Tuesday, May 16, 2017

BEHIND BEST OF THE YEAR PRAISE, JAKE LA BOTZ’S NEW ALBUM ‘SUNNYSIDE’ SAW BOOST FROM PRODUCER JIMMY SUTTON (JD MCPHERSON, POKEY LAFARAGE)

 
MERCURY LOUNGE, KUNG FU NECKTIE, HIDEOUT CONFIRMED AS PART OF ALBUM RELEASE TOUR
 
SESSION CONFIRMED WITH NPR’S WORLD CAFE
 
“One of the year’s best Americana albums.”
– Sarah Zupko, Pop Matters, May 4, 2017
 
“One of our favorite albums of the year.”
– Robert McCormick, Inked Magazine, May 9, 2017
 
NPR asked JD McPherson about the making of his album ‘Signs & Signifiers’ and JD told them, “When we were making this record, Jimmy, the producer, he walked around with a metronome and he'd mess with the metronome and dance around until he found the most danceable beats per minute and that's what we record at.” He’s applied similar magic behind the dials at his own Hi-Style Studio in Chicago to Jake La Botz’s ‘Sunnyside,’ out last week on Hi-Style Records and the result earning raves as a potential best album of 2017.
 
“How I Wish She Was Mine” embeddable single
 
Jimmy, who also co-produced Pokey LaFarge’s breakthrough ‘Something In The Water,’ confesses that scaling up to those golden early rock & roll grooves on ‘Sunnyside’ took some work, "The biggest challenge for me was figuring how to translate Jake: I always knew him as a stripped down solo act. Discovering how to capture the solitude and emotional depth of Jake's solo artist sound while enriching it with musical accompaniment was a challenge."
 
Jake recalls, "I learned a lot about developing my songs by working with Jimmy. I've always been a kind of loner type – in everything, not just creating – but giving over to collaboration with the arrangements I found a lot of discoveries happening for me. I began to really appreciate Jimmy's sensibilities and looked forward to his input. I even started to write songs with his arrangements in mind as well as the sound of the Hi-Style studio."
 
Sutton, along with Alex Hall, had built the Hi-Style Studio to capture sound with all ribbon, tube, and dynamic microphones passed through tube mixers and preamps onto ¼-inch tape.
 
Demoed years, earlier, the title track’s demo formed the basis of the vulnerability on its final rendition. Jimmy reveals, “I wasn't crazy about the guitar sound. But we added some piano and listened to it and I started to love it. When we came back to the demo a couple of years later we realized we had something great to build around. We added drums, bass, backing vocals and it became, what I think, is one of the best songs on the album."
 
NPR World Café has confirmed a performance/chat.
 
Jake La Botz Tour Dates:
 
May 31 – Music City Roots - Franklin, TN                       
June 3 - Kiki's House of Righteous Music - Madison, WI                          
June 4 - Record Release Show at The Hideout - Chicago, IL                       
June 5 - Raccoon Motel - Davenport, IA                             
June 6 - The Southgate House Revival-The Lounge - Newport, KY           
June 8 - Record Archive - Rochester, NY                            
June 10 - Atwood's Tavern - Cambridge, MA                                 
June 14 - Kung Fu Necktie - Philadelphia, PA                     
June 19 - Mercury Lounge - New York, NY

Monday, May 15, 2017

Tim Duffy bio

Tim Duffy’s career has been driven by the musical traditions of the American South. His championing of these traditions starts with the people who make the music. For decades now, he has provided for musicians’ basic needs, guided their careers, and documented their lives in stunning photographs.
            After living for a time in the Old Town section of Mombasa, Kenya, Tim returned to the States and completed an M.A. in Folklore at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He formed relationships with several traditional musicians and began searching for a legendary bluesman they told him about named Guitar Gabriel. In Winston-Salem, North Carolina Tim not only found Gabe, but also a community of impoverished musicians who, despite their material lack, were rich in the traditions of the African American South. Tim set about doing what he could to, first, take care of their basic needs and, then, to get them gigs and document their music. The Music Maker Relief Foundation was born. In the 22 years since its founding, Tim—along with his wife and Managing Director, Denise, and their dedicated team—have assisted and partnered with over 300 artists, issued over 150 CDs, and reached over a million people with live performance in over 40 states and 17 countries around the globe. Tim has been recognized by the ABC Evening News as “Person of the Week,” and has been featured in stories by Time, NPR, CBS, PBS and several local media outlets.
            Given the nature of Music Maker’s mission, Tim gained in-depth experience with booking, promotion, artist development, and other managerial aspects of the music industry. Drawing on this expertise, he established Music Maker’s Next Generation program, and brought the Carolina Chocolate Drops to the public’s attention. These young African American musicians reinvigorated a range of traditional music styles, wowed audiences in the States and abroad, and won a Grammy in 2011. Members of the group remain close Music Maker associates. Tim continues his management work with Next Generation artists like Lakota John and Spencer Branch.
            Photography has been at the heart of Tim Duffy’s Music Maker journey. Tim took pictures initially for documentary purposes, but soon realized that some of these images told rich, visually and emotionally intricate stories. The great depth of Tim’s photographic vision became clear when he turned to the photographic methods of the 19th century, including the platinum palladium process dating back to the 1870s. His wet plate portraits transport viewers into the space of the living past that he has worked so hard to preserve. These images have been on display at the Atrium Gallery of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, the Morris Museum in Augusta, GA, and several galleries in North Carolina, New York, and Kentucky. Some of his plates have become part of the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Museum of African American Culture and the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

13TH PONDEROSA STOMP FESTIVAL SET FOR OCTOBER 6-7, 2017 AT NEW ORLEANS ORPHEUM FEATURING THE MUMMIES, GARY US BONDS, DOUG KERSHAW, THE GORIES, BARBARA LYNN, ARCHIE BELL, EVIE SANDS, TEXAS HONKY TONK REVUE AND MORE

