Americana Comes to St. Ambrose

Americana Comes to St. Ambrose

The “pretense-free Americana” of Davey O., a Buffalo, NY native, comes to St. Ambrose Cellars this Friday for an exciting live music event. Davey’s bio tells the story:

“It’s no surprise that Buffalo, NY born and bred songwriter Davey O. has been described by Buffalo News critic Jeff Miers as having “a journalist’s eye for detail and poet’s ear for the well-turned observation”.  Embarking on a decade-plus journey that has resulted in a collection of justly-earned, highly introspective songs, Davey crafts pure Americana that is not of the social and political consciousness, but drawn from the deep well of experience and human emotion – no hackneyed story lines, no insincere polish, just an unflinching poet’s look at life. The characters woven seamlessly into stories of which the song itself becomes the soundtrack for the movie playing inside the listener’s head.

Armed with a steady, rhythmic pulse on his Gibson guitar, a battered straw cowboy hat and a no apologies rust-belt work ethic, Davey puts rubber to asphalt, entertaining attentive, diverse audiences at listening rooms, coffeehouses, nightclubs, festivals, colleges and universities throughout the Northeast, Midwest, Midsouth and Atlantic U.S. – performances that result in engagement and communion between performer and audience through story and song.”

Davey O. has appeared all over the country and we’re super excited to bring him to the tasting room. Below you’ll find some samples of his work:


Visit Davey’s official website to learn more about this exciting artist.

Get to Know Deadlight Holiday

Get to Know Deadlight Holiday


Deadlight Holiday returns to St. Ambrose Cellars this Friday – as a trio – for their second show in the tasting room. Departing from their usual routine a bit, they will play some new songs in the more intimate environment and you’ll have a chance to get to know the band a bit.

Here’s what they have to say about their history and philosophy, in their own words:

The five of us were friends before we were a band, and some of the people knew each other since childhood. Like most bands, ours began in a basement. At the time it was it was just me, my jaguar, and a pedal board with a plethora of sound. I was writing new material of my own that was very different than what I had previously been writing in the years before. Shane, the lead singer of my other band overheard some of the songs I was playing, and wanted to be apart of it. Fast forward a month, we found ourselves recording more and more material. We knew we wanted female vocals over the song, but we didn’t know any vocalist in the area. However, we had a friend named Kallie, who we knew sang, but she never considered herself a ‘singer’. We invited her over to record a song called “Watching the Sun” and right from the get-go it clicked. We were laughing, having fun, and in the midst of it recording our first song as band. 

Initially we didn’t have a drummer and were using an iPad 2 as a Drum Machine at our Live shows. Our friend Christian came back to Michigan shortly after our first couple of shows, and on the same day of his return, he played his first show with us at the Sawmill in Big Rapids. He had probably an hour of preparation before the show, and I don’t think he missed a beat. Having his drum style added to the band, our sound changed: Shane’s bass lines had more of a groove, my guitar playing got heavier, and Kallie got louder. This evolution added to our shoe-gazing style in a way that none of us could have imagined. We became more confident, solid, and legitimized into a band. 

From the beginning, we are all geeks, who love star wars, dungeons and dragons, video games, and movies. We all listen to everything from Enya to Slayer, and we hope that our music reflects that. We bring what we can on stage, whether its R2D2, Yoda, laser guns, space gear, neon paint, glow in the dark gear, or even just odd shirts. To us, people come out to be entertained. If we can entertain the audience both audibly and visually, we can leave the venue smiling. 

We began on New Years Eve of 2014, and in just a very short span of time, we have played at the Ritz, Diesel Concert Lounge, the Intersection, Pyramid Scheme, and Sawmill. Our fan base has grown so quickly, and we keep seeing more and more people show up with our T-shirts at our shows. We can’t express how thankful we are for everyone who supports us. 

Currently we are in the process of independently recording our Debut Album, and getting our supporting Fall Tour together across the Great Lake States (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin).

