Video by NaturalistNotebook, posted at YouTube

T. S. Eliot could hardly have been more on the mark in observing “April is the cruelest month.” Indeed, last month our country lost three giants in quick succession, when death came to WILMA MANKILLER, DR. BENJAMIN HOOKS and DR. DOROTHY HEIGHT. All three had earned the highest honor accorded civilians in the U.S., the Presidential Medal of Freedom (Dr. Height in 1994, Ms. Mankiller in 1998, Dr. Hooks in 2007), all three had made a difference not only in the lives of our black and Native American populations, but for all Americans, by never yielding in their vision of a multicultural, inclusive society as the strongest society.

In this issue, we pay tribute to Ms. Mankiller, Dr. Hooks and Dr. Height, in our words and theirs, and in videos in which they speak for themselves better than anyone else could.

Ms. Mankiller requested that any gifts in her honor be made as donations to One Fire Development Corp., a nonprofit dedicated to advancing Native American communities though economic development, and to valuing the wisdom that exists within each of the diverse tribal communities around the world. Tax-deductible donations can be made at, as well as www.onefiredevelop The mailing address for One Fire Development Corp. is 1220 Southmore, Houston, Texas, 77004.

By David McGee

Corralling the fire and fury of Flood, Moreland & Arbuckle take their incendiary, blues-based message to the masses, proving en route that sometimes a cigar box is more than a cigar box. Talking about changes for the good, in business and in music, since we last spoke with the Kansas hill country duo for our June 2008 cover story. Also, their account of a stirring trip overseas, to entertain U.S. troops stationed in Kuwait and in Iraq, and visiting injured soldiers in the field hospitals. ‘It was a powerful set of emotions at work then,’ Aaron Moreland says. ‘It reaffirmed the power of music.’

By David McGee

Do not be deceived. With the release of their fourth album, The Famous Lefty Flynn’s, the Grascals—Jamie Johnson (guitar, vocals), Terry Eldredge (guitar, vocals), Terry Smith (bass, vocals), Danny Roberts (mandolin), Kristin Scott Benson (banjo), Jeremy Abshire (fiddle)—are making exceptional music sound easy. In fact, though, the quintet’s seemingly routine virtuosity as singers and players is, like so many things that seem simple on the outside, the product of rigorous discipline and flat-out hard work.

She’s now an 18-year-old freshman at Berklee (where she’s playing in a Gypsy Jazz ensemble), still a touring musician, a Rounder recording artist with her second album nearly completed, and star of a new mandolin instructional DVD. Catching up with one of contemporary roots music’s best and brightest young artists. (Photo by Gabe Nelson)


By JC Costa

Jeff Beck is back, and it wouldn’t be unfair or clichéd to say, “and better than ever.” Which is pretty much what our correspondent JC COSTA found when he dug into the guitar god’s new album, Emotion and Commotion, and went back to 2007’s Performing This Week…Live at Ronnie Scott’s for added perspective. Verdict: ‘When all is said and done, Jeff Beck may not have the same long-term legacy associated with Clapton, Page and Hendrix, but anyone who plays guitar stands in awe of his talent and vision. Unlike all others, the guitar is in him.’


This month, May 28 to be precise, marks the 100th birthday of Aaron Thibeaux Walker, better known to history as T-BONE WALKER of Linden, Texas, the first and in many estimations—including that of B.B. King—still the greatest of all electric blues guitarists. We honor T-Bone’s life and legacy in this issue with several special features, including:
*B.B. KING, from his autobiography, describing the impact T-Bone’s guitar playing and songs had on him as a young musician on his way up (‘I Felt T-Bone Leading Me Into The Future’).
*DUKE ROBILLARD, the foremost T-Bone acolyte after B.B., discussing the intricacies and singularities of the Walker playing style, as well as offering a fond recollection of how first hearing T-Bone’s songs provided both a direction for him and a clarion call to educate himself with regard to the breadth and depth of history embodied and articulated in Walker’s music.
*Check out our “Listener’s Guide,” which also includes videos of two powerful influences on T-Bone’s approach to guitar, BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON and, in an elegant live performance in which he is introduced by Sonny Boy Williamson and backed by an awesome band comprised of Otis Spann, Willie Dixon and John Jackson, LONNIE JOHNSON.
*And why not hear from T-Bone himself? In one of the many superb interviews in their essential book, The Voice of the Blues: Classic Interviews from Living Blues Magazine, JIM O’ NEALand AMY von SINGEL go one-on-one with T-Bone.
*And not least of all, this month’s VIDEO FILE is a mini-concert by T-Bone, comprised of seven choice live performances from the 1960s. Happy birthday, T-Bone!