ROKY ERICKSON TO PERFORM 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS REPERTOIRE
PONDEROSA STOMP CONFERENCE FEATURES PERFORMER INTERVIEWS, PANELS, FILMS, RECORD SHOW
OCT 5-6 AT ACE HOTEL NEW ORLEANS
“A party on its way to becoming an institution.”
— Jon Pareles, New York Times
[The Ponderosa Stomp] is this incredible multi-day event of the less familiar names from music history. It’s a labor of love. For the last 15 years, we have not missed one. ... The number of artists that you never thought you’d get to see, and then the people you hadn’t even heard about — it really is revelatory every time.”
— Ira Kaplan, Yo La Tengo
The thirteenth Ponderosa Stomp Concert will bring the forgotten heroes and heroines of rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm & blues, blues, garage rock, soul, and rockabilly to New Orleans for a two-night concert October 6-7 at New Orleans’ Orpheum (129 Roosevelt Way).
Here’s a Spotify playlist of artists performing at the 2017 Ponderosa Stomp: https://play.spotify.com/user/ponderosastomp/playlist/2ptcXdd2KlAA3ZVaxA9IU4
It will feature many performers who rarely grace the stage:
+ Roky Erickson performing the music of his legendary psychedelic ‘60s band the 13th Floor Elevators
+ late ‘80s/early ‘90s garage rockers The Mummies
+ “Quarter To Three” hitmaker Gary U.S. Bonds
+ “Louisiana Man” artist and Johnny Cash Show guest Doug Kershaw
+ Detroit White Stripes antecedents The Gories
+ rhythm and blues great Barbara Lynn, who was covered by the Rolling Stones
+ Archie Bell of “Tighten Up” fame
+ father of “The Voice” Winner, Sundance Head, and “Treat Her Right” singer Roy Head
+ masked Japanese garage band, The Stompin’ Riffraffs
+ piano pounder Linda Gail Lewis
+ Little Richard, Otis Redding, Ike & Tina Turner sideman turned R&B Soul Singer Winfield Parker
+ a Texas Honky Tonk Revue Featuring Frankie Miller, Darrell McCall, and James Hand
+ the “husky, soulful voice” (All Music Guide) of Evie Sands
+ Chicago blues harmonica great Billy Boy Arnold, who was recently covered by JD McPherson
+ first generation rockabilly artist Johnny Knight
+ a Swamp Pop Revue Featuring GG Shinn, Warren Storm, and TK Hulin
+ Louisiana’s Lil Buck Sinegal and the Top Cats
+ T-Bone Walker acolyte and accompanist, Chuck Willis creative collaborator, and Ray + Charles sideman Roy Gaines
+ New Orleans rhythm and blues man Willie West
+ GRAMMY-nominated Yep Roc band Los Straitjackets
+ LA’s rockabilly masters Deke Dickerson and the Eccofonics
+ and Austinites Eve and the Exiles.
More acts will be announced soon as well!
The two-night must-see concert spotlights live performances by hall-of-fame-level artists who — though they never became household names themselves — influenced contemporaries like Elvis and the Rolling Stones and made hits that inspired musical giants from Prince to David Bowie to pick up instruments. They shaped the course of popular music, but haven’t had the exposure they deserve.
The Ponderosa Stomp Festival has often represented the first chance to see these types of artists do their classic repertoire in decades, as was the case when Howard Tate’s set lead to a late-career record deal and new touring. In other cases, it has represented the last chance to see an important act, as P.F. Sloan passed away some six weeks after his Ponderosa Stomp set led to a massive ovation. The stories behind the music are documented in a two-day conference October 5 and 6 at the Ace Hotel New Orleans.
Tickets are on sale today:
Travel packages are also available:
The biennial Festival is the signature program of the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation, a New Orleans-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to celebrating the legacy, revitalizing the careers, and preserving the history of American music and musicians.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Ponderosa Stomp artwork


Above: Barbara Lynn, Roy Head, Lil' Buck Sinegal, credit: Kerri Mahoney Design

Above: Barbara Lynn, Roy Head, Lil' Buck Sinegal, credit: Kerri Mahoney Design


 Above: Gary "US" Bonds
Above: Frankie Miller

Above: Barbara Lynn by Joseph Rosen

Monday, May 1, 2017

“IMPRESSIVE” (PASTE) BETH BOMBARA JOINS GREEN ROOM MUSIC SOURCE, RELEASES NEW VIDEO, HITS AMA TOP 40 RADIO

Beth Bombara – the St. Louis-based Americana/indie rock artist whose album ‘Map & No Direction’ came out last month to raves, has been busy this month, too.

+ ‘Map & No Direction’ has skyrocketed to #29 on the Americana Music Association radio chart.

+ Beth has signed with Green Room Music Source for booking. Green Room also reps Gaelynn Lea, Lucy Wainwright Roche, and Sarah Potenza.

+ USA Today picked up on ‘Map & No Direction,’ praising her “fine hooks and melodies” in an online review.

+ No Depression premiered her latest music video with a full Q&A. Here’s the new video for the hook-filled “I Tried,” shot in St. Louis in the snow.

+ Paste Magazine caught a set of hers, calling her “impressive."

+ She taped syndicated radio show Music City Roots in Nashville.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

“DIRTY, RAW” (PURE VOLUME) THE SUITCASE JUNKET EXTENDS TOUR, EARNS PRAISE, AS ‘PILE DRIVER’ OUT NEXT WEEK ON SIGNATURE SOUNDS

ADDS CLEARWATER, FLOYD, RED WING FESTS AS WELL AS NYC MERCURY LOUNGE AND BOSTON SINCLAIR HEADLINING PLAYS

With his full-length label debut ‘Pile Driver’ (Signature Sounds) out this week, The Suitcase Junket is extending his tour to include tastemaker venues like NYC’s Mercury Lounge and Cambridge, MA’s Sinclair as well as several festivals. He has taped a session for Relix, displaying the homemade pieces of his band, including a baby shoe hitting a gas can and a box of silverware and bones.

Here’s the early word on ‘Pile Driver’ from press and other artists alike:

"Honest, original, and energetic in its blending of garage rock and Americana... The atmosphere of this album maintains a thread of focus, but delivers twelve tracks that each demonstrate his unique capacity to mix a sense of a folk foundation with lo-fi guitar sounds and a found-object feel."
- Magdalene Taylor, Brooklyn Vegan, April 20, 2017

"I peg him as a weird hybrid of Mississippi-born one-man band Doctor Ross and Americana rocker Langhorne Slim. The Suitcase Junket’s 2017 track 'Evangeline' also sounds a bit like something from Tom Waits’ workbook, which isn’t a bad thing. His forthcoming album, Pile Driver, promises to go places even Doctor Ross couldn’t navigate." – Edd Hurt, Nashville Scene, March 30, 2017

"Lorenz's songs are carefully constructed pieces of rock and American... The found percussion increases Lorenz’s idiosyncracy, and enhances that atmosphere... Lorenz’s songs carry themselves, aside from backstory or unique sounds, relying on his storytelling and melodies. The fact that he’s sonically inventive is just a bonus."
- Justin Cober-Lake, Dusted Magazine, April 28, 2017

"Completely original show, songs from the heart, melodies you'll sing for days. Definitely go check out a show." – Chris Vos, The Record Company