The All Music Guide to Electronica defines dream pop as “an atmospheric subgenre of alternative rock that relies on sonic textures as much as melody”. Common characteristics are breathy vocals and use of guitar effects, often producing a “wall of noise”.The term is often used, particularly in the United States, to describe bands who were part of the ‘shoegazing’ scene, and shoegazing is sometimes seen as a part of dream pop. The term is thought to relate to the “immersion” in the music experienced by the listener. In the view of Reynolds, dream pop “celebrates rapturous and transcendent experiences, often using druggy and mystical imagery”. Dream pop tends to focus on textures and moods rather than propulsive rock riffs. 

Vocals are generally breathy or sung in a near-whisper, and lyrics are often introspective or existential in nature. Reynolds is generally credited as being the first critic to use the term “dream pop” to describe a genre of music, describing the sound as neo-psychedelic and noting the influence of ethereal bands such as Cocteau Twins.  

PopMatters also noted an evolutionary line from gothic rock to dream pop, while AllMusic stated that the ambient pop subgenre was “essentially an extension of the dream pop that emerged in the wake of the shoegazer movement”. In 1970, George Harrisonreleased All Things Must Pass; the album’s Wall of Sound and fluid arrangements led music journalist John Bergstrom to credit it as an influence on dream pop. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

Tonight at St Ambrose Cellars, we’ll excited to host a local dream pop band for your musical exploration. Dead Light Holiday, comes to us from Traverse City and boasts an interplay musical textures layered in to create a feeling of youth and the possibilities associated with being young. “None of our songs are preaching or trying to force an opinion on you, we leave it in the abstract. I think the Dream pop genre as a whole allows the listener to speculate and come to their own conclusions more so than most other genres.”, says guitarist Kyle Panek.

While they like to keep the compositions “pretty basic so it’s listenable to the viewer”, each of them “add a wall of sound to the mixture.” Kyle will write something and have a song going, then Shane will add a contrasting bass line to it, then Kallie, lead singer, will write something completely different over that. Jordan, tends to add rhythmic elements to the songs that add suspense. Christian, drummer, has a good ear for timing and he will alternate from being a drummer to being a percussionist at times depending on the mood. They believe they never really hit a dull point due to each adding to the overall vision.

Stop in for a glass and stay for the show! Tonight 6-9pm. And don’t forget about Friday Night Flights! This weeks chefs choice was inspired by the boss man’s hankering for an authentic Italian panini. Nosh on half an Italian panini (cut into two smaller triangles so you can share if you’re feeling generous!) served on Frankfort’s own Crescent Bakery bread with pepperoni, ham, salami and provolone cheese & just a little Italian dressing, alongside some savory root vegetable chips. The flight tonight will feature our delicious Secret Beach, ’13 Riesling Reserve, Clockwork Orange and XR Cyser, each bringing out a unique aspect of the flavors of this delectable little sammy. Bon Apetit!




Alfredo Improv: An Oral History

Alfredo Improv: An Oral History

When this adventure into writing began, I decided to interview our musicians with burning questions I always have for anyone with the guts to hop on stage and be vulnerable, inspired and talented simultaneously. Honestly, I worried I might have bit off more than I could chew. What do I know about music? Sometimes it gives me goosebumps, and other times it makes me wanna shake around inside my boots. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the company of true music lovers and incredible music makers, and all I know is they fascinate me. I wanted to tell their stories. I shouldn’t have worried too much about how to sound like I know what I’m writing about. These cats, every one of them, have such rich material within, that all I have to do is sit back and wait for them to tell it.

As I suspected, the guys that became our “house band” this year, Alfredo Improvisational Quartet, tell their story better than I ever could. Their playful anecdotes riff on each other like buddies together over a campfire. Yet there is also a compelling seeker’s journey happening for each of them. Their music allows us to bear witness to this journey. Their music sparks an awareness and energy which conjures the explorations of a beatnik stirred into the same pot as a shaman, John Muir on an expedition, and your Appalachian uncle brother!