Kent State & Jackson State: A 40th Anniversary Rememberance

On May 4, 1970, on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio, four students were shot dead by National Guardsmen during a Vietnam War protest. On May 14 and 15, Jackson State College students in Jackson, MS, protesting the war and the entrenched racism they encountered every day, were assaulted by armed police and state patrolmen, to the tune of 460 shots fired at them in less than a minute. When it was over, two lay dead, a dozen wounded. And in neither tragedy was anyone ever held accountable or brought to justice. In this month’s issue, we look back on the events of 40 years ago. Our coverage features several videos containing contemporaneous footage from the campuses and includes:
*‘I Lost Something At Jackson State Which Could Never Be Returned’: An account of the events of May 14-15, 1970, at Jackson State College (now University), and their aftermath, ending on the positive note of the son and the sister of the two slaying victims earning their degrees at Jackson State in 1995 and 1999, respectively.
*Kent State, Jackson State, Those Tin Soldiers and Nixon’s Coming by David McGee—A student and SDS member at the time of the Kent State and Jackson State massacres, our editor looks back on those frightful days and tries to find a reason to believe.
*A Reckoning at Kent StateFamily members of those killed have initiated the Kent State Truth Tribunal to preserve and honor the stories of those whose lives have been touched by this tragedy. The Truth Tribunal will generate the only comprehensive historical record and live archive of the Kent State massacre. The tribunal will take place for four consecutive days, mirroring the events of 1970, and held at Franklin Square Deli Building, corner of Water & Main Streets, 110 S. Water Street, in downtown Kent, Ohio on May 1, 2, 3 and 4, 2010. Full details here.
*May 4, 1970: Four Dead In Ohio by wynn1960. On August 20, 2009, wynn1960 posted a homemade video honoring slain Kent State student Allison Krause and an emotional, self-penned tribute explaining that ‘the reason Allison Krause is such a large figure in my life is because of her youth, beauty and how men dressed up as soldiers could just shoot her down for saying what she believed to be true. Of course we now know, all these years later, that what she believed was true.’

By Laura Fissinger

This month our columnista turns her TV eye on ‘Addicts, Compulsives, Hoarders, and We Who Watch,’ as she takes the measures of several new docu-TV shows focusing on substance abuse and compulsive behaviors, including Hoarders, Addicted, Intervention, Hoarding: Buried Alive, Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew and Sober House with Dr. Drew.

A member of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers and also an agribusiness author/blogger. ALEX TILLER writes about commercial farming, family farms, organic food production, sustainable agriculture, the local food movement, alternative renewable energy, hydroponics, agribusiness, farm entrepreneurship, and farm economics and farm policy. In this month’s focus is HR 875, the so-called "Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009,” which Tilller describes as “a one size fits all piece of vague legislation that threatens to take control away from small family farmers—and doesn’t do a damn thing about food safety.” In the second part of his blog, “Fowl Play In An Idaho Town,” our blogging farmer looks at a growing trend he supports wholeheartedly: “People taking control of their food supply by raising chickens in their back yards.” Advises Tiller: “Yes, it's a lot of time and trouble, and you may have to fight with the city council—but trust me, it's well worth it.”

A Book Blog by Jules

This month our relentless book blogger JULES, undaunted by a stomach virus, visits with ELISHA COOPER, whose new picture book, Farm, is, says Jules, “a detailed, intimate look at a contemporary farm, one that looks at modern family farms with a clear eye and with great reverence. It’s luminous is what it is.” For those readers who might be considering our Blogging Farmer Alex Tiller’s advice on raising chickens in your back yard, Cooper’s book may prove indispensable for getting you in the spirit of things.

Ulisse Aldrovandi on Chickens

Ever wonder how folks in 17th Century Europe regarded eggs as edibles? One of the giants of ornithology, ULISSE ALDROVANDI, writing in 1577 A.D., clued us in.


As long as Alex Tiller is writing about chickens, Jules is spotlighting a book about farm animals, including chickens, and Ulisse Aldrovandi is weighing in on the same subject from the Renaissance years, we felt it only right and proper that we ask the timeless question, “Why did the chicken cross the road.” From Google’s 14-million-plus pages of respondes to said question, plus a few of our own devising, we offer some answers, from the depths of history.


In the first part of a ten-part project, Jewish Daily Forward artist-in-residence JEREMIAH LOCKWOOD, leader of the band The Sway Machinery, collaborated with Broadway star Sahr Ngaujah to reinterpret an 18th century Hasidic nigun, or a song without words. As Lockwood explains in this essay, “These songs could raise their spirits, transform the mundane into the holy and create moments of devekus, literally “cleaving,” where the soul is elevated toward the divine. In the traditional Jewish hierarchy of spiritual achievement, the study of Torah is the supreme value. Rabbi Yisroel Ben Eliezer, also known as the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, understood that talmudic scholarship was accessible to many but soul-colored melody was accessible to all.”

Karl Rove Describes Alternate Universe in New Book
By Michael Sigman

Karl Rove, who orchestrated George W. Bush’s two presidential campaigns and was White House politician-in-chief until deep into W’s second term, isn’t batty like Beck or vacuous like Palin. But, as he (often inadvertently) demonstrates in his oddly-named new book Courage and Consequences, Rovian truth-twisting played a crucial role in undermining whatever common ground used to underpin political discussion in America.

