I am Tom Freeland, a lawyer in Oxford, Mississippi. The picture in the header is my law office. I'm on Twitter as NMissC

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Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith gets a New York Times obituary

Last weekend, I wrote about the death of Arthur “Boogie” Smith, a pioneering country music figure, great guitarist, and songwriter.  Today, he got a New York Times obituary.

Garlic Scape time is now: Here’s a recipe for garlic scapes and rice with red snapper

garlic scape

Update: details about the origins of the garlic were added.

In our yard on the edge of the woods, we have a patch of garlic that originally came from Joyce’s great-grandmother’s farm in Pellahatchie, Mississippi.

When Joyce’s father Burl would get home from school in the Antioch community, he would get some cornbread in the kitchen and go out in the garden and pull off a scape close to the ground to get some of the white with it and eat it raw with the cornbread. He is not sure how his grandmother used the garlic.

When his family moved to Columbus, Georgia, he moved some into a pine woods there, where it thrived. He took some from there to Memphis, and later on to Jackson, Tennessee, the next to last stop in the circuitous route to Oxford.

We use the scapes in the Spring. I’ve not pulled up and dried the garlic in the summer (not sure fully why).

Last night I used the scapes for a simple rice dish to go with beautiful red snapper filets from L&Bs. The quantities here are on the small side (because of dieting).

Rice with Garlic Scapes

2 1/2 tsp butter, total
3 tbs very finely sliced then chopped garlic scapes
1/3 c basmati rice
1 clove of finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 tbs finely chopped Italian parsley
salt, pepper

1. melt 1 1/2 tsp butter in a small saucepan. Add the garlic scapes and cook until soft, 2-3 minutes.
2. Add the rice and stir thoroughly. Cook until it gives off a toasty/nutty smell, stirring frequently.
3. add 3/4 cup of water and bring to a boil, stir with a fork, and cover and turn temperature down as low as it will go and cook for 16 minutes. This quantity of rice is tricky to cook; the greater surface area you have in the pot will mean that more water will evaporate while you are bringing it to a boil, which is why there’s a little more than standard water in this recipe.
4. Put the remaining butter, chopped garlic, parsley, and generous amount of pepper and some salt in the rice and recover for ten minutes or so. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Red Snapper Filets with lemon and garlic scape rice

2 four oz filets of red snapper
salt, pepper, cayenne or gochugang (Korean red pepper)
juice from half a Meyer lemon (use other lemon if Meyers aren’t available
lemon slices (optional)
1 tbs melted butter
chopped Italian parsley for garnish

1. Salt and pepper the filets on both side, then sprinkle a little cayenne on them. Turn them skin side down and pour half of the lemon juice on each. Set aside while you cook the rice.
2. Heat a small cast iron skillet as hot as you can on your stove. If you do not have a good vent on your stove, the rest of this recipe may fill your house with smoke. Test the skillet to make sure it is well and truly hot by sprinkling some drops of water on it to see if it immediately sizzles.
3. Put the fish filet on the skillet skin side down. Pour 1/4 of the melted butter on each. Cook 4 minutes. Turn carefully to preserve the crispy skin. Pour remaining butter on each. Cook another 4 minutes or so on the other side.
4. Put the rice in a nice mound on the plate. Set the fish on the rice. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and parsley. Personally, this is lemony enough for me; some (see below) like lemon wedges for additional lemon.

For the curious, this is about a 349 calorie meal.

dinner fish rice

Country guitarist Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith has died

Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith has died at 93. Probably his most important recording (as opposed to his most famous) was “Guitar Boogie,” which was close to the first country record with guitars playing straight-up boogie woogie parts.  There’s a nice obituary on the Charlotte Observer site.

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He said it was not anything he learned from listening to country music– he said that got the idea listening to big band jazz like Tommy Dorsey.

The influence of “Guitar Boogie” is illustrated in later covers by the likes of Chet Atkins and Les Paul.  There was a wave of country hits mining the intersection of honky tonk and boogie at the hands of folks like Tennessee Ernie Ford.  Here’s Les Paul’s take on “Guitar Boogie.”