"a thoroughly entertaining record... The Suitcase Junket is well worth listening to... This junkyard set up would be the most interesting thing about Lorenz if he didn’t have songwriting chops. Fortunately, Lorenz’s skills are considerable and the list of weird equipment operates mostly as an effective hook to bring in the curious."
-Chris Conaton, Pop Matters, April 27, 2017

"The Suitcase Junket crafts beautiful music out of items found in
trash." Jim Farber, Real Clear Life, May 9, 2017

"Vast talents... dirty, raw." - Pure Volume, March 6, 2017
"Lorenz isn’t your traditional Americana musician, not by a long shot... Would fit in nicely on a playlist alongside artists such as Shovels & Rope and the Drive-By Truckers." - Amy McCarthy, The Boot, March 16, 2017

"This guy's a maniac -- a one-man band, dumpster-guitar-playing maniac. Strumming a salvaged guitar, banging on a box of cutlery, and releasing a dynamite voice, The Suitcase Junket is the real deal -- and one of the most electric souls we've ever seen on stage. 'Sounds like Jack White,' you're thinking. You ain't wrong."
- Fresh Grass Festival (Sept 16-17)

“Matt Lorenz is, as Suitcase Junket, one of the most startlingly original and inventive solo artists I've ever heard.” – Chris Smither

"I couldn't tell you exactly why I find The [Suitcase] Junket so intriguing but I do. Creativity...Musicianship, for sure. Songwriting. Every time I sit through Pile Driver I wonder. Every time, though, I move." 
- Frank Gutch, Jr., No Depression, May 14, 2017

“The Suitcase Junket is one of the natural wonders of the world. Incandescent creativity, in every direction. I have never seen anything like him before, and I expect I never will again. Sui generis. Holy good goddamn, people.” – Peter Mulvey

"Pursuing your musical career as a one-man band takes a high level of charisma and stamina if you want to keep your audience entertained. Luckily, Matt Lorenz possesses both of those things and he puts them to use as the Suitcase Junket. The New England musician is also talented as a craftsman and as a lyricist... Using his makeshift instruments, Lorenz creates electric music that walks the line between rock and roll and Americana." - Glide Mag, February 13, 2017

"Now this is the shit I'm talking about, Jack. The Suitcase Junket is a lo-fi, low-tuned, low-down blast of end-times folk blues. It's crude; it's magnificent. With a stage set-up that resembles a junkyard foley stage or Fred Sanford's living room, The Suitcase Junket — one man band leader Matt Lorenz — incants and intones like a cross between Hound Dog Taylor and a Tuvan throat singer who has swallowed a bird. Take the singer-songwriter idiom, give it a low grade fever and a guitar and this is what you get. Captivating, mesmerizing, and gone ... real gone." – Frank De Blase, Rochester (NY) City Newspaper, January 13, 2016

"Amazing, unique."
- Rege Behe, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, January 11, 2017

“Jaw-dropping... He does it all so well. It’s the biggest sound i’ve ever heard come from a solo performer. Matt is definitely his own thing and it is something. The live experience is pretty, darn unforgettable.”
- Kevin Cubbins, Beale Street Caravan, May 10, 2017

The Suitcase Junket Tour Dates

April 18 – Avalon Theater – Easton, MD
April 19 – Gypsy Sally’s – Washington, D.C.
April 20 – Basin & Main – Honesdale, MD
April 21 – The Shea Theater – Turner Falls, MA
April 27 – Abilene – Rochester, NY
April 28 – The Linda – Albany, NY
April 29 – The Narrows – Fall River, MA
May 3 – Shitty Barn – Spring Green, WI
May 5 – Hi-Fi – Indianapolis, IN
May 8 - The Musical Instrument Museum - Phoenix, AZ (w/ Tift Merritt)
May 10 - Bootleg Front Room - Los Angeles, CA (w/ Tift Merritt)
May 11 - Swedish American Hall - San Francisco, CA (w/ Tift Merritt)
May 12 – Vintage Wine Bar – Redding, CA
May 13 - Mississippi Studios - Portland, OR (w/ Tift Merritt)
May 14 - The Triple Door - Seattle, WA (w/ Tift Merritt)
May 16 - The Soiled Dove - Denver, CO (w/ Tift Merritt)
May 18 – The Turf Club – St. Paul, MN
May 19 – House Concert – Des Moines, IA
May 21 – Elk Creek – Milheim, PA
May 24 – The Purple Fiddle – Thomas, WV
May 25 – The McNemar House – Buckhannon, WV
May 26 - Jewel City Jamboree - Huntington, WV
May 28 – Virginia Arts Festival FRINGE – Norfolk, VA
May 31 – The Sinclair – Cambridge, MA
June 1 – Mercury Lounge – New York, NY
June 3 – Club Helsinki – Hudson, NY
June 10 – Roots on the River – Bellows Falls, VT
June 14 – Café Nine – New Haven, CT
June 16 - Stone Mountain Arts Center - Brownfield, ME               
June 17 - Clearwater Festival  - Croton-On-Hudson, NY
July 2 - Great Blue Heron Music Festival - Sherman, NY  
July 7-9 - Winnipeg Folk Festival – Winnipeg, Canada
July 14 - Red Wing Roots Music Festival  - Mount Solon, VA
July 27-28 – FloydFest – Floyd, VA
September 16-17 – FreshGrass Festival – North Adams, MA

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Grace of Jake trailer

FIRST BOOK ON HISTORY OF NEWPORT FOLK FEST ‘I GOT A SONG’ (JUNE 6 / WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY PRESS) MADE POSSIBLE BY NEW INTERVIEWS WITH ORGANIZERS, ARTISTS FROM PETE SEEGER TO JIM JAMES

PASTE PREVIEWS BOOK WITH FEATURE: http://bit.ly/2ojHiYf

READINGS PLANNED FOR RI, NYC

The first full-length book covering the full story of the Newport Folk Festival – I Got A Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival, by Rick Massimo, is enriched with numerous new interviews. Massimo spoke with organizers, musicians, behind-the-scenes figures from every era, encountering some fascinating tales.

For example, Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show learned to play the guitar from listening to recordings from Newport Folk Festival growing up so it was a special moment for him with OCMS got to step on stage. “He was very conscious of all the traditional musicians who came up from the south, who different it must’ve felt for them to be playing at Newport for then-college kids. He feels a huge affinity for the people who came before him.”

