(Hilton Head Monthly, March 2011) Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings do automagically what trained technicians with expensive equipment can spend days trying to perfect in the studio: Capture the rich, sultry sounds of the classic soul era defined by names like James Brown and Aretha Franklin — and they do it with, get this, real instruments. Born in Augusta, Ga., but raised in Brooklyn, Jones struggled with an early music career — which included a brief side job as a prison guard at Rikers Island — before her sultry stage presence and her band’s retro sound found their audience. Since catching on nationwide, the band has been everywhere, releasing four albums, opening for Prince last month at Madison Square Garden and placing a song in the opening credits to the 2009 George Clooney film “Up in the Air.” Jones spoke from her mother’s house in Queens.
Q: Do you ever get back to Georgia?
A: I just bought a home in South Carolina, right over from Augusta. I wanted to get my mother out of these projects. I got my sister, whose spouse recently passed away. I was like, “Look, come on down here, move with Mom. I bought a house. You take care of Mom while I’m back on the road.” Hopefully, maybe another year or two, I can get a place of my own somewhere. But right now, I finally got my mother out of the projects.
Q: What was it like opening for Prince?
A: We did that song “A Love Bizarre.” He had me do a duet with him and everything; he called in the horn section. He had Binky (Griptite, the Dap-Kings’ guitarist) play his guitar. Prince don’t let nobody play his guitar! At the after party, Mos Def got on stage. He wanted to actually rap while Prince was playing. I don’t know anything about rap. When he came on stage, I thought he wanted to dance. I was like, “You played Chuck Berry in that Cadillac movie: Do that Chuck Berry guitar dance!” And he did it. And then I made him do the boogaloo with me. It was cool.
(READ THE REST [or click the image above] because I’ve got betta things to do than paste it here for you.)
DARIUS RUCKER has become South Carolina’s biggest-ever country music star. You may now stop calling him Hootie.
(Hilton Head Monthly, November 2010) Veterans of the local music scene talk about a time, 20 or so years ago, when it was still possible to hit local bars like the Old Post Office and see bands on the brink of national fame. At the time Hilton Head played host to a good number of future stars, including Duncan Sheik and Edwin McCain, but nobody blew up nearly like the University of South Carolina classmates in Hootie and the Blowfish — which you already know if you ever left your house in 1994-95.
Popular music marched on, of course, but Hootie stuck around, dropping occasional records, returning to Hilton Head for big local gigs at Honey Horn and Sea Pines and generally maintaining a career of consistent, unsurprising solidity.
The surprise, when it came, was a good one.
In 2008, pretty much out of nowhere, Hootie singer Darius Rucker released his debut solo country record, “Learn to Live,” on the Capitol Nashville label. Haters chuckled, but the single “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” speedily reached the top of the country charts, making Rucker the first solo African-American artist to chart a No. 1 country hit since Charley Pride in 1983 — which is why, these days, you don’t find Rucker having a beer and feeling sorry for himself.
This month, Rucker releases his second solo country album, the hometown love note “Charleston, SC, 1966.” We caught up with him on tour to talk about old times, check in on Hootie’s 25th anniversary and attempt to instigate a rivalry with Stephen Colbert. Continue reading
I’ll throttle back the posting of these since they’re coming quite frequently, but for now….
How to Manage Your Online Advertising (Inc., 8/12)
How to Get Feedback from Employees (Inc., 8/10, pictured right)
Jake Owen: Country Music’s Cinderella Story (The Guide, 7/14)
The Hold Steady in Savannah: “Everybody’s invited to this party”
(The Guide, 5/20/10) Brooklyn-based rock outfit the Hold Steady has been fitted with the title of “America’s bar band,” thanks mostly to their raucous, salutatory guitar jams, which are evocative both of the epic narrative arcs of Bruce Springsteen and the simple rock fundamentalism of Thin Lizzy.
But the title is slightly inaccurate for several reasons. First, the band these days is too much of a big deal to be stuck playing the grimy pubs evoked by their music. But mostly they just don’t spend that much time in bars anymore, since some of its members, such as guitarist Tad Kubler, now have young children (even if his 5-year-old daughter does like to come on tour occasionally).
The Hold Steady earlier this month released its fifth studio album, “Heaven is Whenever.” It’s a payoff of sorts, one that hits on the themes of reward and struggle — something the band sees firsthand as gets lauded by indie sites like Pitchfork while seeing its albums on the featured rack at Target.
