Saturday, June 23, 2007
Roy Blount, Jr.
The New York Times Book Review has called Roy Blount Jr. "one of America's wittiest writers." He certainly is. Readers of his articles in The Oxford American, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, Vanity Fair, GQ, National Geographic, Rolling Stone and The New York Times could tell you that. So could fans of his 20 books, including Feet on the Street: Rambles around New Orleans (Crown), I Am the Cat, Don't Forget That (HarperCollins), Be Sweet (Knopf) and most recently, Long Time Leaving: Dispatches from Up South (Knopf). He has been honored as a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library and a Literary Light by the Boston Public Library. Recently named president of the Authors Guild and elected to the Fellowship of Southern Writers, he is also a usage consultant to The American Heritage Dictionary. On radio, he is a panelist on NPR's news quiz show, Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me. Born in Indianapolis and raised in Decatur, Georgia, Blount makes his home in western Massachusetts and Manhattan.
Traditional music fans are abuzz about the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a group of young African-American string band musicians that have come to together to play the fiddle and banjo music of Carolina's Piedmont. Rhiannon Giddens (banjo), who grew up in the Piedmont area, is an Oberlin Conservatory of music grad who fell in love with old-time music. Justin Robinson (fiddle), from a musical family his mother is an opera singer and cellist, his sister a classical pianist, and his grandfather a harmonica player played classical violin when he was a kid, but traditional music recently won him over. Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Dom Flemons (harmonica, jug, guitar) has immersed himself in the sounds of yesterday blues, country and string band traditions and he branches out into early jazz, rock and original material, too. Sule Greg Wilson (percussion) studied drumming back in his Washington, D.C., school days. He is well versed in folkways from Bolivia to Belfast, Cape Town to the Crescent City, and he has performed with musicians from Nigerian percussionist Babatunde Olatunji to banjoist Tony Trischka to Malian Jali Cheikh Hamala Diabate. Together, these four are taking the string band scene by storm. The Carolina Chocolate Drops' CD, Dona Got a Ramblin' Mind (Music Maker), was released last year.Andy Stein
Andy Stein (violin, saxophone) definitely has far-flung musical leanings, He collaborated with Garrison Keillor to create the opera Mr. and Mrs. Olson, and he has performed with artists such as Itzhak Perlman, Eric Clapton, Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles and Bob Dylan.
A native of Indiana, Jearlyn Steele first sang with her siblings (as The Steele Children) in churches, concert halls and on radio and television. After Jearlyn left home and moved to Minnesota, one by one the rest of the Steele kids followed, and they started singing together again as The Steeles. Now music is the family business. Fans still remember their participation in The Gospel at Colonus at the Guthrie Theater and on Broadway. Jearlyn has voiced many local and national commercials, and she has recorded with top acts including George Clinton and Prince. Her most recent CD is titled Steele Praising Hymn. She is the entertainment reporter for Twin Cities Public Television's public-affairs program, Almanac, and she hosts Steele Talkin', a Sunday-night radio show that originates on WCCO in Minneapolis and is heard in some 30 states nationwide.