Much of the theme of the book focuses on the changing views of folk music and how they reflected on each era of the festival. Massimo says, “Pete Seeger was in favor of mixing up genres. He donated his fee from the second festival to bring Canadian fiddler Jean Carignan, which was a precursor to the non-profit model. His vision lives on in the For Pete’s Sake stage.” He spent a day with George Wein and hours on the phone with Jay Sweet following the threads as well from the early years of trad music through to songwriters and now to an expansive interpretation of folk.

Joe Boyd, who was doing sound when Bob Dylan went electric, provided insight into that moment. “He had a lot to say about the progress of the ‘60s festival and what happened after Bob Dylan went electric and the folk boom faded. The effect of folk music morphed rock & roll so that you had lyrics with meaning,” says Massimo.

Pete Yarrow was the hardest interview but he finally did come through enthusiastically. John McCauley spoke about reviving the idea of the after party with concerts in town after the festival ends for the night.

Paste ran a feature on February 22 to preview the arrival of the book: https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/02/first-ever-book-on-newport-folk-festival-history.html

Rick Massimo appearances:

April 29 – Brooklyn Folk Festival – Brooklyn, NY
July 27 – Books On The Square – Providence, RI

$24.95 Paperback, 978-0-8195-7703-0

Thursday, April 6, 2017

DEAR AMERICA SPECIAL EVENT APRIL 13 FEATURES PERFORMANCES FROM MUSICIANS REGINA SPEKTOR, AMANDA PALMER, ELVIS PERKINS, JOHN FORTE

WRITERS SUSAN MINOT, A.M. HOLES, ANAND GIRIDHARADAS, MARIA POPOVA, MATTHIEU AIKINS TO SPEAK & READ

SPECIAL EVENT BENEFITS PLANNED PARENTHOOD, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER, THE TREVOR PROJECT, AND NRDC

Special event Dear America will be held on April 13 with musical performances from GRAMMY-nominee Regina Spektor; musician, author, and performance artist Amanda Palmer; and “dark, delicate” (NY Time) music of Elvis Perkins; and John Forte of the Fugees, and noted soprano Julia Bullock. Also speaking and reading is an array of writers, including poet, short-story writer, novelist and screenwriter and incarceration activist Susan Minot; A.M. Homes; author of The True America: Murder and Mercy in Texas Anand Giridharadas; Brain Pickings podcast mastermind and published writer Maria Popova; and noted war correspondant Matthieu Aikins. The special event benefits Planned Parenthood, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Trevor Project, and the National Resources Defense Council. Tickets are on sale now: http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=7318495

Performer bios:

Regina Spector is Russian-born, American musician Regina Spektor is an internationally known, Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter.

Amanda Palmer is a performer, songwriter, and New York Times best selling author. She first came to prominence as the piano-playing songwriting half of the internationally acclaimed punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls.

Elvis Perkins has released three full-length collections of songs, two under his own name ( 'Ash Wednesday' ’07 XL Recordings & 'I Aubade', ’15 MIR) and one under the band name Elvis Perkins in Dearland (’09 XL Recordings). The band with whom he has toured extensively also released the 6 track 'Doomsday EP' in 2009 (XL). In the past two years he has made two film scores:“I am the Pretty Thing the Lives in the House” (Netflix Original, October ’16) and “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” (A24 ’17). A soundtrack album for the latter will be released in 2017. Elvis is currently collaborating with theatre performer/creator Geoff Sobelle (Object Lesson) on his new piece HOME, set to premiere at BAM's Next Wave Festival in December.

Susan Minot is the author of Monkeys, Lust & Other Stories, Folly, Evening, Rapture, a poetry collection Poems 4 A.M. and, most recently, Thirty Girls about children abducted by the LRA in Uganda and how women struggle to cope with trauma. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, O Henry Prize Stories, Granta. New York Times, McSweeney's and Vogue. She wrote the screenplay for Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Stealing Beauty” and the film "Evening" was adapted from her novel.

John Forte is a Grammy-nominated recording artist, filmmaker and activist. First recognized for his work with multi-platinum hip hop group The Fugees, Forté's felony conviction and eventual Presidential commutation cemented Forté's commitment to reforming America's broken criminal justice system.” Forté has released several solo and collaborative projects to-date including, Music Supervisor Brooklyn D.A. (CBS/television), Created inaugural anthem for the Brooklyn Nets (NBA), The Russian Winter (feature film/documentary), Schools Not Prisons Tour.

A.M. Homes is the author of numerous books including, May We Be Forgiven, and The Mistress’s Daughter and teaches at Princeton University.

Anand Giridharadas is a former columnist and correspondent for The New York Times. Most recently, he is the author of The True America: Murder and Mercy in Texas, about a Muslim immigrant’s campaign to spare the life of the Death Row sentenced white supremacist who tried to kill him. The book has been optioned to be directed Kathryn Bigelow. In 2011, he published India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking, about returning to the India his parents left.

Maria Popova is a reader and a writer, and writes about what she reads on Brain Pickings (brainpickings.org), which is included in the Library of Congress archive of culturally valuable materials. She has also written for The New York Times, Wired UK, and The Atlantic, among others, and is an MIT Fellow.

Julia Bullock is a versatile soprano. This season, she debuts with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Baltimore Symphony. She also appears as Anne Trulove in The Rake's Progress at The Festival International in Aix-en-Provence and Kitty Oppenheimer in the BBC Symphony’s production and recording of Dr. Atomic, conducted by John Adams. She has appeared as a soloist with orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, New World Symphony, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and San Francisco Symphony.

Ekow Yankah is a law professor whose work focuses on questions of criminal and political theory and punishment. He has written for publications spanning The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Huffington Post, among others and has been a regular commentator on criminal law issues on television and radio including MSNBC, BBC International.

Mark Warren was raised and educated in southeast Texas, where he worked in Democratic politics, until he realized how that whole situation was playing out and relocated to New York City, where he worked in magazines - first Harper's, then Esquire, where he would stay for 28 years, 19 of them as executive editor. In that time, he had the privilege to work with some of the greatest writers ever. And he wrote a little, too.

Matthieu Aikins is the Schell Fellow at the Nation Institute. He has been reporting from South Asia and the Middle East since 2008. His writing has appeared in US, Canadian, British, and French publications such as Harper's Magazine, Rolling Stone, the New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, and The Atlantic among others.

Dear America artwork

 Amanda Palmer by Kambriel
 Elvis Perkins by Huger Foote
Regina Spektor by Shervin Lainez

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Dear American performer bios



Regina Spector is Russian-born, American musician Regina Spektor is an internationally known, Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter. 