It’s easy to listen to their music and feel the good time they’re having, because it is right there in your face. But good music, like theirs, does more; it takes you somewhere else. Even if you’ve heard them before, I challenge you to catch them this Friday night and see if you don’t catch their vibe.

Where did the name come from?

Fred: Al and I (Fred) were once kitchen slaves in the tourist kingdom. There was a lot of rap and other computer generated music blaring in that kitchen but whenever Al or I got a hold of the radio it was Phish and The Grateful Dead. That’s how the friendship began: maybe it was the music and maybe it was just the ponytails and Volvos we also had in common.


One day while making alfredo sauce, Al said to me, “Hey if we start a band we should call it ‘Al-Fred-O.’” Long story short, as they say. Al’s version of events is a bit different: “you know Fred…..the night we made love you said if we could have a child we would call him/her Alfredo.”

How do you make a living?

In this economy, it’s hard to call it a living. But, we are 3 highly skilled carpenters and a criminal defense attorney. Look at the haircuts and try to match the ‘do to ‘what they do!’

What are the ages you each discovered your talent, what was that moment like & how did you cultivate your talent?

Chris: Chris says he doesn’t remember when or how he started. He’s been playing since his teens. Long before he was old enough to drink. Which means he got laid way before the rest of us. Name any Jimi Hendrix tune and Chris can play the bass line. (It’s quite incredible).

Bill: Bill’s mom took him to see Buddy Rich when he was 7. His mom took him because she felt he had good rhythm. He got his first drum set shortly thereafter. He played in the school band from that point on. He wouldn’t join the marching band because he was also on the football team. He moved to St. Louis after graduating from High School and played in cover bands in that area. He moved back home and played locally before moving to Florida and gigging with bands in that area. Bill has been playing drums in bands since. In 1999-2000 he started singing as well. In late 2010 he began playing guitar. In 2011 Sub-Prime Blues Band—in which Bill sang and played drums—played in the International Blues Competition in Memphis, TN.

Al: Nuns used to smack my knuckles with a ruler when I would pound out sick rhythms on my desk in first grade. Drum circles at Dead shows and other groovy events throughout my life have contributed to my inspiration. Like, once in the Virgin Islands…a friend and I stumbled upon some folks, including a drum teacher and a couple of Rastas from Jamaica, in an old sugar mill playing drums on a full moon! A spiritual journey in a sweat lodge in my 20s, then 10 years later….I hung out with a bunch of dudes in the Mountains of WV. They played bluegrass on the front porch but were challenged in the timing department. I showed up with my djembe drum, and thus began my journey into playing hand drum with strings musicians. A short tour around WV bars with an incredible guitar player named Ken Kruger gave me a chance to express myself backing him with percussion.


Fred: I was high on acid at a Widespread Panic concert and I heard Jimmy Herring play a note that reached inside of me and held a piece of something inside so gently and yet so cosmically hopeful and fun that I decided “I want to be able to do that to people.” I wanted the notes I play—channeled from who knows where in the ether of it all—to give people that feeling. Anyone who has ever been to a Phish or Grateful Dead show knows the power of the guitar to take you on a journey. I have not been able to do it yet—probably never will—but that’s what I am aiming for.

I think we’d all agree that—with the exception of Bill’s soulful voice—it is not about talent. It is about loving good music, listening to good music, and trying to make something that comes close.

What attracts you to the type of music you perform?

Fred: The exploration and vitality of our improvisation combined with the joy of executing carefully composed difficult sections of music as a team.

Al: I love music! All kinds! But when I heard the Dead, and then jazz, and Phish, I fell in love with the sound of freedom….the improvised jams that no 3 min. song could match.

What is the most exciting thing you’ve gone through as a band?

Recently, we recorded our first album. That was a great experience. It is such a pleasure to hear each other in high quality and it offers an opportunity to appreciate one another’s playing in a way that’s impossible when playing live, because you are focused on listening to each other and not (expletive) up your own part. To just sit back and appreciate the chops of your band mates is fantastic.

