Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Laughing Mirror: A Talk with Christopher Titus

With Donald Trump in office, you'd think that the comedy of Christopher Titus would practically be writing itself.

After all, Titus is the amarcho-liberal comedian who, when he wasn't plumbing his turbulent family life for jokes, made his outrage over the policies of George W. Bush a consistent rant point in shows like "Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding" and "The Fifth Annual End of the World Tour."

But "Amerigeddon," Titus' eighth comedy special, isn't about Trump, or taking jabs at right-wingers, he says. "It's about us. All of us, left and right, and how we continue to be manipulated."

For Richmond Magazine, I recently talked with Titus, the host of the popular weekly "Titus Podcast," and an entertainer who originally rose to fame as the protagonist of an angst-ridden sitcom that was a little too real for FOX.

Read "The Laughing Mirror" here.

And for more on the world of Christopher Titus, go right here.

(Photo by Kimo Easterwood)

Working For My Baby: Interview With Lenis Guess

As a writer, producer, vocalist and label owner, Lenis Guess was the architect behind some of Virginia's best soul and funk music, even if few outside the crate-digging music world (and diehard fans in Britain and Germany) know his name.

The gruff-voiced renaissance man -- who has also delved into theatre and filmmaking -- was an integral part of what is now known as "The Norfolk Sound." In the '60s and '70s, he
recorded indelible regional hits (and misses) for producer Frank Guida's local music labels, as well as his own imprints.

Check out my Coastal Virginia Magazine Q&A with this influential Virginia soul legend by clicking right here. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Completing the Picture: Live Audio Description

Virginia Voice’s new Live Audio Description service offers commentary and play-by-play action to visually challenged theatergoers, to help them better "see" plays and musicals. I recently wrote about this unique new offering for Richmond Magazine after attending a Virginia Repertory Theatre performance of "Peter Pan" where the LAD component was featured.

The special play-by-play service -- where patrons are also encouraged to feel the props, costumes and sets in a tactile tour before the show -- is being offered at one performance of each major play and musical at Virginia Rep, and other Richmond playhouses, in 2018.

To read my article on this unique descriptive service, "Completing the Picture," go right here.

And for more on Virginia Voice, a non-profit that offers reading and audio services to visually-impaired people, go here.

(Photo by the mighty Stephen Clatterbuck / Virginia Voice)

Exebelle and "After All This Time"

As you may know, I write a regular column for Virginia Living Magazine that takes a look at the music of the commonwealth, from new bands to old traditions. I've been doing it, off and on, for more than a decade and it's still the only column of its kind. (Here's a list of some of the topics I've tackled over the years). The only problem is that the Virginia Music column is not always available online -- which should compel you to actually go out and buy the handsome glossy print edition of VL.

Having said that, my April column on the Richmond band Exebelle, and their new, ambitious 2-LP set, "After All This Time," has just been posted, and I'm happy to see it out and about. I've been a big fan of this underrated and under-heard country-rock outfit since they were known as Exebelle and the Rusted Cavalcade. The new release, six years in the making, features a cascade of catchy refrains, sing-along choruses, stacked harmonies and ear-grabbing instrumental hooks.  It's the best record of 2018 you haven't heard..

Read my column on Exebelle right here.

And for more on the band and its music, go here.

Bonus: I taped an interview with Exebelle's Phil Heesen III and Kerry Hutcherson for my Richmond news-talk radio show on WRIR 97.3 FM, Open Source RVA. Listen to it right here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

My Radio Life (an update)

Hey, this is pretty cool. A radio commercial that I produced and helped to voice just copped WTJU 91.1 FM a "Best Station Promo" award from the Virginia Association of Broadcasters.

This is the third of these beautiful statues that I've helped WTJU to snag (he said humbly) over the years. Thanks to brilliant engineer Lewis Reining, and "The Mighty WTJU Art Players" -- Erin O'Hare, Colin Powell and Nick Rubin.  And, of course, WTJU station manager Nathan MooreCheck out the winning promo, entitled "Rocco," by clicking here.
I hardly ever put stuff about my radio work on this blog, so I guess this is a good time to mention Radio Wowsville, which I co-host on WTJU 91.1 FM and http://wtju.net with fellow DJ Colin Powell (pictured right). "The Wow" (as the kids call it) is heard every Sunday night at 11PM EST, and has been broadcasting new, obscure and often audacious music across the Central Virginia airwaves since the Eisenhower administration.

Listen to WTJU's live online stream right here. And to call back past WTJU shows, including the last two weeks of Radio Wowsville on Sunday nights, go right here.

That's the music side of my radio life. I also co-host a news-talk show, Open Source RVA, that airs every Friday at noon EST on WRIR 97.3 FM and http://wrir.org.


Open Source RVA covers mostly Virginia topics, with a focus on the Richmond region, and brings listeners long-form interviews with politicians, newsmakers, musicians, artists. chefs, writers and historians. On the hosting front, I'm joined by fellow journalists and writers Kate Andrews, Piet Jones, Angela Lehman, Dina Weinstein, Dale Brumfield, Bryce Maddox, Baylen Forcier, and the intrepid ladies from RVA Dirt, Melissa Vaughn and Jessee Perry. Each week on the Source, producer Krysti Albus and I (pictured) try to inject a little fun into local coverage of people and events, and we pack each episode with everything from original news coverage to stories about the arts, literature, music and theatre.

Listen to WRIR's live stream right here.  And to  hear previous Open Source RVA broadcasts and special audio features, go to the show's Soundcloud page right here.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Straight Edge on the Tube

Straight Edge music on public television. That's not something you see every day.

I recently wrote about "sXe," a new documentary by student filmmakers at Virginia Commonwealth University that takes a look at Richmond, Virginia's thriving straight edge punk scene. It gets an airing on local WCVW-TV on June 1.

Read my Richmond Magazine piece on the doc right here.

(Photo: Virginia Commonwealth University)

Bound to the Fire: Virginia's Enslaved Cooks

Kelley Fanto Deetz says she’s “restoring culinary justice” with her new book, "Bound to the Fire: How Virginia's Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine." 

“I think food is an important part of everyone’s culture, and it’s a topic that allows you to segue into talking about other issues, like race,” she says. “Everybody eats.”

The book, published by University Press of Kentucky, explores the lasting contributions of the early slave kitchens of Virginia—tracing everything from okra stew to collard greens to gumbo back to West African roots. Deetz pieces together the lives of the colony’s enslaved cooks, detailing their back-breaking labor and ingenuity, and her book includes centuries-only recipes created by slaves and passed down from generation to generation by white masters.

Some of the dishes that came out of the early slave kitchens will be familiar indeed. You probably ate them last night. My Savor Virginia Magazine interview with the Randolph College professor, and former chef, is now online. (And, yes, it does include recipes). Read the article here.

And for more on "Bound to the Fire: How Virginia's Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine, go right here.