Susan Minot is the author of Monkeys, Lust & Other Stories, Folly, Evening, Rapture, a poetry collection Poems 4 A.M. and, most recently, Thirty Girls about children abducted by the LRA in Uganda and how women struggle to cope with trauma. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, O Henry Prize Stories, Granta. New York Times, McSweeney's and Vogue.  She wrote the screenplay for Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Stealing Beauty” and the film "Evening" was adapted from her novel.

Amanda Palmer is a performer, songwriter, and New York Times best selling author. She first came to prominence as the piano-playing songwriting half of the internationally acclaimed punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls.

John Forte is a Grammy-nominated recording artist, filmmaker and activist. First recognized for his work with multi-platinum hip hop group The Fugees, Forté's felony conviction and eventual Presidential commutation cemented Forté's commitment to reforming America's broken criminal justice system.” Forté has released several solo and collaborative projects to-date including, Music Supervisor Brooklyn D.A. (CBS/television), Created inaugural anthem for the Brooklyn Nets (NBA), The Russian Winter (feature film/documentary), Schools Not Prisons Tour.

A.M. Homes is the author of numerous books including, May We Be Forgiven, and The Mistress’s Daughter and teaches at Princeton University.

Anand Giridharadas is a former columnist and correspondent for The New York Times. Most recently, he is the author of The True America: Murder and Mercy in Texas, about a Muslim immigrant’s campaign to spare the life of the Death Row sentenced white supremacist who tried to kill him.  The book has been optioned to be directed Kathryn Bigelow.  In 2011, he published India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking, about returning to the India his parents left.
 
Maria Popova is a reader and a writer, and writes about what she reads on Brain Pickings (brainpickings.org), which is included in the Library of Congress archive of culturally valuable materials. She has also written for The New York Times, Wired UK, and The Atlantic, among others, and is an MIT Fellow. 
 
Julia Bullock is a versatile soprano. This season, she debuts with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Baltimore Symphony. She also appears as Anne Trulove in The Rake's Progress at The Festival International in Aix-en-Provence and Kitty Oppenheimer in the BBC Symphony’s production and recording of Dr. Atomic, conducted by John Adams.  She has appeared​ as a soloist with orchestras including the London Symphony OrchestraNew York Philharmonic,​ New World SymphonyOrchestra of St. Luke’s, and San Francisco Symphony

Ekow Yankah is a law professor whose work focuses on questions of criminal and political theory and punishment.  He has written for publications spanning The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Huffington Post, among others and has been a regular commentator on criminal law issues on television and radio including MSNBC, BBC International.

Mark Warren was raised and educated in southeast Texas, where he worked in Democratic politics, until he realized how that whole situation was playing out and relocated to New York City, where he worked in magazines - first Harper's, then Esquire, where he would stay for 28 years, 19 of them as executive editor. In that time, he had the privilege to work with some of the greatest writers ever. And he wrote a little, too.

Matthieu Aikins is the Schell Fellow at the Nation Institute. He has been reporting from South Asia and the Middle East since 2008. His writing has appeared in US, Canadian, British, and French publications such as Harper's Magazine, Rolling Stone, the New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, and The Atlantic among others.

Jake La Botz "How I Wish She Was Mine" single

Jake La Botz Melds a Colorful Lifetime Into Gritty, Grooving Early Rock 'n Roll Gold on New Album "Sunnyside"

DRIFTER, ACTOR, BUSKER, FORMER PUNK, DEEP WELLED AMERICANA ARTIST JAKE LA BOTZ READIES FIRST ALBUM IN FOUR YEARS
 
PRODUCER JIMMY SUTTON (POKEY LAFARGE, JD MCPHERSON) HELMED NEW ALBUM 'SUNNYSIDE', OUT MAY 12 ON HI-STYLE RECORDS
 
FROM TATTOO TOURS TO ‘TRUE DETECTIVE’ PART, NASHVILLE-VIA-LA-FROM-CHICAGO ARTIST MELDS COLORFUL LIFETIME INTO GRITTY, GROOVING EARLY ROCK 'N ROLL GOLD
 
"From the first time I heard him playing guitar and singing his songs in a smoky bar on La Brea and Sunset, I became a devoted fan of Jake La Botz. Effortlessly blending authentic blues, rock, country, and gospel, he's created a sound and style that is original and yet instantly familiar. Soulful, personal, painfully funny and sad, he's a true American classic, a gift, and a musical resource that is a joy to be discovered time and time again.”  - Steve Buscemi
 
Cats have nine lives, they say. If that’s true, Jake La Botz must be a cat. A teenage punk, a juvenile delinquent, an actor ( including a part in the classic ‘Ghost World’), a drifter, an apprentice to blues elders growing up in Chicago, self-educated reader, an addict in Los Angeles, a musician in a gospel church, a Buddhist, a meditation teacher, a songwriter touring a circuit of tattoo parlors nationwide. Now, he’s taken all of those experiences and synthesized them with producer Jimmy Sutton (Pokey LaFarge, JD McPherson) for ‘Sunnyside,’ coming May 12 on Hi-Style Records. It’s his first album in four years and finds the new Nashville transplant recounting his past and present atop an irresistible, driving groove. Jimmy Sutton recorded La Botz in his original hometown of Chicago at an all-analog studio, teasing dynamite performances out of the heavily tattoo’d artist.
 
A master storyteller from time spent at the feet of his grandfather and other elders, La Botz infuses his songs with gritty, deeply imagined characters. The album runs along an axis of spirituality on one side and materialism on the other, with La Botz spinning metaphors and subtle dual meanings throughout. Stories include the absurdity of filling one's life with"positivity" (the title track), a portrait of a decrepit hotel with addicts seeking fixes (“The Hotel [Fix Me Now]”), a prisoner searching for a way out (“The Trees in Cali”), a mystical hobo’s description of freedom (“Hobo On a Passenger Train”), a street musician trading art for spare change in the subway (“For Nickels & Dimes”), and the carefree feeling that comes with the arrival of summer (“Feel No Pain”). La Botz has opened for greats like Ray Charles, Dr. John, Mavis Staples, JD McPherson, Etta James, The Blasters, and Tony Joe White.
 
Let some of his peers and media tell it:
 
"Jake La Botz is a creator of dark poetry and haunting song, the kind of music that gets in your bones and rides you for days, a sound and vision only those who've been to the bottom and clawed their way back up can generate. Not everybody will get this music - because not everybody is ready for the truth." -Jerry Stahl (author of Permanent Midnight)
 
“Music from a deep well, a blues with country, folk and sharply observed lyrics... as affecting as a shot of overproof rum on a hot day." -Tattoo Magazine
 
LA Weekly said, “Jake La Botz came up the right-proper, fucking hard way: a teen renegade on the streets of Chicago, dabbling in a mixture of antisocial activities (from car theft to jabbing up his own rudimentary tattoos) and exploring the rich, deep blues tradition as a street singer (with Chi-town legend Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis) and beside Delta-blues originator “Honeyboy” Edwards. That lovely, lurid background forged a musical power that… demonstrates not only an innate mastery of the blues, but also displays what he calls a ‘condensed rock & roll mythology.’