The most exciting news thus far is that Bill’s original song “Boxcar of Gold” which deals with the shipwreck full of gold off the coast of Frankfort has been passed on to a crew that is diving and filming a pilot episode for the History Channel or A&E or something. Apparently the crew liked it and it is being passed up the ranks. It is a great validation of Bill’s incredible songwriting and singing.

Al: Being in our infancy….the thrill of fostering a musical child and watching it grow into something beautiful and amazing! Because we all love our children no matter how awesome or f—– up they are!

How do you keep things fresh musically, for yourselves?

Fred: It comes in waves. Most importantly for me is staying healthy emotionally and physically and paying attention to everything around me. Of course listening to good music. But you can’t compose music if you are too self-centered.



Al: We are right out of the ground. Can’t get much fresher…as of now anyways

Do you play for yourselves/each other or for the audience?

Fred: We play for the sake of the music. Everything and everyone falls into place after that. We play because it is fun and we love it. We have no expectations other than to enjoy ourselves. The fact that people are willing to listen—and even enjoy doing so—is just awesome. When we play live we do our best not to let them down and hope that they have fun and come back.

Bill: To paraphrase our friend Paul May: We play for free, but you gotta pay us to travel, set-up and break down.

Al: It’s a combination….I can get lost in my trip or get on the bus with the band…and back and forth. People getting off on our tunes is like throwing fire works on the camp fire!

What is it about an audience that helps you find your groove?

Fred: Having our sound dialed in from the get-go is probably the number one factor in determining how quickly we find our groove. If the sound is off everything is off. If the sound is solid, off we go.

As for audiences, we love them all and if they dance, then F— Yeah!

Al: They get drunk and will dance to anything!


But seriously….dancers always inspire. If I look up and see one guy tapping his foot it’s an inspiration!


What is the worst heckling you’ve ever had?

Fred: People have been pretty kind to us so far. Sometimes it’s the things people don’t say that hurts. (And of course if they did say something nice, you always wonder whether or not it was a load of s— and they just said it because it was the polite thing to say.) Politeness accounts for a lot of bad music in bars all over…

Al: None….everyone is way to polite around here….at least to our faces! If we lived in the city I would be in jail!

What makes you want to be a performer?

Fred, Bill, Chris: None of us want to be performers, we just want to play good music. It is all about the sound!

Al: Hot chicks!

Are you artists in other forms?

Al’s got all the skills. He is very creative and artful. Fred used to write short stories and boatloads of poetry but the guitar took over.

What is your favorite St. Ambrose beverage?

Al: Granny Smith

Fred: Granny Smith

Chris: Evil Twin


Jake Frysinger Tackles St. Ambrose Cellars

Jake Frysinger Tackles St. Ambrose Cellars

One of the great benefits of our little corner of paradise – beyond the sprawling lake shore, dune forests, fertile farmland, and stunning beauty – is that the elements attract seekers and makers. Our talented artisans and performers draw inspiration from the seasons, and from a life that is not spent waiting in traffic or thwarted by concrete and steel. This allows for an easy connection to the grounding energy from land and lakes, and for some, a way to make a living expressing their creativity.

Everyone who feels the pull to migrate here from other lives has a story of how they found their ZIP code in our beloved Benzie, and each is rich with what sustains them in their artistry. Ask around and you too will find interesting facts about these creative souls.

Our Friday night performer, Jake Frysinger, grew up summering here and then as an adult, made the choice to build a life here with his wife and son. Here’s his story:

On becoming a performer:

“My dad taught me to play the guitar when I was pretty young. I think I was probably around 8 when I started. He said if I practiced everyday for 15 minutes before school for like 6 months or something he would buy me my own guitar. So I stuck with it, and he bought me an electric guitar and a little amp at a pawn shop. I’ve been hooked ever since.”

On making a living:


“I’ve had quite a few different jobs over the years. I spent 5 years at the University of Michigan getting a teaching degree, but I’ve mainly worked in bars and restaurants since 2002. Although I did work at a landscaping job for a year and as a librarian at the Interlochen Center for the Arts for several years also. I’m currently the Sous Chef at the Manitou Restaurant on M-22 between Frankfort and Empire.”

