Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Coastal Virginia Magazine: Chasing Air

Settle down around the campfire, kids, and let me tell you all about a macabre little tale I like to call "Chasing Air."

The special October investigative piece for Coastal Virginia Magazine charts the rise in ghost hunters (or paranormal investigators) around the region, and nationwide. These groups, inspired by popular television shows like "Ghost Adventures" and "Ghost Hunters," are busy listening for EVPs and testing for EMF fields at a haunted location near you. And not just at Halloween. 

For the piece, photographer David Uhrin and I went on a paranormal "lockdown" with a TV-perfect team from Virginia Beach, Paranormal Science and Investigations (PSI). What we found may shock you. 

A spooky excerpt:
Uhrin has been snapping photos alone in the upstairs bedroom. Suddenly, we hear a blast of white noise.       
“Is the radio supposed to come on by itself?” Uhrin yells. “The radio just came on.”       
Everyone freezes. “That’s one of the claims.” Roddy says.     
After checking out the upstairs room, and asking the photographer to reenact his movements, they review the video feed to see if he touched the radio. He didn’t. “But he sure jumped when it came on,” Chacon says.     
I ask about the alarm function. It was turned off, I’m told. “It should be relatively easy to check this out, find out the model and the manufacturer,” Roddy says of the incident. “See if there could be a surge or something else ... ”      
The noisy static blares through the small house, and the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up. We just had a ghost show moment. 

Read the rest of "Chasing Air" by clicking right here:

(Photo by the mighty, and mighty courageous, David Uhrin)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Virginia Living: A Road to Grow On

My October music column for Virginia Living Magazine has been posted online. "A Road to Grow On" is all about the success of the Crooked Road music heritage trail in Southwest Virginia, and how that region is using the area's music and indigenous culture for economic development.

To read "A Road to Grow On," click this here spot.

And to find out more about the Crooked Road music heritage trail, go right here

This, sadly, is my final installment of the Virginia Music column, which I originally started at VL in 2003 (there were a few years that I didn't write it because of other job requirements, but I resumed it in 2012). The decision to stop writing it was based on many factors, including timeliness (my deadlines are often months in advance - hard to organize this gig with that kind of lead time). Also, to do the job well, the columnist has to listen to a lot of music - which is time I don't always have these days. So while I'll continue to write for Virginia Living, I just won't be doing the column anymore. 

I will cry about it, though. Boo-hoo.

And I hope that the magazine continues on with a fresh new set of ears on the beat. This was the first (and still the only) regular music column with a Virginia-wide scope, and I'm proud of the diverse array of subjects I was able to explore (see below). In addition to the main topics, I also got the chance to review a host of noteworthy music releases -- in genres ranging from punk to funk to hip-hop and bluegrass -- and perhaps expose some Virginia Living readers to great contemporary music from the Commonwealth they would otherwise have been unaware of.

Among others, the Virginia Music column covered the following topics:

The early music of Jamestown
The Blue Ridge Institute and Museum at Ferrum College
John Cephas, Piedmont blues master from Bowling Green
WGH in Norfolk and the legacy of top-40 radio
Swamp Dogg, R&B/soul legend 
The Rah-Bras, Richmond punk-pop trio 
Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse
Robbin Thompson, singer-songwriter
The Ferguson Center for the Arts in Newport News
Archivist/engineer Chris King and the People Take Warning box set
The legacy of Portsmouth's Ruth Brown
The Lonesome Pine label and the Music of Coal box set
The James River Blues Society
The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities' "Crooked Road" CD series 
Hobart Smith, banjo master
Invisible Hand, Charlottesville alt-rockers
Music producer Steve Buckingham
Barky's Spirituals record shop in Richmond
The Mockers, Hampton Roads power popsters
Maura Davis and Ambulette, Richmond alt-rockers
The Patsy Cline museum in Winchester
The Richmond Folk Festival
Special Ed and the Shortbus (now called the Hotseats)
Anousheh Khalili, singer-songwriter
Aside Oceans, Blacksburg hard-rockers.
Paul Shagrue, DJ and host of Norfolk's "Out of the Box"
The emergence of WRIR 97.3 FM in Richmond
Margot McDonald, NoVa singer-songwriter
Billy Ray Hatley, roots rock singer
The William & Mary Hip Hop Archive 
The Last Bison, Chesapeake folk-pop ensemble
The Trash Company, one-man Richmond funk pioneer 

(Photo by the mighty Jonathan Romeo and courtesy of the Crooked Road)