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Jalopy Records Releases Newly Discovered Live Show by Old Time Country Music Legend Clarence Ashley; Recorded in Greenwich Village in 1963

‘Live and In Person’ Out April 28
 







(Click for high res)

On April 28, 2017, Jalopy Records, the record label of Red Hook's Jalopy Theatre, is releasing Clarence Ashley: Live and In Person, the first all-new album in over 50 years by the legendary singer and banjo player who helped introduce old time country music to audiences throughout the nation. April 28 also marks the kickoff of the Brooklyn Folk Festival.

Clarence Ashley (1895-1967) recorded for Columbia Records in 1929, was featured on Harry Smith's “Anthology of American Folk Music” in 1952, and toured the US in the 1960s. The title was gleaned from Bob Dylan, who told Rolling Stone in 2001, "You could hear the actual people singing those ballads. You could hear Clarence Ashley, Doc Watson, Dock Boggs, the Memphis Jug Band, Furry Lewis. You could see those people live and in person." Dylan recorded a number of songs associated with Ashley, including “Corrina, Corrina,” "The House Carpenter," "The Coo Coo Bird" and “Little Sadie.” Dylan also played Ashley’s version of "Little Sadie" on his Theme Time Radio Hour on SIRIUS XM.

Jalopy's vinyl-only release was produced in 2016 by Peter K. Siegel, from tapes he personally recorded in 1963 at the Greenwich Village folk club Gerdes Folk City.

John Cohen, founding member of The New Lost City Ramblers, wrote the liner notes and provided never-before-seen photographs of Ashley in Greenwich Village. A 16-page illustrated booklet includes additional notes by Siegel and Eli Smith.

Ashley, born in Bristol, Virginia in 1895, toured the medicine show circuit and recorded extensively in the 1920s and ‘30s until his career was curtailed by the Great Depression. He was rediscovered during the folk boom of the 1960s, and went on to tour the country and record for Folkways Records. The IBMA Hall of Famer and seven-time GRAMMY Award winner Doc Watson began his career as Ashley's accompanist. Ashley performed at Carnegie Hall, NYC’s Town Hall, and Newport Folk Festival and is featured on Harry Smith’s ‘Anthology of American Folk Music’ (Folkways). He passed away in 1967.

Live and In Person is Clarence Ashley's first and only live album. He is accompanied on the album by guitarist Tex Isley, a member of Charlie Monroe's Kentucky Partners.

Jalopy albums are distributed by Mississippi Records, Portland Oregon.

A celebration of the album's release will be held at the Brooklyn Folk Festival in April 2017. The event will include performances of Ashley's songs by a number of prominent folk and country artists.


Clarence Ashley 'Live And In Person' Track Listing:

SIDE A:

1 Dark Holler Blues
2 The Wreck of the Old 97
3 Omie Wise
4 Bully of the Town
5 Wild Bill Jones
6 Rude and Rambling Man
7 I'm the Man that Rode the Mule Around the World

SIDE B:

1 The Coo Coo Bird
2 I Had But Fifty Cents
3 The House Carpenter
4 Shout Little Lulu
5 May I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight Mister?
6 Ain't No Use to High Hat Me
7 The Little Hillside

(Click for high res)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

ASSOCIATED PRESS, PASTE, ACOUSTIC GUITAR MAG LAUD PETER MULVEY’S NEW ALBUM, 25TH ANNIVERSARY AS RECORDING ARTIST

NEW ANI DIFRANCO-PRODUCED ALBUM ‘ARE YOU LISTENING?’ OUT NOW ON RIGHTEOUS BABE RECORDS

Music press is embracing Peter Mulvey’s new album ‘Are You Listening?’ – out last week on Righteous Babe Records and produced by Ani DiFranco – and Peter’s 25th anniversary as a recording artist. Paste Magazine posted a video session yesterday.

Here’s what we’re hearing:

“Mulvey has been honing his craft for many a decade, and it shows. He can play some badass guitar, sing to touch your heart, and write a song that will knock you down, and by knock you down, I mean lift you up.”
- Ani DiFranco

“Plenty of clever twists… This singer-songwriter marches to his own drum, even when there isn’t one... With ‘Are You Listening?” it’s hard to stop.”
- Steven Wine, Associated Press, March 14

“Goodness gracious, Peter Mulvey sounds great.”
- Paste Magazine, March 24, 2017

“Timely and important… a true musical craftsman.”
- Sarah Zupko, Pop Matters, March 22, 2017

“Dynamic.”
- Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, Acoustic Guitar, December 19, 2016

“Wry, sly.”
- Peter Chianca, Gatehouse Media, March 22, 2017

“Life affirming.”
- Elmore Magazine, March 28, 2017

“Poignant.”
- Courtney Devores, Charlotte Observer, January 20, 2017

Peter Mulvey Tour Dates

April 1 - Beal House - Kingston, MA
April 2 - Nelson Odeon - North Cazenovia, NY
April 5 - Once Ballroom - Somerville, MA (Multi-Artist ACLU Benefit)
April 6-8 - Club Passim - Cambridge, MA
April 21-22 - Yellow Cab Tavern - Dayton, OH
April 23 - the Kentucky Center - Louisville, KY (Tibetan Freedom Concert)
April 27 - The Ark - Ann Arbor, MI
April 28 - Szold Hall at Old Town School Of Folk Music - Chicago, IL
April 29 - COLECTIVO COFFEE - Milwaukee, WI
April 30 - Brink Lounge - Madison, WI
June 1 - Hezekiah Stone's Coffeehouse - Leicester, MA
June 3 - Flying Cat Music - Phoenicia, NY
June 4 - Sellersville Theater 1894 - Sellersville, PA
July 28 - Woodwalk Events Barn and Gallery - Egg Harbor, WI

