Don Blankenship has turned WV’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate into a 3-way race (New Republic)

When he first entered the West Virginia Republican primary for U.S. Senate, I kind of wrote off Don Blankenship’s campaign as an effort at rehabbing his image after a year in prison. But now, five weeks out from the primary election, it appears that the former apex predator of blood capitalism is in the hunt.

Read my story about Blankenship’s background & the current moment at The New Republic.

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.

How Roanoke reinvented itself by bringing housing to a fading downtown (CityLab)

In 1979, Roanoke was a blue-collar New South city built around the Norfolk & Western railroad. The city core was decaying as businesses and residents moved outward to suburbs and adjacent counties.

Today, the Star City has become what so many cities of its size, geography, and history want to be. It’s burgeoning, chock full of craft beer, and eminently welcoming to outdoorsy Millennials. As small cities struggle to retain young people, Roanoke is attracting them.

How did this happen? And what does downtown’s transformation mean for nearby neighborhoods like historic Gainsboro?

Read the full story at CityLab.

A city torn between new prosperity and entrenched poverty (Scalawag)

Roanoke has successfully reinvented itself from a gritty blue-collar railroad hub into a burgeoning, craft-beer soaked, millennial-friendly outdoor mountain town with a cool, freshly restored downtown.

In doing so it has become a model for small cities in Appalachia and the South looking to transcend outdated community narratives. But Roanoke still faces significant challenges in spreading that new prosperity to neighborhoods that have been hit by generations of segregation, deepening economic inequality, a powerful business class with outsized influence on city politics, & a legacy of disruption via urban renewal.

Roanoke’s challenges are those of many other New South towns that also struggle with historic economic immobility. I wrote for Scalawag about the Star City’s struggles, largely through the past and present of its public schools.

End of an era for Roanoke’s historic LGBTQ bars (Munchies/Vice)

For more than three decades the Park + Backstreet Cafe were cornerstones of Roanoke’s gay bar scene. Hell, it wasn’t just LGBT folks, either: When I moved to Roanoke in 2003, punk bands would drink at the Backstreet, go down & play a show at then-boozeless Factory 324 (former Iroquois), and then half the crowd would go to dance afterward at the Park.

The Park continues to operate as a dance club, but the ownership changes there in 2015 + this year’s change from the Backstreet Cafe into the Front Row mark the end of a particular era for Roanoke’s gay bars, and the beginning of something new.

I wrote about the history & changes for Vice’s Munchies.

Unsolved mysteries of the Blue Ridge (Blue Ridge Outdoors)

Statistically, crime in public wildlands is relatively rare. Most crime there tends to be vandalism or illegal dumping. As is the case with crime generally, violent crime on public lands tends to be domestic, occurring between people who know each other.

But occasionally something bad happens. Unsolved mysteries on public wildlands grip our imaginations, in part because they took place at the places we play.

For Blue Ridge Outdoors, I looked at unsolved homicides and a mysterious disappearance. Read the story here.

How a nickel worth $3 million hid in Roanoke for 40 years (The Roanoker)

Here’s a story for The Roanoker about the best story I ever wrote for The Roanoke Times. It led to the discovery, 41 years after it was lost, of a rare nickel that later sold at auction for $3+ million.

Ostensibly, the story is about the Walton Specimen, one of five 1913 Liberty Head Nickels. It’s really about George Walton, though, and his unforgettable contribution to Star City lore.

Read the story at the Roanoker.

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.