On discovering music:


“I played at a school talent show when I was in 5th grade. A buddy of mine named Jeremy Shive played the drums, so we got together and played some old blues song I can’t even remember the name of. But I remember everybody in the audience going nuts when we got done playing. Maybe I’ve exaggerated the audiences’ reaction 25 years later, but that’s how I like to remember it! From that point on I knew I really enjoyed performing.”

What attracts you to the type of music you perform?


“I listen to a lot of different types of music. My dad had all kinds of records in the house growing up. I enjoyed everything from Johnny Cash to Thelonius Monk. The kind of music I enjoy playing has also changed quite a bit over the years. When I first started it was all blues music. Then I went through a Led Zepplin 1970s rock phase, which transitioned into a heavy metal head banging phase. Then it was reggae, and now I mostly do singer-songwriter type of stuff. I’ve written quite a few songs and recorded an album with a band called Big Pretty and the Red Rockets when I lived in North Carolina. That was a pretty eclectic collection of songs. But now when I play, it’s mostly at bars and restaurants so I do quite a few covers also.”



Most exciting thing you’ve gone through as a musician:


“When I played with Big Pretty and the Red Rockets in North Carolina, we won a battle of the bands at a venue in Raleigh called Kings. The prize for winning was that we got to open for The Drive-By Truckers and Dave Matthews at a show in Raleigh. It was really exciting, but the group split up shortly after that.”

On keeping music fresh:


“Sometimes that can be a bit challenging. But when you play 2 to 3 hour shows, you can’t avoid overlap and playing some of the same songs you play at other shows. Each show has a different group of people in attendance though, so I tell myself that it’s new to them. I’m also fortunate to have a great group of supportive friends and family that come to many of my shows, and that always makes it fun for me.”

Do you play for yourself or the audience – and what about an audience helps you find your groove?


“Both really. It definitely varies from show to show though. Sometimes if I’m in a certain mood, I might just play whatever I feel like. But most of the time I try and play whatever fits the mood or feeling of the venue and the people there. If it’s a rowdy crowd I try and play more up beat stuff. If the crowd feels a little more chill, I try and tone it down to fit that mood. I’m definitely comfortable in both situations though.”

What’s the worst heckling you’ve ever had?


“I can honestly say I don’t remember anything too terrible. I may have just blocked those things out of my mind though.”

What makes you want to be a performer?


“I just really enjoy it. It’s kind of a form of escapism for me, and maybe a little meditative.”

Are you an artist in other forms?


“Definitely not! I wish I was though! My wife is an amazing visual artist in terms of drawing, painting, etc. Some of the stuff she does looks so effortless when she’s doing it, but she produces some incredibly beautiful work. My 5 year old son has already surpassed my drawing skills!”

What’s your favorite St. Ambrose beverage and/or Sleeping Bear Farms product?


“I love all of the draft meads! And the Royal Reserve still mead is amazing! And we’ve always got a jar of Sleeping Bear raw honey around the house.”

So come on in to our tasting room this Friday, April 22, from 6-9 pm and listen to the songs and stories of a treasured local singer/songwriter and bask in the glow of one of the many talented musicians our little piece of heaven boasts as a resident. His voice is both powerful and gentle and his humor and humility are quite disarming for a former Wolverine lineman!


Blair Miller Rolls Into Town

Blair Miller Rolls Into Town

On Friday April 15, accountants all over the land will begin a celebration hailing the end of tax season. The same day, here in the tasting room we’ll be toasting our glasses to special musical guest Blair Miller.

This is our second date with Mr. Miller. To say we’re giddy would be an understatement. This writer recently had the good fortune to catch up with him for a pre-party interview, as the self-proclaimed luddite found a real-life interview more appealing, which only endears him more to us.

His smooth, yet crackly, voice goes down like our own Pepper Honey Mustard (which he loves)— there’s a story in that voice that you know is a little sweet and a little savory, and the way he speaks about the blues? Nicey spicey.

