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.

The World of Saw Black

Saw Black's warbly, idiosyncratic voice and plaintive country-rock brings to mind the best of Neil Young, and he doesn’t hide the stylistic influence. “My dad was always listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; my mom also loved Neil Young,” Black recalls. “But ‘Harvest’ was it. It was the lyrics and the sound of the acoustic [guitar] and the drums. When I heard it, I said, ‘This is what I want to do.’ ”

My feature profile of the singer-songwriter is now online at the Richmond Magazine website. The Richmond-based performer has a new album, “Water Tower,”  on the local label he co-founded, Crystal Pistol Records. Awash in rustic atmospherics and a yearning pedal steel, "Water Tower "is already garnering raves and listeners beyond Richmond, Virginia, where Black has a growing fan base.

Find out more about the World of Saw by clicking here.

And for more on his music, go here.

(Photo by the mighty Joey Wharton!).

Dangerous History at Blackbeard's Festival

"What people know about pirates is what they've seen in the movies, and that's as far from reality as you can get," says Randy Gnatowsky. "Like walking the plank. That wasn't done until the movies came out."

Gnatowsky, a retired 30-year veteran of the Hampton, Virginia Police Department, is better known under his pirate alias, "Constable Heartless." He's the captain of Blackbeard's Crew, a group of living history interpreters who partner with the City of Hampton to throw the annual Blackbeard Pirate Festival.

A two-day exploration of eyepatches, peg legs and cannon fire from tall ships,  this festival invades Hampton's downtown waterfront this weekend every June, projecting visitors back in time to the early 18th century when Virginia was awash in thieving buccaneers.

My article on Blackbeard's Crew, the Blackbeard festival, and the early days of piracy in Hampton Roads, is online at the Coastal Virginia Magazine website. You'll lose your head over it.

Sail here and steal it.    

And find out more about the festival right here.

(Photo: Hampton History Museum)

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

How to Read Nancy

In the world of Ernie Bushmiller's classic comic strip, "Nancy," it was all about the gag.

"It was whatever works," Paul Karasik says. "Maybe you look inside Nancy's brain, or Ernie's hand suddenly jams in the final panel, anything to deliver the goods. Everything was up for grabs."

Karasik and fellow illustrator/educator Mark Newgarden have written a new book, "How To Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels" (Fantagraphics), that explores the significance -- and yes, genius -- of Ernie Bushmiller's wacky and deceptively brilliant strip.

Read my Richmond Magazine interview with Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden right here. 

For more on the book, go here.

And to take a peek at the duo's epic breakdown of a single "Nancy" strip from 1959, go here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Interview with Victor Wooten

Victor Wooten is best known as the much-celebrated low end of the Grammy-winning jazz-fusion group Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. He's also an educator, an author and a solo bandleader who has been playing music professionally since he was a small boy. He's currently touring behind a new solo album, “Trypnotyx,”  another expansive genre-mixing of jazz, funk, hip-hop and experimental fusion,

Read my Richmond Magazine interview with this singular instrumentalist -- named one of the greatest bassists of all time by Rolling Stone -- by clicking here.

And for more on Victor Wooten, go here.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Fallen Angels: It's a Long Way Down

I don't normally put my "smaller" work on this blog - reviews, previews, blurbs-- but my recent piece in The Washingtonian on the legendary Washington D.C. psych band, The Fallen Angels, grew out of a longer feature that I wrote for the magazine that got cut down for space.

Attention all editors: I still have a wonderful long-form feature article here, if you want it. Contact me if there's interest.

The story of the Fallen Angels is rich with period detail, and several key members survive to tell it. Popular in Georgetown clubs in the late '60s, the group opened for  bands like the Velvet Underground and the Yardbirds, recorded at the same time and in the same studio as Hendrix, and had the misfortune of getting tied up with the Roulette record label, which was mob-owned.

The piece that ran in the Washingtonian is mostly about the band's rarer-than-rare second album, It's a Long Way Down, which was released 50 years ago.  Read the article here. 

And here's a Fallen Angels' promotional video from that album, a strange little time capsule.