A Points South essay from the North Carolina Music Issue.
I heard voices down the hall and followed them into the recording room, where I found Soul Council producer Kash talking with Tia Watlington, Jamla’s director of product management, and songstress Heather Victoria about Heather’s new single “Japan.” I knew that this was just a taste of what any given day is like at Bright Lady—young artists honing their craft, label mates planning the next release, or your favorite artist in town looking for that signature sound for their new project. Anything is possible at the business and recording home of Grammy-winning producer and Jamla label head 9th Wonder.
Drive north from Raleigh, North Carolina, a city that stands for all that is positive and prosperous in the New South, and you might feel that you’ve entered another world. Warren County is fifty miles away, past farms and hickory forests veiled with kudzu and preternaturally green. It is one of the most rural counties in the state. Also one of the poorest. The population is a little more than fifty percent African American; more than one in four people here live below the poverty line. Jobs are scarce, healthcare is limited, and schools perform below state levels.
Mentor to Alice Gerrard, beacon to all of us North Carolina folkie wannabes, revered by those of us with any musical knowledge, and—music’s highest compliment—sung by many of us who don’t know how we know the words. This Chapel Hill woman is the very heart of what we call Piedmont blues.
One of eight historic African-American neighborhoods in Raleigh, North Carolina, SE Raleigh was first settled more than 130 years ago. Once a hub for business, education, and cultural life, rising property taxes and increased rent have forced many people in the area to move out of their homes.