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While guitar boogie is probably his most influential recording, it’s not his most famous.  He wrote and recorded a song called “Feuding Banjos” that Eric Weisberg  re-recorded as “Dueling Banjos.”  After it became famous in the movie Deliverance, Smith had to sue to vindicate his rights.

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He also may have had the first live syndicated country music show.  Here’s a really nice 14 minute video about him with both interview and brief snippets of his live playing.  Well worth watching.  The bits of music are almost torturing– you get snippets of him playing with Chet Atkins, Glen Campbell, and others, but leaving you wanting more.

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H/t to Mary Katherine Aldin for the news.

Gov. Bryant signs bill protecting peyote eaters and rejecting Scalia opinion to the contrary

In 1990, the United States Supreme Court decided Employment Division v. Smith.  In that case, individuals were denied unemployment benefits because they were fired for eating peyote.  In an opinion by conservative justice Antonin Scalia, the United States Supreme Court held: Of course you can deny unemployment benefits to people fired for eating peyote.

While it took a while for this outrage to sink in, after twenty-something years, our representatives in the Mississippi Legislature, and our peyote-advocating Governor Phil Bryant decided that it is at last time to end this oppressive treatment of our peyote-eating fellow citizens.

On the one hand, I wish this post had occurred to me on April 1st.  On the other hand, given that the actual truth in what I just wrote, it’s probably best to have inadvertently saved it for another day.

Here’s my sources for the above.  Here’s the holding of Employment Division v. Smith, from the Court’s syllabus (yes, I know it’s just the syllabus and not authority and blah blah.  This is a blog, people): “The Free Exercise Clause permits the State to prohibit sacramental peyote use, and thus to deny unemployment benefits to persons discharged for such use.”

This is from the “statement of purpose” in section one of the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” as signed by the Governor:

(c)  Government should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification;

(d)  In Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990), the United States Supreme Court virtually eliminated the requirement that the government justify burdens on religious exercise imposed by laws neutral toward religion;

See?  This statute is about overturning the result in Smith holding that peyote eaters are not protected by the First Amendment.

I will have more to say about this in a more serious vein later.

Bobby Rush, Vashti Jackson, and Jesse Robinson play the Lamar Lounge in Oxford

Bobby Rush Vashti Jackson playToday was an over-the-top Oxford day– the Southern Culture Center’s Music Conference, Thacker Mountain, a reception for the blues show at the University Museum, a Mississippi all-star blues concert at the Lamar Lounge.   We took in a lot of it, but the highlight was the blues show at the Lamar.

This was one of those nights that totally establishes that blues is still active and alive here.  There were memorable sets from Bud Welch, Vashti Jackson, Kenny Brown, and Terry Bean.  But the most memorable by far were from Jesse Robinson, pretty easily the best blues guitarist in Mississippi, and Bobby Rush with Vashti Jackson.  All short sets, and very memorable.

If you get any chance to see these folk, particularly Jesse Robinson and Bobby Rush (who says he’s now 80?), see them.

Jimbo Mathis backed the whole show on drums, and kept it tight.  He and his bass player (whose name I did not get) really tastefully and excellently matched the style of each player who came along.

Trent Wood, host of Looney Zoo, has died


Anyone who grew up in the Memphis area in the late 50s and 60s surely remembers Looney Tunes and its host, Trent Wood, who was a Memphis TV celebrity (second only to Sivad to my mind and perhaps Happy Hal) in from 1952 until Looney Zoo ended in the early 70s.

I’ve learned from Vance Lauderdale (on Facebook), who writes about Memphis history for Memphis Magazine, that Wood has just died. He was living in Oklahoma. After Looney Zooended its run, he went to the bond department of First Tennessee bank and then later to Oklahoma.

Here’s more from an earlier piece by Lauderdale about Wood.

The other surprising fact I’ve learned is that Tiny the Clown, Wood’s sidekick, was a theater professor at Southwestern.

