Post-FarmBorough Festival thoughts…
Greetings from the Red Road & the Southland!
What has been billed as New York’s first country music festival, FarmBorough, came & went with much fanfare; but, as a proud member of the local New York City country scene that was (blatantly?) overlooked on their bills in favor of superstars straight from Music Row and assorted carpetbaggers, we played our own show in Brooklyn Country Thursday night — thanks to all who came out & raised a ruckus with us @ the honky-tonk!! — and I subsequently hit 95 South to find much-needed sonic & spiritual renewal in the Beautiful South.
En route to the Dixieline, I have sung country soul classics with Greg Tate’s Burnt Sugar Arkestra — including my co-pilot Little Miss Cornshucks’ “Try A Little Tenderness” — and 1960s Freedom Songs alongside my Southwest Georgia kinswoman & SNCC Elder Bernice Johnson Reagon @ Chocolate City’s Metropolitan AME Church, as well as celebrated Peruvian music/culture @ this year’s Folklife Festival. Also took the time to see my former culture-crit colleague Gayle Wald (GWU scholar) give a talk on her latest tome @ Politics And Prose — it’s about my former Schomburg Center colleague & great black queer maverick son of Washington, Mr. Ellis Haizlip, and the landmark 1960s-70s variety show he hosted for PBS, Soul!, which featured such country/folk acts as my fellow Virginian Bill Withers and Taj Mahal giving me the seed to ultimately sing & write country music (Check out Soul! and Black Power Television also for renowned photographer Chester Higgins’ shots from the production).
Canada’s Toronto-based National Post features a very abbreviated take on my views about the current Confederate battle flag furor & the state of country music. And in my southern retreat new songs are now jumpin’ off the page and the Road, including a meditation on the famous post-bellum black stringband family, the Snowdens, who some historians credit with teaching “Dixie” to Dan Emmett Rice. I am undergoing a renaissance of focus on the myriad unknown black country musicians and songwriters who populated weekend frolics across the South and into the Midwest between the Civil War & the Second World War — fitting since America as a whole (not just Sistah Bree Newsome) seems arrested in that era yet again these days. Expecting to fly sometime in the Afrofuture with a vintage Virginian harp-guitar!