hear orchestra conductor Irvin Wagner ask Lucas what he is doing up on stage. “I thought I could join the string section!” Wagner tells him he has to audition first. The audition is Lucas playing his banjo against the entire orchestra in Duelin’ Banjos.

The other two songs Ross recorded live with the orchestra are his original song S.O.B.K. (We Got Bees) which was on his first album and The Muppets’ song Rainbow Connection.

On the title song, Lucas calls his grandma and tells her that he needs “something new to play” and so his Mema takes him to the Banjo Farm “the one place that instruments get to play.” Accordions swim in an aquarium, triangles grow on trees and “all the instruments on display from xylophones to old trombones.” The song tells a fun story and is cartoonish, which in my mind, makes me envision animated characters.

The next song is Kai’s favorite, probably because he can relate to the main character who is a kid who “Faked Sick” to stay home from school, but there are also many lines in the song that makes Kai laugh out loud. The kid in the song has a 190 degree temperature because he put the thermometer up to a heater and he tells his mom he needs to stay home. A couple of the lines that draws laughter out of Kai every time he hears it include: “Mom, my toenails and my rear hurts,” and later he’s telling his mom about an embarrassing incident at school which includes “Mom, my food went everywhere plus I ripped my pants and everyone saw my underwear.” The song starts out with just Lucas playing the banjo, but shortly other instruments join in. Lucas also plays the accordion on this song.

On Ninja Dog, the third song on the album, the barking dog in the song is actually Ross’s six-year-old son Simon. In the song, he thinks his dog might be a super hero.  Or he could be an archeologist because he digs and “maybe he’ll dig up a dinosaur, ooh! and be on the front page of the newspaper!” His real dog actually did appear on the front page of the Millennium a couple weeks ago when we covered the release of the new album. The Ross’s dog Sprocket appears on the roof of the house behind Lucas in the cover art of Banjo Farm.

Bored Cow, the fourth song on the album, has an awesome beat that makes me and Kai both want to get up and dance. But Lucas sounds totally different. He sounds like a cross between Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley singing to a Beach Boys beat. There are many bovine-related jokes. You will be “a-moooosed” listening to Bored Cow.

The fifth song is a cover of Late for School, the Steve Martin song from his 2009 Grammy-winning album. Anyone who knows Lucas knows that Steve Martin is his comedic idol, but probably also his biggest banjo influence. Lucas does a super job covering this song, and his banjo playing is exceptional. Ross wrote all the songs except this one, Duelin’ Banjos and Rainbow Connection.

I highly recommend this album for anyone who has a sense of humor and likes laughing and those who enjoy music. For those who have never listened to Ross, if you like Steve Martin, or Sesame Street, or the Muppets – then you will enjoy Lucas Ross and his second album. Banjo Farm is good clean fun for adults and children. You can download it digitally from iTunes for $7.92 or we have CDs available for $8 at the Re-Store.

Whole Grains

This was my forth In the Kitchen column from 2014. One difference I have made between then and now, I use canola more often than I do olive oil. Canola is grown here in Oklahoma and according to many is healthier for us.


I wrote about beans being an excellent source of protein last week.  They are also a great source of unrefined complex carbohydrates.  My heart healthy diet recommends that I eat at least five servings per day (one-half cup cooked equals one serving) of unrefined complex carbohydrates.  They help stabilize blood sugar levels for several hours after eating them.

Another good source of unrefined complex carbohydrates is whole grains.  Whole grains include oats, wild rice, quinoa, whole-wheat couscous and bulgar wheat.  It is strongly recommended that we limit or completely cut out refined grains like white bread, white rice, and white pasta.  So when cooking or eating those items, be sure they are whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, whole-grain tortillas or brown rice.

We have to be savvy shoppers when looking for healthy products at the grocery store. There are no regulations on food marketing; companies can basically claim anything they want to sell their products.  But there are regulations dealing with listing ingredients.

When shopping for whole grain products, be sure to check the ingredients section very closely.  USDA regulations require that ingredients be listed in order of volume by weight.  So make sure the first word in the list of ingredients is the word “WHOLE” on any product claiming to be “whole-grain.”   If the first ingredient listed is not “Whole Wheat Flour,” “Whole Grain Barley,” or some other grain with “whole” in front of it – the product is not truly whole-grain.

Whenever we cook spaghetti, we always have left-over noodles.  Save them for a heart healthy spaghetti frittata!  Place the leftover whole-grain spaghetti noodles in a container with cold water and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Spaghetti Frittata

4 cups of cooked whole-grain spaghetti

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion chopped

1 large bell pepper chopped

6 egg whites

½ cup skim, or 2% milk

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 tablespoons chopped basil

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 tomato, diced

 

If you have just cooked the spaghetti and it’s not leftovers that have been refrigerated, cool it off in cold water and drain it.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until golden, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and wipe out the skillet.