Michelle Byrom: The Attorney General pleads, “Tell me why!”

The Attorney General responded to Tuesday’s order reversing Michelle Byrom’s conviction by noting that it is unprecedented since the re-imposition for the death penalty for a defendant to be allowed to win so resoundingly and so Court must explain itself.

Or something like that.

The motion makes a statement it ends with a question mark:  ”The State submits there is an absolute need to know the reasoning behind this decision so as to avoid the same errors at the new trial?”  After noting that, they quote M.R.A.P. 35 (the court should write an opinion if it would “be useful to the parties or to the trial court.”), and then state “a written opinion will be useful to the parties and to the trial court assigned to retry this case.”  The motion argues it would be useful to help avoid making the same mistakes again.

Since a reading of the petition makes clear that the only possible reason for reversal was that the court and possibly the prosecutor were aware that there was a confession that would have been exculpatory to Michelle Byrom; not providing it to her violated her right to be told exculpatory evidence.  How, exactly, an explanation of that would help avoid repeat error– is the Attorney General suggesting there is more evidence not yet disclosed?– is less than clear to me.

I will say that the Attorney General insists that the confession issue was fully litigated, although an honest reading of the prior pleadings suggests that “fully litigated” meant that Byrom’s lawyers were denied access to the evidence they sort of knew was out there, and then were told they hadn’t made their proof, among other failings.

The notion that “hard cases make bad law” in criminal cases in general and in death penalty cases very specifically invariably means one thing:  ”We are going to affirm this conviction no matter what because the facts are so bad, so, where we can’t fudge about the issues, we’re just going to improvise some really bad rules.”  I’ve always wondered whether there would come a point where the court would look at their increasingly strict procedural rules used to prevent claims from being heard, and, in the right case say, “Look, I know what the rules say, but if we do this one that way, I’m not sure we can sleep at night.”  Maybe that’s the underlying principle that got nine votes.  If so, I don’t think the Attorney General should hold their breath in hopes of an explanation.

Here’s State’s Motion.

A Black Student at Ole Miss ponders the Kappa Alpha fraternity’s Old South Ball

In today’s Daily Mississippian, the opinion editor, Tim Abram, meditates on why it would be that his college classmates who are in the Kappa Alpha fraternity might think it’s a good idea to travel to St. Joseph Plantation, where parts of 12 Years a Slave were filmed, to have themselves an Old South Ball, celebrating the “values” of the Old South.

He notes that it is probably not the heritage of most of them because of how few Southerners were slaveowners.  He describes his attempt to understand why his classmates would do this:

I always find great value in understanding the unknown. It is unknown to me why some of my classmates wish to travel to a plantation (where scenes from “12 Years a Slave” were filmed) and dress in formal antebellum attire.

It is all worth reading, and a pretty remarkable piece of student journalism.

Has that fraternity quit doing the event where they dress up in psuedo-Confederate military garb and ride on horses to the courthouse and stand by the confederate monument and have someone read the Articles of Secession?  The first time I actually saw it (one Saturday in the 1980s), I was floored.  They had a flatbed truck ride along in the parade with their dates wearing hoop-skirts.

Maybe they have gone a little more underground since.   It does raise questions in my mind about how good those folks are at evaluating what might offend others (something their internal rules have cautioned against since 1951).

h/t to my mom for pointing me to the editorial.

Madonna records bluegrass album for Cracker Barrel

Mandolin Cafe has the most interesting report of the day:

Lebanon, Tenn. — Cracker Barrel and pop legend Madonna have announced collaboration on a new project entitled Bluegrass Material Girl, a collection of traditional acoustic string band music featuring her vocals in the style of Bill Monroe.

Backed by some of the finest bluegrass musicians on the scene, the new recording appears to be a move to re-invent herself, something Madonna has succeeded at many times over her career.

Thanks to Amy Evans for the heads-up.

An amazing amount of blues at Lamar Lounge on Thursday April 3

This is quite a list of folks who will apparently be at Lamar on Thursday in the poster below.

There is a ridiculous amount going on this week in Oxford.