Intriguing with a hint of humility and mystery, Miller is relatively new to the music scene as a performance artist. After retiring as a medical social worker, he started using the new freedom in his schedule to begin a journey as a musician. He picked up a guitar at the age of 13, rocking out to British and American blues covers, finding his groove with the likes of Charlie Patton & Robert Johnson. He then discovered a voice to sing with by the time he was in his 20’s and he found he was moved by something inside himself that lived inside the blues as well.

His musicologist-like passion for the nuances of the Mississippi blues  – vs. the more “restrictive” urban and modern 12 bar structure – resonates as he strives to explain the magic that he witnesses as the energy in the music connects with the energy of an audience. His delta spirit music plays out like a deep reservoir of story, history, and reverence for (and supple mastery) of an old-school style of blues. A style of blues that allows for creativity and freedom, steeped in a sound with a direct link to the African poly-rhythms that modern blues have left behind.

It was apparent from our interview that he walks his talk. We have an eclectic array of musical acts for our Friday Night Music series, but Blair Miller, in voice and ardor, is the blues. Join us as we revel in the ambiance of a concert-like venue the skill of this talented solo act commands, Friday April 15 from 6-9 pm. We think you’ll be glad you did.


Acoustic Dynamite Blows Up St. Ambrose Cellars

Acoustic Dynamite Blows Up St. Ambrose Cellars

Growing up in suburban Detroit and  influenced by the dynamic music scene of the city and the ’60s/’70s in general, Bob Downes and Jim Moore of Acoustic Dynamite, started playing in their teens and developed a playful, soulful style that embraces everything from Latin to reggae to Sinatra.  They’ve done acoustic versions of the MC5 and the Rolling Stones, mixed in with the pure Americana of Bob Dylan and Hank Williams and then mixing it up with teen angst ballads, cowboy tunes and “whatever” from the ’50s. Together, they’ve enjoyed the dozen or so tribute to Dylan shows they’ve performed as Dylan is their go-to songwriter and they’ve done as many as 25 of his songs at these tribute shows.  About a year ago they performed the entire “Blood on the Tracks” album live.

To keep the music fresh and alive, they say they often challenge themselves with new songs, with the more difficult ones being the most fun to play.  And of course, they write original songs too. When asked how their audience helps them get–and stay– in the groove, they agreed that it’s always great when people get up and dance and they’ll also often call  members of the audience up onstage to sing a few, such as the chorus in Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

Acoustic Dynamite

[Occasionally, percussionist Mike Cantrell, manager of Radiology at Munson Medical Center, joins them on stage, upping the ante on the energy of their sometimes standing-room-only audiences]

Bob, who is the former co-publisher and editor of Northern Express, considers himself more of a songwriter/singer because he loves words. Since retiring in 2013, he has written 3 books and hopes to have a novel about the Ojibwe Indians picked up by a mainstream publisher this year. As a performer he shares that there is no greater rush than nailing a song and feeling the love from the audience.

Jim on the other hand, says he enjoys making music –because  it’s a form of communication that feels natural for him as he is not a man of many words, but hand him a guitar and he can play for hours. As a musical performer,  he loves the sense that anything can happen–every audience is different– “Because music is a shared experience, when the audience joins in with the music it gets bigger in a sense.”.  He likes that they never over-rehearse a song so it is always open to be added to as they are playing, “When you play together with someone for a number of years you become very tuned in to where the other person is going with the song, so you may wind up in a different place that what you practiced anyway”.

It is this improvisational and creative freedom that makes for a show that truly echoes their band name– acoustic dynamite, ignited by a shared openness for the adventure of a performance, with the carefully cultivated craftsmanship of artists who’ve clearly honed their skills.

We’re thrilled to bring Acoustic Dynamite into our tasting room as part of our Friday Night Music Series. They’ll be here on April 8 from 6-9pm. With our cozy and intimate performance space, you’re likely in for an opportunity to sing along, or at least be up close and personal with these incredibly fun and talented musical collaborators.