February 23, 2016

Last winter, the metal band Black Tusk went on a six-week tour of Europe, where they’ve established a strong following over the past decade. As most any band would today, they shared a candid visual diary on social media. But the trio’s followers on Facebook and Instagram (there are more than 54,000 of them) weren’t just seeing the expected performance photos, landscape shots, party pics, and show promos. Black Tusk had a mission abroad, which they christened #ripathon.

October 31, 2019

A feature essay from the South Carolina Music Issue. 

Funk is at once spiritual and pugilistic and reparative and confrontational. It does not demand you apologize for slavery but absconds over the Atlantic with its freedom and hovers over the water on the downbeat, wishing you would try to come steal it again. It buries itself deep in the dirt of a sea island and makes its rhythms shake the earth and then shoots out the ground on a spaceship. 

November 10, 2020

An essay from the Greatest Hits Music Issue

She traveled the world and left it scorched with her fearlessness and musical originality, inspired fierce devotion from an audience who thrilled to her enormous gifts and her personal excesses, and shook the celestial rafters with the force of her artistic character. She was also my dad’s favorite singer.

May 22, 2015

People have gone to Texas for many reasons. In the past, people went because they were running from something, such as Johnny Law or Jerry Influenza, while others went to get rich by digging in the ground for valuable commodities, such as oil and Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. As for me, I came to Texas for a much less noble reason, which was to try to be a writer.

January 12, 2016

I had this idea that I could arrive in Macon, Georgia, via rental sedan, nose around for a day or two, and figure something out about the South, and rock music in the South, and men in the South, and men, and death, and guitars, and the Allman Brothers Band, who, in the late 1960s, engineered a new style of rock music that was deeply and earnestly influenced by rhythm & blues but also by something else—some wildness I couldn’t isolate or define or deny.

March 09, 2017

’Til the Day I Die is a visual exploration of gospel and blues, shot on Super 8mm film.

February 07, 2017

Think of these women, coming out of the South and up to Milwaukee, arriving finally in tiny, all-white Grafton by either streetcar or automobile and feeling their way in a studio for the first time. As they fought the forces of shell-shocked alienation, disorientation, and possibly stage fright, the musical conversations between these two gifted artists created other worlds for them to fleetingly inhabit. Their duet yielded a recorded history of blueswomen’s subversive interstitial lives forged outside of both the jail cell and the sphere of domestic abuse, conditions which hovered close to each of them. 

November 19, 2019

A feature essay from the South Carolina Music Issue. 

There’s a high-achieving aptitude to it all, a certain polyglot prodigiousness. He knows how to hack and fuse genres, how to enter and exit. Part of his genius is that he’s an unrepentant copyist; for a time, his motto was a saying gleaned from Paul Rand, the graphic artist behind logos for companies like IBM and Enron: “don’t try to be original, just try to be good.”

November 10, 2020

A poem from the Greatest Hits Music Issue

Oh, oh, baby: the door opened making new, irregular / air, startled into the shape of Texas. Blood behind each syllable, / as if my body recognized touch & pulse before a hand / had ever laid there.

January 14, 2016

I don’t know if the term “Cosmic Southerner” is something I came up with or if I read it somewhere or heard someone say it, but it’s an idea I’ve carried with me for a long time. Pharoah Sanders, André 3000, and Benjamin from the band Smoke are true Cosmic Southerners. Atlanta’s Col. Bruce Hampton is another.