January 19, 2024
We Have a Date! April 12 is the long awaited release date for the Foster’s Satchel record, Over the River, Stephen Foster Reimagined. This has been a long term project with many fits and starts but we think the recording has turned out well and are anxious for people to hear it. Props to producer Mike Lecelisus for taking our raw, bare bones sound and turning it into something layered and interesting. Since we won’t be touring this will be a streaming release without CD or vinyl. That’s the way people are consuming music and we’re glad to make it available to all.
August 3, 2023
Delays, Oscar Micheaux and More. We're getting a lot of questions about the status of the Foster's Satchel record and all I can say is it's moving along at glacial pace and the delays are all on me. We spent over a year looking for the right keyboard player to finish things out and I can say without qualification it was worth the wait. Roger Fliege from the band One For the Roses has come in on six songs and both producer Mike Lescelius and I and are beyond delighted at what he did. He completely transformed the songs he played on. We've decided we're just going to try and make the best record we can, no matter how long it takes. I'd say we're 90% done and we'll schedule some shows around the release time.
I'm delighted to announce a historical maker celebrating the remarkable accomplishments of Oscar Micheaux will be dedicated on August 7th in Metropolis, Illinois, Micheaux's birthplace. And it sounds pretentious but I guess I'm at least partially responsible for this long overdue honor happening. Our band met Italian film director Francesco Zippel while performing our Micheaux show in Italy in 2010. Zippel was fascinated with Micheaux and had been trying to make a proper documentary for some time. Finally in 2021 he received funding from the Sky Network in Europe to make the movie he'd always wanted to do. He honored me by requesting I be interviewed for the film, and asked where I'd like to do the interview. I said Metropolis because I felt that part of his life often gets left out of the story. I called the mayor about a shoot location and he referred me to Reverend Orlando McReyonds of the First Missionary Baptist Church of Metropolis. The crew shot footage in the church, later used extensively in the film and I did my segment in their recreation center. After the terrific documentary came out, and was shown at Cannes, Reverend McReyonds began moving heaven and earth to get Micheaux recognition in the city. This culminated in a marker and official designation from the Illinois Historical society, also honoring entrepreneur Annie Turnbo Malone. I've been invited to the dedication and it's an great honor for me. Francesco's wonderful film is still airing on HBO Max and other outlets including Turner Classic Movies.
I'm going to drop in a couple of quotes about the event, one from director Francesco Zippel and the other from Patrick McGilligan, author of the fantastic and definitive Micheaux biography, "Oscar Micheaux, the Great and Only."
From Francesco: "The news that the town of Metropolis, Illinois, has decided to dedicate a plaque to Oscar Micheaux fills my heart with joy. For thirteen years of my life I have tried in every way to make my film about him and to give him, through a film, the visibility he deserved. It was an honor for me to climb the steps of the Cannes Film Festival to present "Oscar Micheaux The Superhero of Black Filmmaking" for the first time. I am sure and certain that Oscar will now be filled with joy in knowing that he can finally 'come back home' to his Metropolis. I hope soon to come and pay tribute to him in his hometown and personally thank all of you for this initiative that is as beautiful as it is sincerely due. Oscar Micheaux is a heritage of humanity and I will continue throughout my life to remember the lessons he left us with his life, his intelligence and his courage. A special thanks goes to my friend Stace England who has done so much all these years to keep Oscar's memory alive. Long live Oscar!!!"
From Patrick: "Oscar Micheaux, a real-life superhero forged in Metropolis, richly deserves the overdue recognition of a city historical marker. The kryptonite in his and every African-American's life was racism, but Micheaux fought prejudice against himself and in society, ingeniously, through his own trailblazing example and his body of work as an author and filmmaker. In an era when theaters, films, and Hollywood were segregated, Micheaux stood tall and acted boldly as the progenitor of black cinema."
