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Scott Canon’s Stuff I Like: Jeb Loy Nichols, camping gear, snake coals, polar explorers

Jeb Loy Nichols is a Missouri-raised performer who now cranks out his country funk from Great Britain.
Jeb Loy Nichols is a Missouri-raised performer who now cranks out his country funk from Great Britain.

Here’s what news reporter Scott Canon is into right now:

“Countrymusicdisco45”

My musical taste skips from George Clinton to Jimmy Cliff to Jason Isbell. My obsession of late is the Missouri-bred and U.K.-dwelling Jeb Loy Nichols. Nichols’ nasal voice weaves into arrangements of country funk that often land where sorrow and bliss converge. Try his “Countrymusicdisco45” and “Heaven Right Here” tracks from past releases as entry drugs to his just-released album, “Country Hustle.”

When I want something that straddles jazz and pop, I’ll skip ahead in my playlist to Lake Street Dive. Download the title track to their latest album and just try not to sing along with “Side Pony.”

Setting up camp

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I get turned on to new music primarily by listening to 90.9 The Bridge and camping with an assortment of hippies and rednecks at jam band festivals. To camp, yes, you need beer. But gear matters, too.

Start with the right tent. Because tent makers fudge in their specs, and I’m larger than most humans, I went for Sierra Trading Post’s Marmot Ajax 3 three-person model for me and my spouse. The huge rain fly has kept me dry through heavy downpours. It sports two doors and a pair of vestibules for muddy boots. Take the fly off on hot nights, and you’re snoozing under a breezy bug screen.

For victuals, you need a stove. Go small and simple. When they stopped making fuel canisters for my old backpacking stove, I stumbled across a cheap, reliable wonder. There are lots of versions of single-burner stoves that go for $20 to $35. Snap in a can of butane — barely $2 apiece, enough to cover a three-day camping trip — and turn the nob to start. They’re popular for home cooking in developing countries, and you can buy fuel canisters at most Asian groceries. It’ll boil water about as quick as your home stove. Unlike most camp stoves, it can also run nice and low to simmer what you need.

Snake coals

If you’re cooking at home and you’re from Kansas City, you must barbecue. I’ve got two words for you: indirect heat. Put the meat right over the coals, you get a charred mess. You can put the coals on one side and the meat on the other, but it’s hard to get a low-and-slow cook that makes that animal flesh tender and smoky.

Try this: Line your briquets in a C-shape around the bottom of your grill. About three deep. Start them at one end so they burn like a slow fuse. Put a foil pan in the middle and fill it with hot water to keep your meat moist. Put the grill over that and place your ribs, chicken or whatever above the water pan.

Now walk away. Don’t lift the lid for three hours. By then, much of your coil will have turned to ash and your meat will be done, or nearly so.

If you want a crispy edge, move your coals directly under the meat for a few minutes. Then pull out your digital meat thermometer. If you don’t have one, buy it now for $10 to $20. It’ll tell you that your meat’s cooked to a safe 160 degrees, and you won’t have to burn dinner.

Cool off

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I’m not one to read much history. But I’m a sucker for stories of polar exploration. The classic is “Endurance,” written by ship’s captain Frank Worsley about the Ernest Shackleton-led expedition that was both a total failure and a triumph of survival in Antarctica a century ago. This year, author David Welky gave us “A Wretched and Precarious Situation,” about early 20th century attempts at exploring the Arctic. It’s got madness, murder and myth pulled from diaries and other historical documents left by those who suffered through blizzards and blindness. Give it a read.

Scott Canon: 816-234-4754, @ScottCanon

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