Al James | A Continuous Lean.

Developed Inside the Dad Mind.

Jun 16th, 2015 | Categories: ACL Gift Guide, Al James | by Al James

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There are some things that could only be designed by a dad. They’re so practical, so goofy, so full of insane dad-logic that in the end they’re just these perfect, one-of-a-kind, problem-solving hacks. (Think of the tennis ball hanging in the garage, weird fishing rod holders in the shop and any other “customization” that can be found around a house where a dad has had too much time on his hands). Of all these great paternal ideas, however, the Pops Q Tool might be the apex of dad creativity and efficiency. It’s a barbecue multi tool with 6 different well designed grill-related features. It’s extremely durable, well-priced, and to top it off, made in America by a small family business.





Stuff That Gets Used.

Jan 5th, 2015 | Categories: Al James, Gear | by Al James

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2014 was a big one for me – bought our first house, a new baby boy arrived in August, I quit my band after a decade of touring and started a new business. With all this change I found myself doing lots of grown-up (i.e. old man) things – cleaning gutters, walking dogs, changing diapers, working long hours and a fair bit of fishing as well. As the new year begins I took stock of the items I use every single day and this is the list I came up with – no sponsors, no pretense – just the stuff that got used and gets used all the time. —Al James

Patagonia Nano-Air Jacket

Normally I would say leave well enough alone, but Yvon Chouinard and his Patagonia crew tinkered with their already awesome Nano Jacket and made it better. The Nano-Air has the same lightweight, super-warm design, but now it has a little stretch in the fabric and the texture of the material is much better – softer and lighter. It’s still water-resistant and breathable like the original Nano, but the fit and feel is far superior. This is my go-to for layering up on a steelhead trip, trail running in the elements and for walking the dog every morning and night in the Oregon rain and cold.

Bobo’s Mountain Sugar – Dark and Robust

When you marry a Mainer you have to resign yourself to the fact that there’s going to be a lot more maple syrup in your life. When our secret stash of Maine Grade D black tar syrup ran out, I started looking for another source and came upon Bobo’s Mountain Sugar. It’s a small family farm run by Tina Hartell and Skye Chalmers in Weston, Vermont and they make fantastic maple syrup. Their tagline is “A Taste of Tree” and it’s right on the money. Their grade B syrup (Dark and Robust) is smoky, earthy and flavorful – suitable for pancakes, granola bowls or (my favorite) after-dinner shots.

Tudor Heritage Black Bay

I wrote about my Tudor Heritage Ranger back in July and any doubts I may have had about owning and wearing an automatic watch have been abandoned. I love putting this watch on every day and I reference the Heritage Black Bay for this list because that would be the next watch I buy. Like everyone else I dig a Rolex Submariner, but a Tudor Heritage Black Bay with snowflake dials just says something different.





This Year in Music | Dudes With Guitars

Dec 16th, 2014 | Categories: Al James, Music | by Al James

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Last year we called it early and looked at some albums that were floating just below the mainstream. This year we’re highlighting the revival of a genre that critics keep saying has been dead for awhile. Across magazines, newspapers and blogs, writers have lamented the demise of guitar rock in all of its forms – punk, country, blues, garage, etc… They say that dudes with guitars are dead. They’ve been replaced by dudes with synthesizers, dudes with laptops, and dudes with samplers. This year, however, might be an exception. You don’t have to search too hard to discover that 2014 was actually an incredible year for straight-ahead, guitar-toting songwriters. Here are some of the best:

Sturgill Simpson
Though he worships at the altar of The Highwaymen, Sturgill is absolutely the genuine article. His Metamodern Sounds In Country Music is a classic country album filtered through a contemporary lens of drugs and existential dread. His songwriting point of view is fresh and his voice is timeless. Now if only the rest of Nashville could follow his lead.

Hiss Golden Messenger
After a series of great folk albums over the last few years, North Carolina’s M.C. Taylor dug deeper on Lateness of Dancers and struck gold. He and his band channel Dylan, The Band, The Dead and J.J. Cale like no one else has recently, keeping one foot firmly planted in swampy Southern R&B.





Parked | Foster Puts Down Roots…Sort Of.

Aug 27th, 2014 | Categories: Adventure, Al James, Americana, Oregon | by Al James

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After a few non-stop years on the road searching for clean breaks and untouched powder A Restless Transplant photographer and adventurer (and friend of ACL) Foster Huntington finally hit the brakes. The Spring of this year saw his second photo book published – Home Is Where You Park It -  and the summer brought him home to his family property in the Columbia River Gorge where he has begun constructing a life-long dream.

He and his group of friends have gathered on top of a long-dormant cinder cone in Skamania County, Washington to build a three-platformed treehouse connected by suspension bridges forty feet up in the air and a skatepark formed and poured into the top of the hillside. There’s a real community that has developed at the Cinder Cone – friends from around the country are camping for weeks, months at a time, sleeping in their trucks and in tents, pitching in to help realize Foster’s vision – an idea he’s had since he was a young boy growing up on the property. While a cynic might see a Tom Sawyer who has rallied his pals to help white wash a fence, something much bigger, much more substantial is happening.

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Final Destination | Tudor Heritage Ranger

Jul 2nd, 2014 | Categories: Al James, Watches | by Al James

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A little over a year ago I started thinking about watches. I know I wasn’t the only one. Fine timepieces were popping up all over – magazines, newspapers, blog posts and photo shoots – they were inescapable. My interest also grew because I was consciously moving away from being tied to my cell phone. I wanted to know the time, but not necessarily who was emailing, calling or texting while I was out for dinner with friends or fishing for steelhead before work. I bought an L.L. Bean Field Watch and a couple NATO straps and I was good to go. My time-keeping issue was more or less solved, but my curiosity with watches wasn’t going away.

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The ACL Fishing Report.

Jun 8th, 2014 | Categories: Al James, Fishing, Outdoors | by Al James

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The weather is warming, the bugs are hatching and it’s time to air out those clammy waders that have been in the basement. It’s fishing season and it’s time to go stand in some water and wave around a stick with a bug tied to the end of it. The start of the season is also the right time to reassess your rod and tackle, so here’s the latest.





Frances May | One Step Ahead

Apr 18th, 2014 | Categories: Al James, Portland Oregon, Retail | by Al James

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In the last two years Portland has seen an influx of established shops from around the country (Jack Spade, Steven Alan, Imogene + Willie) pop up next to some of the city’s home-grown Northwest retailers (Tanner Goods, Danner Boots, Poler, Nau, Filson). This combination of new and old, local and out-of-town, has created a mix that has finally started to give the city a bit of its own unique and diverse shopping scene. Yet even with all these new faces, one retailer continues to stand out in the crowd as a favorite – Frances May.

For the past six years, under the guidance of owner Pamela Baker-Miller and her Grandmother (and co-owner) Connie Codding, Frances May has been Portland’s most reliable shop for high quality mens offerings. Their selection is always evolving, always ahead of the curve and always classic. While they were early supporters of American labels like Gitman Vintage and Pendelton’s Portland Collection, they’ve continued to add to that base with more hand-picked clothing lines from across Europe and Canada (Common Projects, Our Legacy, Monitaly, Folk). The unifying theme being that each piece is extremely well made, wearable day in and day out and effortlessly timeless. These are the pieces that you wear for years, not just a season or a few months.

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