February 24, 2022
Roberta On Deck. Screen Syndicate's first album, Roberta Stars In The Big Doll House, A Hollywood Story is set for release on all the streaming services March 4. Screen Syndicate is a non-touring studio band so don't expect to see us in your town unless it's something like a one show film festival. Hear the songs, check out the liner notes and song descriptions at the links. It's my favorite record we've ever done.
February 7, 2022
To the Max. Francesco Zippel's terrific new Oscar Micheaux documentary for Sky Network is showing this month on HBO Max, and it's really worth a view. It's the best piece I've ever seen on Micheaux's fascinating and important legacy. I'm in the film briefly as is some of our music from our record, "The Amazing Oscar Micheaux." Here's a link with more information.
January 28, 2022
Roberta is coming! March 4 is the official release date for Roberta Stars in the Big Doll House from our studio band Screen Syndicate. If you like Roger Corman, Pam Grier and Quentin Tarantino this record is for you. Maybe we can pull a Toto and tour after the album is out. It's a great show with clips from all of Roberta's films. Hear some song samples here.
January 21, 2022
It Begins - Finally! Great day in the studio last Saturday with Foster's Satchel working on our debut album. We were set to enter the studio in April of 2020 right before the initial round covid blew up, and with everyone's schedules it's taken this long to resume. The group laid down basic tracks for thirteen songs in about four hours, just total pros going at it in a rehearsed, relaxed environment. Mike Lescelius at Misunderstudio is again at the controls and producing. We're pleased with what we got done and look forward to keeping the production rolling.
November 23, 2021
Honey, got no money, I'm all sixes and sevens and nines, Say now baby I'm the . . . Super pleased to announce the Screen Syndicate record, Roberta Stars In The Big Doll House, will be released on Los Angeles based Rankoutsider Records run by legendary force of nature Pat Todd. The Salt Kings did other releases with RO and and it's a great organization and concept. Plus the record is a story of Hollywood so its very appropriate. We're looking forward to working with Pat and the crew!
November 18, 2021
Roberta Is Coming! After several years of fits and starts the debut album from our side project, Screen Syndicate, is finally getting a proper release early in 2022 (watch for the official date). The B-Movie rock opera, Roberta Stars In The Big Doll House is a celebration of the genius of Roger Corman, the influences of Quentin Tarantino and 1970's US drive in movie culture. Really I think it's the best record we ever did and a personal favorite. We'd done some experimenting several years ago with the record release format, throwing the project onto Soundcloud in one single file or song, which listeners found interesting but confusing. So a proper release to all the streaming services is in order and we look forward to more people being able to hear it.
October 5, 2021
OMG. I've never typed that in my life but that's the only way to describe my feelings visiting the Stephen Foster Memorial Museum and the Center for American Music in Pittsburgh today. The space itself is amazing but the priceless Foster artifacts are astonishing. The displays give a very balanced perspective on Foster's complicated life, and later the Director brought out items I never thought I'd see in person, including all four known original tintype photographs of Foster, the last note he scribbled in New York before his death and his small wallet with thirty eight cents, all the money he had in the world when he died. Ken Emerson's great book on Foster, Doo-dah!, ball parked his entire catalog value at one hundred million dollars in 1996, but one display methodically calculates that value at up to one billion dollars today. All Foster's songs are in the Public Domain and he and his family saw very little money from the work during and shortly after his lifetime. Golly what a great day in a beautiful city.
July 28, 2021
Yet Another Remarkable Honor. I've been asked to be the Master of Ceremonies for the Cairo Heritage Blues/Gospel Festival in September. It's a great honor and a culmination of my twenty plus year love affair with the city of Cairo, a place that taught me the real situation with race relations in the United States years ago and what it really means to be an American. It's a great line up and I'm really looking forward to it.
July 6, 2021
We're In The Capsule. In a year of remarkable firsts we've received word a CD copy of Greetings From Lawrence County Illinois has been placed in a time capsule to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the county. A fifty year old capsule was opened and the sealed capsule with our CD will be opened in fifty years. Boy you never know what is going to happen with music. It's a tremendous honor and we thank all those involved.
