On one of this year’s first truly beautiful spring days, I drove out to the grounds of the Montrose recording facility to interview Steve Bassett, who has a pre- and post-production trailer parked near the studio’s main building.
This was actually my second time speaking to Bassett. Longtime followers of this here blog might remember that I wrote a magazine piece on Virginia’s state popular song, “Sweet Virginia Breeze,” which Bassett cowrote with another Richmond legend, the late Robbin Thompson. And while I had separate phone conversations with the two writers for that article, I got to meet them both in person shortly thereafter, at an early evening show up in Ashland. They graciously signed my copy of their Together album. I also snagged a copy of Bassett’s autobiography, Sing Loud, which was being sold at the merch table.
I’d recommend picking up a copy. Inside, you’ll find insight from someone who has truly drilled to the core of what it means to live a life in music. Someone who has learned the secret to accessing the joy in just about any type of musical environment. I certainly felt that joy when I spoke to him early this spring, with seed pods falling from the trees and stories flowing — about his new album, Tres Leches, and the incredible journey that’s taken him from Muscle Shoals, Alabama and Carnegie Hall to the steps of Virginia’s Governor’s Mansion.
The resulting River City Magazine article is available online over at Richmond Navigator, and I hope you’ll give it a read there or pick up a print copy. The layout is wonderful, with photos by Jennifer Challis taken at Bassett’s recent show at the Broadberry, which was excellent. Thank you, Jen, for sharing those, and thank you to Steve for the conversation. I won’t soon forget it.
Back in January, on the very same day that Bandcamp Weekly posted a new episode with Kenneka Cook as the featured guest, I had the honor of chatting with Cook over lunch at Pop’s Market. I’m excited to say the resulting RVA Magazine article is on newsstands now, and I hope it reflects how fun and wide-ranging that conversation was. We talked about everything from her approach to different songs on the album and the brilliance of American Paradox community to the music she grew up with and our shared love for Richmond’s record stores.
More than anything else, I hope you all get a sense for Cook’s vision and voice. Separately, those words point to different ideas. Different senses. A way you receive information about the world and a way you share information with the world. But vision and voice can both represent loftier ideas, as well, like imagination and influence — things that can come together in the creative process to render something truly new and special. That’s what I hear on Cook’s wonderful debut album, Moonchild. Check out the title track below and be sure to grab a copy of RVA Magazine if you see a stack around town.
Think about one of your favorite singers, and try to remember the very first time you heard him or her sing. Did it stop you in your tracks? Did you look around the room, like “What the hell is happening right now?”
That was my experience hearing Sid Kingsley for the first time. Listening through Good Way Home on its release day back in May was an uncanny experience, both because of the jolt I got from his voice and because the album includes covers of songs by artists who are near and dear to my heart. A new favorite vocalist. New versions of favorite songs. It was such a trip…
…which made having the opportunity to sit down with Kingsley and interview him for River City Magazine even more of a trip. We chatted on the patio outside Cary Street Café, and in case you’re wondering, yes, I did nerd out and bring my vinyl copy of Good Way Home for him to sign. He did so graciously, and the article that resulted from our conversation hit the interweb this week. Click here to check it out, and click here to see where you can snag a physical copy of the magazine.
Want to know what’s really crazy? The uncanny experiences with Good Way Home haven’t stopped. I’m seeing two concerts in the next two nights, and Kingsley’s album features versions of songs either written or made famous by both of them: “Moonshiner,” a traditional tune previously recorded by Bob Dylan, and “Sam Stone,” by John Prine. Both are embedded below.
If you haven’t heard Good Way Home yet, you’re in for a treat. Maybe you’ll even have your own “What the hell is happening right now?” moment.
Sid Kingsley — “Moonshiner” [Spotify/iTunes]
Sid Kingsley — “Sam Stone” [Spotify/iTunes]
Getting to interview a musician who made one of your favorite albums of the year is quite an honor, but getting to interview a musician whose music changed your life for the better? That’s something else entirely. Something rare and special.
Hearing “You Are Not Your Mind,” from Eric Slick’s 2017 Palisades album, was a truly revelatory experience. I ended up writing about it back in April:
I often fall into the trap of assuming there’s a way to think my way out of every situation. I also tend to prioritize my inner experience when I’m feeling less than good about what’s going on on the outside, whether that’s the clothes I’m wearing or my inability to force myself to exhibit extroversion when it counts. And while the mind can certainly act as a refuge, I love the idea that there’s some other self that’s even more basic — something that’s not so readily accessible or easily tinkered with.
With that in mind (no pun intended), it was such a gift to be able to speak with Slick over the phone and learn more about how that song was written, how he balances the brightness of his personality with the heft of this songs’ themes, and how he came to be part of this beautiful Richmond music community. The interview just went up on Richmond Navigator’s site — click here to check it out. (Print copies of River City Magazine should be on newsstands any day now.)
I want to thank Eric very sincerely for doing the interview, and I want to encourage you good people to take a listen to “You Are Not Your Mind” below. Maybe you’ll end up with a revelatory experience of your own.
Eric Slick — “You Are Not Your Mind” [Spotify/Bandcamp]
One more post for Virginia’s Tourism Blog to tell y’all about, called “Building Bridges: International Music Experiences In Virginia.” I sincerely hope you’ll read it and send the link around — getting outside of your musical comfort zone is such a worthwhile and soul-replenishing thing to do, and I’m certain that if it happened more often, people would understand each other in ways they don’t currently.
Best of all, Richmonders can get started right away! You’ll find Afro-Zen Allstars among the bands mentioned, and they’ll be at Garden Grove Brewing Company in Carytown tonight, continuing their monthly residency there. Can’t recommend it highly enough.
I wanted to take a second to thank Andrew Cothern and all the other folks at Virginia Tourism for letting me write these posts. It’s such an honor to tell these stories and represent the musical traditions of the state I’ve called home my entire life. I’ve learned a ton in the last few months, and I hope to be able to share more stories like these in the future.
To play us out, here’s another Richmond band I mention in the post — venerated salsa outfit Bio Ritmo:
Bio Ritmo — “La Vía” [Spotify/iTunes]
When people are doing what they love, you can tell. Cooking, singing, repairing bicycles, doesn’t matter. Being in your element means tapping into something deep and true, and that’s what Andrew Carter’s debut album as Minor Poet sounds like to me. His love for recording is unmistakable; it stands out like a third dimension, with layers and harmonies only a devoted craftsman would seek out and execute.
Sitting down with Carter for an interview at Black Hand Coffee absolutely confirmed this first impression, and I’m excited to say that the results of that conversation are available now in the newly released RVA Magazine summer issue. Carter kindly called it the “definitive” version of the events surrounding the release of And How!, an album (out August 25 on EggHunt Records) that promises to reach many ears and make Minor Poet a very familiar name both in Richmond and beyond.
I want to thank Carter for such a candid interview, and Doug Nunnally for all his help with writing this piece. I also want to recognize the inimitable Joey Wharton — it’s an honor having my words next to his photos. Just stunning.
Click here to read the article online, or snag yourself a print copy around town. I have a couple other pieces of writing in the issue I’m psyched to tell y’all about, so stay tuned…
Minor Poet — “River Days” [Spotify/Bandcamp]