Bad Ass and Blind is the name of the ninth and latest studio album from singer-songwriter and guitarist Raul Midón – an appropriate title, since the man is indeed both. Blind since infancy, Midón has been playing music since the age of four, developing into a masterful vocalist and instrumentalist with a unique style that blends elements of rock, folk, pop, soul, jazz and flamenco.
The man does a mean vocal “trumpet,” as the below video of him essaying John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” attests. In addition to pursuing his own solo career, Midón has performed and recorded with an impressive variety of musical luminaries, including Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Herbie Hancock, Jose Feliciano, and Shakira.
Bad Ass and Blind features ten eclectic and enchanting original compositions, and finishes with a goosebump-raising cover of Steve Miller’s “Fly Like An Eagle,” which he recalls purchasing at a Woolworth’s drugstore in his hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico back in 1977. “I love that song,” he says. “Doing for the album was a special thing for me, because that’s the first record I ever actually went out and bought with the money that I had in my pocket. I ‘Fly Like An Eagle’ on FM radio, and I had to have it – all that synthesizer stuff, I was way into it.”
These days, Midón is also way into craft beer, and – as with “Fly Like An Eagle” – he traces his love for full-bodied brews back to his Seventies childhood, when his father would treat him to the occasional sip of beer. “We drank Anchor Steam in my household,” he tells October. “This was way before craft beer was even a thing in America, so that’s how far back it goes with me!”
So your father wasn’t into the usual macrobrews back when you were growing up?
You know, it came from my father being from Argentina; we were just into better stuff, and beer was one of those things. So he would drink Anchor Steam, or Mexican beer like Dos Equis. Even when I was younger, I didn’t really like the Millers, the Coors, etc.
I love a little more body; I’m not really a light beer guy, at all. I can remember when I first came to the East Coast in the Eighties, everybody was like, “Ooh, yeah, Coors!” Because they couldn’t get it, so it became like this big thing! And I was like, “Are you kidding me? No thanks! I grew up with that shit – I don’t want water beer!” [Laughs]
After Anchor Steam, what was your “gateway” into craft beer?
Someone gave me a Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale one day when I was in college, and I was like, “Wow!” That kind of got me into it. But the way that I really got into beers was, in the early Nineties, I played in a classic rock band at a bar at Bayside, in Miami, and it specialized in craft beers. I got one or two free beers at this place every night, and I had a friend there who would always say, “See if they have…” He would name beers, and they would always have them. I remember him saying, “See if they have Grimbergen Tripel,” and I tried that. “See if they have the Original Pilsner,” which was the Urquell. I was trying all kinds of beers.
What kind of beers do you tend to gravitate towards these days?
I like IPAs, though it depends what it is; I love the Dogfish 60-Minute IPA. And I love Duvel, the Belgian beer, though I’m not really into fruit-flavored Belgians. But porters and stouts are my real jams; that’s what I love. I love coffee stouts! Chocolate stouts I like, too, but I think the coffee ones are my favorite.
What’s your favorite coffee stout?
Fuel Café. It’s amazing! It’s from Lake Front Brewery in Wisconsin, and I love it. And there’s another stout that I really like, though it’s not a coffee stout – it’s called Dark Truth, and it’s an Imperial Stout from Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City. I love that beer! The Dark Truth is one of those nine-percenters, so you don’t need too many of those. For me, with my tolerance level, I have two of those and that’s all I need – and I usually just drink one!
Do you drink beer before you perform?
Never. It’s definitely an “afterwards” thing, especially because I like to drink strong beers. Maybe a half a glass of wine, if it’s far back enough from when I’m playing. But generally nothing.
You currently live in Columbia, Maryland. Is it easy for you to find the beers you like there?
It is, yeah. There’s a couple of places where I can get it, and the neighborhood bar that we go to now and then has the Dogfish – that’s what I get whenever I go there. The Fuel Café is a little harder to get, but we know where to get it. I have some Fuel Café in my refrigerator right now!
Do you ever switch to lighter beer during the warmer months?
No. I’m always trying to order stouts or porters at bars during the summer, and they’re always like, “No, we don’t have that – that’s in the winter!” [Laughs] I will drink a good IPA if they don’t have a good stout or porter, though. Some people have brought over those wine-cooler type beers to my house, and I’m always like, “No, this is not for me!”
You mean Radlers?
Yeah. It’s almost like drinking soda or something! But I guess it depends on what you want out of a beer. Some people like to drink throughout the day – and if you’re going to do that, you should probably drink a light beer, you know? But for me, I want to have a beer that has some boldness to it. That’s the way I am about coffee, too; I drink espresso, and that’s it. I travel around with a little hand espresso maker, because it’s a drag when you get someplace and they don’t have espresso.
So it’s actually easier to find good beer on the road these days than it is to find espresso?
Absolutely! [Laughs] Especially if you get out in West Virginia, or something, it’s harder to find good coffee than good beer. As far as beer, almost every place has at least something interesting to try.
Are there any particularly amazing beer discoveries you’ve made while being on the road?
There have been, but I just can’t think of any right now. [Laughs] I wish I’d kept some better notes, because I’ve had a lot of beers! For me, what’s interesting is that the U.S. used to be so far behind, beer-wise; but now, everywhere you go, there’s like a local beer, and it’s like, wow!
I always ask for the local stuff when I travel – the local food, the local beer. I’m not one of those Americans who wants to find the nearest KFC whenever I travel! And almost every place does have a good local beer, you know?