Friday, March 17, 2017

Jake La Botz bio

Jake La Botz’s story seems entirely too cinematic to be true – a film with shades of Merle Haggard and Tom Waits and Charles Bukowski and Mark Twain and Sid Vicious and David “Honeyboy” Edwards and Jim Jarmusch and Boxcar Bertha and Jack Kerouac all wrapped into one. And all of these experiences play into his new album ‘Sunnyside,’ out May 12 on Hi Style Records, a record that shows that his imagistic songwriting, storytelling range, and recounting of his experiences are just as deep as the aforementioned list of greats.
A juvenile delinquent in the early ‘80s discovering punk music and drifting. A high school dropout who works odd jobs. A subways and street busker taken under the wing of grizzled, wise bluesmen in Chicago. Avid reader who charts a self-education in a public library while falling under the spell of music, tattoos, sunshine, cheap motels, and drug addiction in southern California. Film actor. Gospel musician in all-black church. Buddhist. Meditation teacher. Then, through innumerable gigs with his Chet Baker looks and his large-bodied guitar, he finds friends and admirers in J.D. McPherson and a whole new crop of Americana musicians in his new abode in Nashville. This is Jake La Botz’s true story.
Prologue: A young La Botz sitting on the floor, listening to his grandfather Jinx Putnam, who grew up in Wyoming to a father who was a homesteader and a gambler. Jinx had been a bootlegger during prohibition, hobo’d during the Great Depression, and had worked on boats, served in World War II, and been to Cuba and Alaska and Australia. La Botz says, “He was strange but well read, a country throwback, not at all connected to the modern world.” La Botz was transfixed and enchanted. “Jinx was an incredible storyteller. All my life, I just wanted to be around old guys with great stories.” he adds. The stage is set.
Roll title credits.
Scene: a 15-year old boy in Chicago makes friend with an older kid at a local punk show. La Botz recounts, “Amongst the criminal types, there were artistic people. My friend did criminal activities as a type of performance art.” The two steal a car and drive to Detroit. Another time, they drive cross-country in another stolen car, sleeping at hobo camps, hanging at punk venues. La Botz recalls, “The punk rock community was my refuge. If you had a weird haircut and a leather jacket, you fit in there.” They make it as far as Denver.
Scene: La Botz back home, drops out of school, starts working odd jobs in Chicago, roofing, writing obits, and driving medi-cars. A fan of reggae and punk music, he checks out blues at Maxwell Street Market and connects with elder bluesmen like Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis. “Until then, the blues was the feeling I had but not yet the soundtrack,” he says. As a teen, La Botz sneaks into a Chicago bar to see David “Honeyboy” Edwards, the Delta bluesman who played with Robert Jr. Lockwood and Robert Johnson and recorded a side for Alan Lomax before settling in Chicago. “By 16 or 17, I knew that I wanted to play music,” he says.
Scene: La Botz in his early 20s, in Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis’ projects apartment, both drinking heavily. La Botz befriends Honeyboy and Homesick James (a relative of Elmore James) as well, gleaning what he can of their wisdom and guitar licks. Meanwhile, Honeyboy always carried a gun. La Botz says, “I learned some of their guitar techniques and other gimmicks through osmosis, on an unconscious level. I would watch their hands every time they played. Davis learned guitar from John Lee Hooker and they played in a gospel group together. He played on Maxwell Street regularly. He used to be in the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and danced on broken glass in a grass skirt. I learned a lot from him about how to perform.”
“Honeyboy was one of the greatest storytellers of all time,” he says, citing the oral history book The World Don’t Owe Me Nothin’. He continues, “He completely brings you in and makes you a part of the story. He’s a really welcoming person. He would also request old Delta blues songs for me to play on guitar for him. We became very close.” Shooting the shit and working with these men offered another connection to his hometown of Chicago as well. “The blues is an African-American art form and also an American art form. It's part of our collective unconsciousness. Part of the landscape here. And it can take us to another world,” he says.
Scene: La Botz tries his hand at the game he learns from the bluesmen, opening shows for them and playing on the street and in the subway. “I felt like a subterranean creature, some kind of rodent,” he says, recalling two years of playing blues and gospel during both rush hours on Chicago subway platforms as well as in San Francisco, New Orleans, and at the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, AR. “In the subway, there’s a new audience every five minutes! I would sometimes find one person and focus on them and then the rest of the crowd would follow in behind that person’ energy,” he exclaims. He finds the cultural plurality of busking rewarding, connecting to all walks of people as well as a training ground on how to sing from your heart in a public space. He recounts these experiences in the new song “For Nickel and Dimes” with its chorus, “Pouring out your soul for nickels and dimes.”
Scene: the late ‘80s, La Botz moves to LA, into the American Hotel downtown, has a drink at iconic punk dive Al’s Bar. These experiences inspired one of the highlights of the new album, the vivid “Hotel.” “They say write what you know,” he laughs, continuing, “Well, that’s a place to start. I shot dope with a guy at the hotel whose girlfriend was turning tricks to support his habit. My neighbor was just out of prison. There may have been one or two artists floating about.” He spent a year and a half living there. He started a performing residency at the hotel bar, playing every Friday from 5pm to 7pm during the “Unhappy Hour,” in exchange for a free room. “Trees In Cali” offers another perspective on addiction and “Hard To Love What You Kill” portrays a man seemingly on the verge of suicide.
Scene: Underground again, this time in a basement library in downtown LA. La Botz pours over books about hoboing such as “You Can’t Win” and “Boxcar Bertha.” Through over 100 degrees out, it is cool in the library on one of the three underground floors.
Montage: La Botz performing his songs nationwide on an annual tour of tattoo parlors, which he has done by now eight years. “It started out of necessity,” La Botz explains. He began playing in Gil Monty’s shop in the late ‘90s, then known as a hangout for hair metal bands. “I was drawn to tattoo parlors because of an artistic camaraderie. Tattoo artists, like musicians, are itinerant people... maybe because they can be,” he says. The shows themselves are often unique. “I never know what I’m getting into,” he laughs, describing everything from playing for one-percenter bike clubs to art-school dropouts.
He revels in tattoos as both initiation and ritual. Of La Botz’s many tattoos, his first was done with a sewing needle as a young teen. “It’s a part of the world of mysticism, a dark art, using images that relate back to mythology. It’s ancient civilization stuff.”
Scene: a different kind of needle, back in a grungy hotel room.
Cut to: La Botz talking with a fan after a show about his close to two decades of sobriety. “You never know who you might help out,” he says of these interactions.
Scene: La Botz on the red carpet of a film premiere. This year, La Botz made his first title role in a film appropriately titled The Grace of Jake. He says, “The Grace of Jake was written with me in mind. I was playing guitar in an African-American Baptist church in south central Los Angeles and I was the only white member. The director had just moved to LA from the Arkansas Delta and he started writing a movie script that was a link to home for him. The character is a mixture of me and something back in Arkansas.”
“Acting is great work if you can get it,” he smiles. His friend Steve Buscemi had previously written a part in the film Animal Factory specifically for him and he appeared in Buscemi’s infamous “Blues Hammer” scene of Ghost World. Beyond that he's had roles as divergent as playing a hillbilly-satan character called "the Shape" in the Stephen King/John Mellencamp/T-Bone Burnett stage musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County and a lead role as a mercenary in Stallone's last Rambo movie.
Scene: La Botz opening for McPherson. To him, blues and gospel are a jumping off point for his music on ‘Sunnyside,’ as a foundation for the stories he tells in his own music and for his own, individual brand of Americana music.
“Hobo” recalls his kinship with Jinx and also his admiration for a new generation of kids who are willing to live life outside of the expectations of others, to embrace the possibilities and prices of freedom. He also uses the term metaphorically for the freedom that he’s found through meditation practice.
With the refrain, “Can you cry like you want to?,” repeated, the song “Sunnyside” asks fundamental questions about the divergence of greed with peace of mind. “People striving for happiness through getting what they want is somewhat questionable. Who’s doing the wanting? These themes also show up in the humorous “Inflatable Duck.”
Ultimately, for La Botz, all of his own seeking has led him to a position where gratitude for his life and expressions allows him contentment. He talks about the deep ties between meditation and creativity, “To be human is to be creative, to explore who we are. Seeing stories all around us unfolding, expressing that. I want to be open to the source.” ‘Sunnyside’ finds him drinking from the wellspring.