Whisk the egg whites and milk in a large bowl.  Stir in the cooked onions and bell peppers, Parmesan, parsley, basil, salt and pepper.  Add in the spaghetti.

Coat the skillet with cooking spray (preferably olive oil spray) and place over medium heat.  Pour in the egg mixture and distribute evenly in the pan.  Cook until the underside is golden, about four or five minutes.

Invert a large platter over the skillet and carefully (with oven mitts) turn it over.  Spray the pan again with cooking spray and slide the frittata back into the pan and cook the other side until the bottom is golden.  When finished, slide the frittata onto the platter, cut it into six slices and garnish with diced tomato.  We also like to eat ours with homemade salsa on top.

You can eat this with a piece of whole-grain toast and some fruit or I like low-fat cottage cheese with peaches.   Here you have another heart healthy and filling meal (with no meat) that helps to stabilize your blood sugar!

A Favorite Dessert (super foods!)

This was my heart-healthy cooking column almost a year ago in the Minco Millennium.


In an email I received from the AARP this past Friday, there was a link to their website with a story about the top 15 superfoods for people over 50 years old. The first item on the list will make lots of people I know happy – Dark Chocolate.

They said that the antioxidants in dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao) may help prevent heart attacks. Apparently these dark chocolate antioxidants protect our arteries from becoming clogged! They said small amounts of dark chocolate eaten on a regular basis can lower our blood pressure and help decrease the rate of stroke in women.

Some of the other superfoods included: Blueberrys, which they say can help lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure; Apples, which are a great source of soluble fiber, potassium and Vitamin C; Asparagus, which can help reduce the risk of prostate cancer; Broccoli, which I wrote about last week; and my favorite – Coffee, which a study by the National Institute of Health found that people who drank coffee, regular or decaf, “were less likely to die from heart and respiratory diseases, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes and infections. The remaining items on their list includes Butternut Squash, Fava Beans, Greek Yogurt, Green Kale, Oatmeal, Olive Oil, Pears, Quinoa and Salmon.

The recipe I’m including this week came from health.com and four of its five ingredients are on this list of 15 superfoods. The fifth ingredient – walnuts – was one of the two nuts recommended to me at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital cardio rehab. To make this Greek Yogurt, Chocolate, Walnut and Wild Blueberry Parfait you will need:

½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed

2 cups nonfat Greek Yogurt

2 ½ tablespoons mini dark-chocolate chips

½ cup oat granola

Chopped Walnuts

The oat granola is not on the list of 15 superfoods, but it is made from oats which is on the list – so I counted it!

This recipe makes four servings. To make it start by placing 1 tablespoon of the blueberries in each of four parfait glasses. Then spoon in ¼ cup of the Greek yogurt on top of the berries. Next, place 1 teaspoon of the dark chocolate on top of the yogurt. Add one tablespoon of the granola over the chocolate and then sprinkle the top with chopped walnuts. After you done that, do the same thing again so there are two layers of each ingredient. Serve immediately.

One serving of this healthy dessert is only 243 calories (about – depends on how many walnuts you sprinkle on each serving – this is if you use about a tablespoon on each). But this dessert also gives you 93.8 mg of Potassium and 14.8 grams of Protein. Of the daily recommended vitamins and minerals, it will give you 33.1% of your Manganese, 13.8% of your Calcium, 10.8% of your Vitamin E, and good amounts of Thiamin, Phosphorus, Selenium, Magnesium, Copper and Zinc.

A Favorite News Article (John Rule)

This is a story I wrote for our local weekly in February 2015. A local artist was selected to produce the cover for the 2015 Oklahoma Travel Guide. This is about that artist – John Rule.


By Brent Wilcox for the Minco Millennium

On the handsome cover of the new 2015 Oklahoma Travel Guide one will see the state bird, the state animal, the state flower and the state wild flower. It is not photographs gracing the new guide cover, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Bison, Oklahoma Rose and Indian Blanket are all carved into leather by John Rule, a local artist and leather craftsman.

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Rule lives just over a mile west of Red Hill, south of Minco. He and his wife have lived here for about 8 years. Before moving to the Minco area he and his wife owned one of the oldest saddle shops still operating in Oklahoma, the National Saddlery located in the Oklahoma City Stockyards.

“It was started in 1926 and I worked there for 31 or 32 years. My wife and I bought it in 1980,” said Rule.

