I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the extraordinary Charlie Starr of Blackberry Smoke, singer/songwriter Kim Logan, and music journalist C. Eric Banister about Southern Rock – its history, conflicted meaning, and promising future. We also discussed the fight against racism and Southern identity politics.
Read it the story at No Depression.
Kev Wright and I had a beautiful experience at the Skokie Public Library in Skokie, IL, giving our presentation on protest music in America – “Words and Music: American Troubadours.”
The combination of lecture and live music offers a tour of the crossroads between music and political protest, featuring songs from Ruthie Foster, Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, Alice Wine, and an original composition of ours, “Feet On the Street.”
I recently wrote two essays about the financial precarity of the working class, and how analysis of the “economy” consistently fails to take into account the needs and struggles of average Americans. The solutions to those problems – namely the expansion of the social welfare state – are not radical, but entirely consistent with mainstream American political history.
Read the essays at Salon:
“The Conservatism of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez”
“Anyone Who Says, ‘The Economy,’ is Stupid”
Inspired by Ken Burns’ extraordinary documentary series on country music, I recently wrote a reflective essay for the American Conservative about the death and dearth of authenticity, intelligence, and heartfelt story in mainstream contemporary music. American culture no longer seems capable to facilitating the growth and success of a musical artist with the depth and gravitas of Willie Nelson or Dolly Parton.
Read the essay at the American Conservative.
I recently interviewed the award winning toxicology scientist, Dr. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, for the second time about her work uncovering how the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has left an entire generation, along with local ecosystems, poisoned.
The devastating toll of American wars continues for generations, even after the combat ends, and yet the American media and political establishment act as if the war itself never happened.
Read the story at Salon.
In a recent essay for Salon, I write about the dangerous reverence that anti-Trump liberals are demonstrating for the FBI and CIA – two institutions with a cruel and vicious history of violence, subterfuge, and anti-democratic plots to disrupt American protest movements and overthrow freely elected foreign leaders.
The instinct to embrace agencies that the monstrosity of Donald Trump is attacking is understandable, but liberals are dancing on the edge of a pitfall if they continue to treat FBI and CIA officials as allies of democracy.
Read it here.
CrimeReads, an outstanding website dedicated to crime literature, recently ran my essay on the mystery novels that Gore Vidal wrote under the nom de plum, “Edgar Box.” The Box trilogy, which Vidal wrote after the media exiled him due to their egregious homophobia, entertains with wit and craft, but also depicts the hypocrisy and vacuity of America’s ruling class.
“I’m not sufficiently stupid to be a popular author,” Gore Vidal said in reaction to a suggestion that he write paperback mystery novels. Victor Weybright, whom Vidal considered the “wisest man in publishing” during the 1950s, offered his encouragement, “You’ll find a way.” He was also offering the great American author a lifeline.
Homophobia was so virulent and vicious in the mid-twentieth century that the 1948 publication of The City and The Pillar, Vidal’s groundbreaking and brave novel sympathetically depicting the lives of two men in love, threatened to end his literary career.
Read the rest.
In an essay for Salon, I react to a recent performance from the mighty Tedeschi Trucks Band with a meditation on poetry, soul, and the beauty of protest music that affirms the dignity of human creativity and community.
The music of Tedeschi Trucks Band is nutrition for the spirit. When digital enhancements and alterations have conquered the mass market of American music, Susan Tedeschi, one of the world’s best blues and soul singers, and her husband Derek Trucks, one of world’s best blues and rock guitarists, use their songwriting prowess and their performative passion to lead a 12-member band through a house of musical mirrors. From the vantage point of Tedeschi Trucks, blues morphs into soul, soul shapeshifts into rock, and rock deconstructs into a dynamic form of jazz improvisation. Their aptly named summer tour, “Wheels of Soul,” featuring opening bands Shovels and Rope and the current standard-bearers of Southern Rock, Blackberry Smoke, transgresses all boundaries, managing to move with a dynamism and creative daring possible only with the organic navigation of the human mind, hand, and voice.
Read the rest here.
In recent essays for Salon, I have swung a hammer in the direction of America’s societal dysfunction and decay, how stupidity is the country’s most lethal anti-democratic force, and the nihilistic hatred of America from the Trump administration.
I recently examined and explored the music of a magnificent singer/songwriter, Lizz Wright. The essay ran at No Depression, and it contains fascinating excepts from my recent conversation with the musician, as well as my own reflections on the power and profundity of her music.
Music is more than a jingle, more than a product. To committed composers, players, singers, and listeners, it’s an essential form of transmission for genuine feeling and ideas to the human spirit. For Lizz Wright, a magnificent vocalist whose rich baritone manages to hit the frequency of the beating heart, music is even more: It’s an opportunity for testimony.
Read the rest here.