Friday, March 10, 2017

I Got A Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival clips

Paste feature (February, 22, 2017)

American Songwriter excerpt (May 18, 2017)

Pop Matters review (April 17, 2017)


The Last Poets bio


Revolutionary rap pioneers


“The Last Poets were the first real hardcore rappers.”
--Ice Cube


Those who believe that there are no second acts in American lives ought to consider the career of post-apocalyptic urban griots The Last Poets.  Hailed for the fiery intensity of their politics and their poetry from the moment they emerged in the late Sixties, The Last Poets spit forth a series of brilliant albums in the Seventies, split up and nearly guttered out in the Eighties, and have re-emerged in the Nineties into the embrace of a new generation of word-intoxicated rappers who recognize that the Poets’ fire and intelligence are more necessary than ever.  For the first time in over twenty years, original members Umar Bin Hassan and Abiodun Oyewole (aka Dune) reunited under The Last Poets banner and released HOLY TERROR, an album as vital and relevant today as any work by the Poets in the 70’s.  Produced by Bill Laswell, HOLY TERROR features additional lyrics and vocals by Grandmaster Melle Mel, and fat, funky grooves from Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell.  The album also features a bonus remix track with guest vocals by George Clinton.

Born on Malcolm X Day in 1968, The Last Poets took their name from a poem by South African poet Willie Kgositsile, who posited the necessity of putting aside poetry in the face of looming revolution.  “When the moment hatches in time’s womb there will be no art talk.  The only poem you will hear will be the spearpoint pivoted in the punctured marrow of the villain,” he wrote.  “Therefore we are the last poets of the world.”  They established their reputation with their first two albums, THE LAST POETS (1970) (which included “Niggers are Scared of Revolution”) and THIS IS MADNESS (1971), both of which are recognized today as classics.

The personal history of the group comprises “a tangled story,” as the Washington Post’s David Mills has noted.  “Seven men in all have recorded as The Last Poets, though never at the same moment.  They have feuded among themselves almost from the beginning.”  After feuds splintered the original group in the mid-seventies, both Umar and Dune turned to the streets.  Dune traveled to the South where he took Willie Kgositsile’s message to heart.  He put down the pen and picked up a gun, and soon found himself convicted for armed robbery.  “I thought being a Last Poet was being a fake revolutionary,” he said of his motivation at the time.  “I wanted to be a real revolutionary.”  He served four years in a North Carolina prison, eventually returning to New York where he has spent the last fifteen years as a creative writing consultant to the New York City school system.  Umar, meanwhile, spent years battling crack cocaine addiction in cities up and down the East Coast.  Responding to the current generation of rappers’ renewed regard for the spoken word, Umar and Dune reunited for the first time under Umar’s name to make BE BOP OR BE DEAD for Laswell’s Axiom label in 1993.

HOLY TERROR is a worthy addition to The Last Poets’ canon.  The Poets tackle everything from the reality and the legacy of slavery (“Homesick” and “Pelourinho”) to the horrors of cocaine (“Men-tality”) to a sympathetic but chilling portrait of today’s young black men (“Black Rage”) to a self-help chant (“If We Only Knew What We Could DO”) and a celebration of funk (“Funk”) that manages to expand the definition of the term to include virtually every enjoyable human activity.  Grandmaster Melle Mel lends his powerful writing and rapping to three tracks (“Homesick”, “men-tality” and “Funk”), while driving rhythms are provided courtesy of Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell, in partnership with Senegalese drummer Aiyb Dieng and bassist Laswell.  After hearing the finished album, George Clinton offered to add his inimitable vocals to the fray, and Laswell immediately organized a remix session of the song “Homesick.”  The resulting bonus track, “Black and Strong (Homesick),” features Melle Mel and percussionist Don “Babatunde” Eaton (who joins the Poets in live performance).

The re-emergence of The Last Poets has not only helped today’s young scholars to put the contributions of the Poets into historical perspective, it has allowed young rappers, poets, and movie makers to work with these living masters, who may indeed be (as Motorbooty’s  Mike Rubin put it) “older than Old School [but who] still have a timely message to impart to the new-jack generation.”  They performed in John Singleton’s “Poetic Justice” (1993), and played 13 dates on the Lollapalooza tour during the summer of 1994.  They updated and re-recorded “This Is Madness” with Pharoah Sanders, a track featured on STOLEN MOMENTS (RED, HOT & COOL), and AIDS-awareness album aimed at the black community, which was named 1994 Album of the Year by Time magazine.

Now in their fifties, Umar and Dune feel on top of their form.  “I’m older, wiser and a little sharper,” says Umar.  “I’ve learned a lot of things about human nature and about myself.  Day by day I love a little more and I have a little more to say.”  For his part, Dune says: “We’re no more ‘godfathers of spoken word’ than the man on the moon; it comes in a package from the motherland.  But we accept there is work out there that we can do.  People need to see a focal point, a beacon, and we don’t have no problem with shining.  We don’t walk away from the fight.”

Asked recently whether he thought there is more madness today than when The Last Poets started, Umar said, “Much more.  ‘Niggers Are Scared of Revolution’ is more relevant now than it was in 1969.”  Gesturing with his arm as if to encompass the entire landscape of contemporary American society, he concluded, “If this ain’t madness, what is?”