He told me he made his first belt at age 11. “It’s approaching 50 years,” Rule said when asked how long he had been tooling leather. “I made my first saddle when I was 16. It can be a fun hobby or a life-long journey.”  Rule made it a life-long journey and clearly that decision has paid off when you view his artistry.

Rule was chosen as the Official Saddlemaker of the Oklahoma Centennial. The saddle he created is on display at the Oklahoma History Center. He thought that was probably how the Oklahoma Department of Tourism found him to approach him about creating the cover for the 2015 Travel Guide.

“They gave me size instructions, but had minimal input on the design,” Rule said about the cover. He had included the scissor-tail and bison on the Centennial saddle and he said it was pretty much a no-brainer to include them on the cover. He said once the design was completed and approved it took him about 7 days from start to finish on the cover. However, Rule’s work days are usually 12 to 15 hours.

About 90% of what he does is custom orders. “I do most everything in leather, except boots and shoes.  Belts, billfolds and of course I still build saddles,” said Rule. He was working on a cover for a day planner while I visited with him for this story.

But leather is not his only artistic talent. Rule is also a magnificent sculptor. He’s only been sculpting with clay for about 10 years but as he explained, “Basically that is what I do with the leather, I sculpt it,” said Rule.

Rule is currently working on what will be a life-size bronze sculpture for Oklahoma City Community College. He has titled it “Downstream Drifters.”  There are three longhorn steers with a cowboy on his horse using a hoolihan loop to rope the steers.

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Artist John Rule shows how he attaches different pieces of his sculpture together.

Rule explained that once he gets everything sculpted the way he wants it, it will then be broken down into pieces and they’ll create molds in his shop. The rubber molds will then be taken to a foundry in Wilson, Oklahoma and the molds will be poured with bronze. An interesting note on the foundry where his sculpture will be bronzed, Rule said, “It’s where they make the Heisman Trophies.”

When “Downstream Drifters” is complete it will be put on a large fountain with running water outside at OCCC. “The steers should be at about eye level when it is all finished,” said Rule. He hopes to wrap up the sculpting part of this process within the week. As soon as he is finished with this one, he will immediately begin on another custom ordered sculpture. He couldn’t disclose who it was for yet, but said it would be another cowboy on a horse to be displayed somewhere in Oklahoma City.

John Rule is a true artist who knows his craft and his subject matter. You can find him on Facebook under John Rule Saddlery if you would like to custom order a saddle, a belt or just about any other leather item or to custom order a sculpture to display at your home or business.

Beans, Beans the wonderful fruit…

“What about protein? We need protein and you said we can’t eat meat or much of it anyway!”  That’s right, we do need protein and for a heart healthy diet it is recommended to limit the amount of animal protein we intake. But there are other, healthier ways to get the protein we need.

It reminds me of a poem my daddy taught me as a kid: Beans, beans the wonderful fruit, the more you eat the more you … oh, never mind. But seriously, beans are a wonderful source of protein that we can eat every single day. And there are so many different ones to choose from: Pinto, Navy, Kidney, Black, Lima, Cranberry, Soldier, Fava, Northern, and the list goes on and on.  And dried beans are very economical on your grocery budget.

One of my favorite meals now is one I got sick and tired of as a kid: Pinto beans, corn bread and fried potatoes. I could eat almost any kind of beans and be happy as long as I have some good corn bread and fried potatoes to go along with them. But, sigh, I’m not supposed to have any fried foods so that cuts out the fried potatoes. But these are almost as good.

Cut up potatoes just like you were going to fry them in a pan. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a pan lightly with olive oil and dump the potatoes in. I like to cut up an onion and bell pepper as well and include. I spray it all lightly with the olive oil and sprinkle it with some Mrs. Dash Original or Onion and Spice blend. Cover it with foil and let it bake for about an hour. I usually stir it once or twice while it is cooking.

And I’ve created my own healthier type of cornbread. I love this stuff.

Brent’s Whole Wheat Salsa Cornbread

Mix together dry ingredients of

¾ cup Corn Meal

1 ¼ cup WHOLE wheat flour

¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons Baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Add in

2 egg whites

½ cup low fat sour cream

½ cup skim or 2% milk

½ cup salsa

¼ cup olive oil

Add in

½ cup frozen corn

1 cup shredded low fat, skim mozzarella cheese

 

Divide into 12 muffin cups spayed with olive oil

Cook 20 minutes in pre-heated 400 degree oven

 

Eat this healthy cornbread with some oven-baked-fried potatoes and a pot of good old beans and you’ll be getting your protein, your fiber and all sorts of good tasting flavors on your tongue and you won’t be clogging up those arteries.

 

That little poem my daddy taught me ends, “…the better you feel, so eat some beans at every meal!”  That’s some good advice right there!