February is Black History Month and, in celebration, we’ve been going through our archives and re-reading some of our favorite pieces about Black artists working in the roots community. Here are 10 of those stories:
Counsel of Elders: Taj Mahal on Understanding the World — The legendary bluesman shares his knowledge of African music and emotional intelligence in this 2016 interview. Read on to find out why, “If you don’t like my peaches, dont bother me,” are words to live by.
Music Maker Relief Foundation: Keeping the Blues Alive — North Carolina organization Music Maker is one of the most important resources for regional blues musicians hoping to get their music recognized. This interview with founder Timothy Duffy gives an overview of just how they do it. BONUS: Check out Music Maker’s new Black History Month podcast here.
Counsel of Elders: Bobby Rush on Staying Sexy — The title says it all: funky bluesman Bobby Rush offers a crash course in staying sexy, and discusses his newest album, Porcupine Meat.
Squared Roots: Rhiannon Giddens Studies the Songs of Dolly Parton — We learn a bit about how Giddens developed her phenomenal musical craft in this interview. Giddens discusses Parton’s songwriting, feminism and razor-sharp brain.
A Conversation with Jamaal B. Sheats, Director of Fisk University’s Art Galleries — Nashville HBCU Fisk University is home to one of the South’s most impressive collections of visual arts, drawing largely from the personal collection of Georgia O’Keeffe herself. The gallery’s curator speaks about working with the collection, as well as the role of visual art in protest.
Sitch Sessions: Dom Flemons, “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad” — This session with Dom Flemons will forever be one of our favorites, with the former Carolina Chocolate Drop member reimagining one of our most beloved folk songs on a beautiful Portland day.
Lightning Bolt Writing: A Conversation with Yola Carter — Yola Carter is one of the most exciting young acts in roots music. In this interview, she discusses her quick rise to notoriety, a forthcoming debut album and institutional racism.
Son Little and the Truth of Absolutes — The Philadelphia blues artist discusses his musical breakthrough, working with Mavis Staples and the evolution of contemporary R&B in this 2015 interview.
Aaron Neville: Sharing Edifying Messages in a Dark Time — If musical styles were counted as lifetimes, then Aaron Neville has lived several. Known for his almost instantly recognizable falsetto, Neville has sung in all sorts of flavors throughout his 50-year career: doo wop, pop, gospel, country, soul, funk. You name it, he’s likely sung it.
On Histories, Stories, and Identities: A Conversation with Leyla McCalla — Both literally and figuratively, Leyla McCalla’s music exhibits a web of spatial exchange, particular histories bumping up against one another in ways that reveal their convergences.