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 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

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.

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)