“I think that the one thing that we strive for and really enjoy is to become a bigger band,” Kubler said by phone last week. “I always felt that we’re very inclusive. Everybody’s invited to this party. I think people are quick to write us off as cool kids or hipsters or whatever people refer to people who live in Brooklyn as. That’s the opposite of what we’re about.” Continue reading
I don’t normally post my Hilton Head Monthly stuff here, but I figured I’d make an exception for this interview with Mayor Tom Peeples, who announced this year he’s not running for reelection after serving four terms, making him by far the longest-serving mayor the town has seen in its short history. I covered the guy for four years at The Island Packet, talked to him countless times by phone, usually at least a few times a week, visited his office, and maybe even saw him tipsy a time or two at various island weekend events (odds are I was equally tipsy at such events), so I even ventured a first-person lede here.
Mayor looks back, forward
(Hilton Head Monthly 4/30/2010) The single angriest moment I ever witnessed from Mayor Tom Peeples during four years covering the town happened in a meeting on the contentious debate over limiting the airport’s future runway length in 2007 The meeting drew one of the largest crowds in town history into a standing-room-only council chambers as the public both for and against expansion gathered.
The debate wore on, the crowd grew restive and some skeptics shot jeers and boos at council members on the dais. With a sharp whack of the gavel, Peeples brought the room to silence, lifted his voice to its full-bodied boom and told the crowd they could either quiet down or get out. About half the room picked up and left.
The single most emotional moment I witnessed out of Peeples also came at the same meeting, a few minutes later. With the public comment portion of the hearing closed, council members were left to state their positions on the measure that would prevent the airport from expanding the runway without first getting town permission. As Peeples explained that the town was taking the controversial measure because it defended the core ideals of the island’s founders, his voice began to crack and waver, and it appeared, to those in the audience at least, that a few tears lined his eyes.
“It guarantees that you, the citizens of Hilton Head Island, can come to a public process just like this if there is a need to discuss lengthening the runway,” Peeples told the crowd. “Obviously the fact that so many people are here must (mean) that’s a good idea.”
That broad swing of emotions — transforming from forceful arbiter to spokesman for personal passion — is indicative of the balance Peeples struck over his 15 years as town mayor. Never too much a dyed-in-the-wool politician, Peeples positioned himself as a pragmatist and consensus builder, but wasn’t afraid to let people know when something went against what he saw as the values of Hilton Head that first drew him to the island and local politics many years ago.
Peeples made a surprise announcement in April that he won’t run for reelection this November after serving four terms. It opens up room for an exciting election season, and one that will usher in a new era of leadership for the town that has known the same mayor for more than half its lifetime.
READ THE REST because it’s got all the municipal government fun you can stand!
(The Guide 4/1) Did Lewis Black, the frazzled and perpetually angry “Daily Show” commentator and comedian with a liberal bent but an intolerance for foolishness of all varieties, realize he had booked a show next door to the home territory of Joe Wilson, whose outburst at the president last year made him a frequent target of late-night mockery?
“Perfect,” Black said when this was brought to his attention during a phone interview. “That explains the ticket sales.”
Black is making his first-ever appearance in Savannah on Thursday, though his broad appeal and track record as the frustrated, indignant Greek chorus to the nonstop drama that is the nation’s political and cultural ridiculousness gives little doubt he will have trouble filling the Johnny Mercer Theatre.
When: 8 p.m. April 3
Where: Johnny Mercer Theatre, 301 W. Oglethorpe Ave., Savannah.
Information: 912-651-6556, 800-351-7469, www.savannahcivic.com
In fact, Black has gone from an exasperated mouthpiece for informed discontent with his “Back in Black” segment on “The Daily Show” and occasional Comedy Central specials to something resembling a mainstream comedian. He’s now got two HBO specials under his belt, as well as a series of movies and voice-over roles, a “Law and Order” role, a History Channel special, various commercials, several books and a stint on the 2007 USO tour with Robin Williams and Kid Rock. Continue reading
Lives 1-7, expended
REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin: “When we play live, it’s a riot”
(The Guide, 3/12) The upside to being a band that’s persevered for more than three decades is that you can play anywhere from Mexico City to Savannah and draw a lively crowd.
The downside is that styles and trends change quickly, and your fans tend to best remember your early days. REO Speedwagon lead singer Kevin Cronin, for instance, is often asked to sign copies of the band’s 1979 album “Nine Lives,” the cover of which features the group clad in tight black spandex and leather, with tail-wearing vixens hanging on them and a black panther on a chain in the foreground.
“At the time it was considered cool,” Cronin said with a chuckle in a phone interview last week. “It definitely wasn’t who I was, that’s for sure.”
REO Speedwagon, Edwin McCain
When: 8 p.m. March 13
Where: Johnny Mercer Theatre, 301 W. Oglethorpe Ave., Savannah.
Information: 912-651-6566, http://www.savannahcivic.com Continue reading