How Appalachian black metal is defining a new era of mountain music (Noisey)

The music of the rising Appalachian black metal scene is awesome, & the musicians behind it are extraordinarily thoughtful individuals, so I always jump at the chance to talk to them.

This story features Slaves BC, Ulfrinn, Twilight Fauna, Nechochwen, and Vials of Wrath.

I recommended more artists here:


Read my story at Noisey.

From moshpits to condos and back: Salem Avenue’s transformation (Between Coasts)

At Between Coasts I wrote about how a stretch of Roanoke’s Salem Ave went from moshpits to townhouses and back again.

This story features a little more autobiography than most of my writing, as well as skaters from Twin Valleys Roller Derby + derby photos by Stephen Lowery/Kluster Flux + vintage punk pics by Kent Moore Photography.

Read it at Between Coasts.

How death metal helped me get past the need for understandable lyrics (Noisey)

In 1993, I borrowed a copy of Cannibal Corpse’s “Tomb of the Mutilated” from Joe Markley and dubbed it onto a blank cassette.

At first the vocals seemed like a joke, all snarly growls with no discernable words. After a while, though, they started to make a kind of internal sense.

They also opened a door. Any time a new vocal style intimidates with seeming impenetrability, the Cannibal Corpse formula can be applied. And that’s what led me to Young Thug.

Read my story at Noisey.

The life, death and life lessons of Ralph Stanley (Noisey)

Like many others, I felt compelled to write about Dr. Ralph Stanley after his death on Thursday.

I’m especially struck by 2 things about Ralph Stanley:

1) That moment when in 1966 when his older brother Carter died, and Ralph, as the quiter half of the Stanley Brothers, had to figure out how to move forward in an uncertain environment. He went back to his roots for “Old Time Music” less than a year after his brother’s death, and it shaped his future for the next 50 years.

2) The sheer accumulation of moments over his career. He’s performed since the ’40s—think about how much music has changed over that time.

Reporters don’t often write headlines, but I wrote this one (“How Ralph Stanley overcame tragedy and the persistance of time to change country music”) for those two story points (& only partly for the Dali/Anthrax reference).

Read my story on Ralph Stanley at Noisey.

Rediscovering Spazz, 20 years later (Noisey)

During a short stint on the West Coast, I discovered the musical subgenre of power violence, defined by mostly short metallic hardcore songs that pushed the boundaries of crossover’s conventions.

I heard Spazz a few times during that period, but it wasn’t until recently that I dug more deeply into their catalogue. Fortunately, Slap a Ham Records (run by a band member) and, more recently, Tankcrimes, released collections of the band’s numerous EPs and comp tracks.

With the rerelease of 1997’s “Sweatin’ To The Oldies,” collecting 1993-1996, and 2001’s “Sweatin’ 3: Skatin’, Satan & Katon,” collecting 1995-1998, I interviewed two of the band’s three members to figure out why this music resonates so many years later.

Read the story and interview at Noisey.

Or read it at Vice Japan.

The shape of music to come, based on who wins the presidency (Noisey)

Presidents can shift the direction of art and culture by providing an inspiration, sometimes as a hostile response to whoever inhabits in the White House.

At the dawn of the Iowa Caucuses—and thus the start of the 2016 camapign in earnest—I charted the future of music under 15 different potential presidents.

Yes, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore is there.

Read my story at Noisey.

How Hip-Hop and Country Music Helped Aung San Suu Kyi Win Myanmar’s Historic Democratic Election (Noisey)

Feeding goats one night, I heard a reporter on a Foreign Policy podcast describe campaign trucks in Burma with boomboxes, dueling up and down roads.

Christian Caryl described the differing approaches between Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD and the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) when it came to campaign songs.”All of the parties here have these big trucks with boomboxes mounted on them in bright colors, and they ride back and forth up and down the street and they blast music,” Caryl said. “Sometimes you get these duels of the boomboxes. It’s very funny because the NLD —Aung San Suu Kyi’s party—has rap music. They have these very rollicking Nashville country tunes that celebrates Aung San Suu Kyi, too .”

That launched me down a wormhole of Youtube videos & stories about Burma/Myanmar’s historic elections.

I put what I brought back from that exploration into this story at Noisey.

Anna & Elizabeth’s new video for their cover of a centuries-old murder ballad will chill your blood (Noisey)

Lots of murder ballads lurk in the mountains of Appalachia, but the centuries-old “Greenwood Sidey” must rank near the top for creepiness.

Long story short: A woman kills her two newborns in a wood, only to have them return to haunt and condemn her to hell. This dark-as-night ditty was recorded in the Child Ballads collection, a 19th-century book of folk tunes from England and Scotland.

Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle, a pair of performers from the mountains of Vermont and Virginia, respectively, learned the song from Addie Graham, a ballad singer from eastern Kentucky. Their version is fragmented and sparse on details, leaving out many of the verses sung in European versions. Now, the duo have returned with an animated video for the tune that’ll make your blood run cold.

See the video & read the whole story at Noisey.