‘Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses’ by Mark Twain

Marking the 100th year since the death of the man William Faulkner called ‘the father of American literature,’ we honor MARK TWAIN with this reprint of one of his most fabled exercises in literary criticism, when he took on James Fenimore Cooper’s Deerslayer novel and found it wanting, to the tune of ‘114 offenses against literary art out of a possible 115.’ With illustrations by N.C. WYETH, from the 1925 Scribner’s edition of Deerslayer.

By Billy Altman

DUSTY SPRINGFIELD, THE SMALL FACES, HERMAN’S HERMITS, GERRY & THE PACEMAKERS represent the first volumes in a series of DVDs chronicling the British Invasion of the mid-1960s.

By JC Costa

On a live album released last year and a brand-new studio album, JEFF BECK demonstrates why he is without peer when he has a guitar in his hands.

Reunited, And It Feels So Good

This past September the Gaither Vocal Band inaugurated a new era with the release of Reunited, and a fine start it was. In January a visual record of the reunion came forth in the form of a like-titled DVD. But it’s not a DVD version of the album; only a few songs from the CD are part of the repertoire performed in front of a packed house at San Antonio’s beautiful, historical Majestic Theatre. Working with a full band and horn section, Bill Gaither, Michael English, Wes Hampton, David Phelps and the irrepressible Mark bring down the house with the distinctive mix of personality, passion and musicality common to all Gaither projects.


*Really Most Sincerely…
His name did not appear on the screen when credits rolled at the end of The Wizard of Oz, but Meinhardt Raabe’s
13-second appearance in the 1938 movie as the Munchkin coroner pronouncing the Wicked Witch of the East “really most sincerely dead”—after averring that he “thoroughly examined her”—earned the Wisconsin native a permanent place in pop culture history and the affection of generations of fans that may never have known his name until his death on April 9 made the news and spurred endless TV repeats of the memorable scene in which the Coroner, attired in a costume that included dyed yak hair used to make a handlebar mustache and long beard and a huge hat with a rolled brim, assures Dorothy of Kansas, and the assembled multitude of Singer Midgets, that the feared Witch has gone to her just reward.

*’Everyone Was In Awe of Her’: Remembering WILMA MANKILLER
By Rob Capriociosso

*’I Want To Be Remembered As One Who Tried’

*’Our brothers and sisters are crying to us, ‘Is anyone listening? Does anyone care?’’


DAVID BALL, Sparkle City—Upon visiting the Land of Oz, Dorothy Gale observed, early on in her journey, “My, people come and go so fast around here!” Well, people come and go so fast in David Ball’s Sparkle City, too, but mostly because they know they belong by themselves, and have well-honed antennae to tell them it’s time to leave.

AUDIE BLAYLOCK & REDLINE, Cryin’ Heart Blues—One hesitates to say “third time’s the charm” when an artist has been as honored and critically acclaimed as has Audie Blaylock, but on this, indeed his third album, second with the sterling band Redline, he’s settled into a traditional bluegrass style full of energy and soul to burn that sounds as durable as the music itself has been over time.

ELIZABETH COOK, WelderThe title of Elizabeth Cook’s welcome fifth album refers both to her father’s chosen profession and a personal transformation of her own. It’s hard to discern much difference in the artist here and the one we heard on her superb fourth album, Balls (source of her signature song to date, “It Takes Balls To Be A Woman”), produced by Rodney Crowell, but if it’s a matter of degrees it’s in the sound of an artist both more resolute and more vulnerable.

DIRTY RIVER, Graveyard TrainIf the Grascals, Blue Highway, Dailey & Vincent, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, the Del McCoury Band and such come at their listeners with the force of mighty waters, the relative newcomers out of Washington, D.C. known as Dirty River are more like the genre’s rippling stream. The quintet’s debut album, centered on the John Fogerty song “Graveyard Train,” is admirable on many levels, not least of them the measured, easygoing pace it maintains from start to finish. It coerces and caresses, but is never too persistent on either count. Dirty River sounds like a band that knows itself, is comfortable in its collective skin, and suggests the listener either accept it on those terms or find other means to entertain yourself.

GREAT AMERICAN TAXI, Reckless HabitsNot heard from on record since 2007, the quintet formed by Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon and Chad Staehly makes its return a moment to celebrate fine songwriting, inspired playing, personable singing, a warm, welcoming spirit and the sheer joy of sharing tall tales, good times and a smidgen of heartbreak with fans new and old.

TRAMPLED BY TURTLES, PalominoLet no one accuse Minnesota’s Trampled By Turtles of going gently into any good night. Palomino, the band’s fifth album, explodes with intense feeling, an in-your-face urgency about its message, and dazzling, emotionally charged playing by the acoustic quintet.


CHRISTINE OHLMAN, The Deep EndThe Deep End insists on telling the truth until it alters perceptions of love and loss and how it all works, especially when it falls apart so tragically as that which produced this work of art. Here comes the sun, healing and transcendent.

SHAKURA S’AIDA, Brown SugarBeing the sporting type, Shakur S’Aida practices her own style of “catch and release” program on her male prey, enjoying the art of the pursuit, appreciating the pleasure of the conquest, then letting the prize go, to swim another day. No men are harmed in the process, and the female of the species moves on to more abundant waters.

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Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
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Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024