Jun 24, 2021
Viva Italia And More. We just got word that the new Oscar Micheaux documentary film from Italian director Francesco Zippel has been accepted at Cannes, one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world. It must have been my wonderful interview that put it over the top :). Never thought I'd be in a movie with Morgan Freeman and Chuck D. Life's little flukes. At any rate this is exciting news for Francesco and some of our music is featured in the documentary. Sure would be a nice road trip. Learn more here.
We continue to get many positive comments and nice streaming activity for Greetings From Lawrence County Illinois. The Collective is toying with the idea of playing live and trying to figure out a way that might work with a very busy group of musicians.
And, Foster's Satchel had its first practice in over a year a couple of weeks ago. Looking forward to more rehearsal and recording!
May 22, 2021
Greetings From Lawrence County Illinois Is Out! Flurry of nice activity around the record release yesterday. Wednesday Arvin Hawkins at WAKO Radio did a great interview with Debbie Rucker and Tony Akers, and you can hear that at this link. Plus they played WAKO Radio! Our dreams expressed in the song came true. We had a terrific piece in The Southern on Thursday, and writer Gary Gibula did a great overview and really understood what we were trying to do. Read it here. And Friday we had a lovey TV piece by Gary Brian on WTHI Channel 10 out of Terre Haute, Indiana. Watch it here. Onward and upward!
May 3, 2021
Greetings From Lawrence County Illinois out May 21! The Red Hills Music Collective has the release date for Greetings From Lawrence County Illinois and it's May 21 on all the streaming services. It's been a remarkable journey, from and idea and a few conversations to a true music collective with twelve tracks and numerous players and influences. Check it out on your favorite streaming service May 21. Listen to some samples here.
A huge thanks to Jason and Kayla at Riverlands Podcast for what is probably the best piece ever done on our music over all these years. They really took time to flesh stuff out and place it in context, and got what we did and what the band was all about. If you think there's no important journalism left check out all of their podcasts here and listen to the piece about about the Salt Kings here.
March 21 , 2021
It's a Bird It's a Plane . . . Great day today in Metropolis, Illinois where I traveled to be interviewed by a film crew from The Sky Network in Europe which is producing a documentary on pioneering African American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. Micheaux grew up in this southern Illinois city on the Ohio river. Our band the Salt Kings has had a long history with Micheaux, including our music CD release, "The Amazing Oscar Micheaux" and our film score for one of his most famous silent films, "Within Our Gates" which we performed at numerous film festivals in the US. The director of the new documentary, Francesco Zippel, filmed our band playing the show at the Salento Film Festival in Casarano, Italy in 2010. The day started filming a rousing church service at the First Missionary Baptist Church. A heartfelt thanks to Rev. Orlando McReynolds and his congregation for their gracious hospitality. Hopefully the documentary will be shown in the US at some point.
March 13 , 2021
A Good Time Was Had By All. Bassist Tony Akers made the trek to Misunderstudio in Murphysboro yesterday to re-track a few parts and nailed them in total pro fashion which was no surprise. He'd been sending his parts from home like everyone else and delightfully surprised me by asking if he and his lovely wife Becky could come down and do the parts in our local studio. Of course we responded with an emphatic YES! It was really nice to see them both and Tony delivered exactly what we needed. The entire Collective sure hopes we can play these songs together live sometime as the camaraderie is very strong across the board. Thanks Tony!
February 13 , 2021
Greetings From Lawrence County Illinois Nearing Completion. The Red Hills Music Collective's first recording project has moved along nicely and is almost finished. We've got a few tweaks and harmony vocals to add but it is close to being done. We're hearing about a lot of interest in the project and look forward to people listening.
Many very talented players are involved and I'll write a little about each in the months ahead. I want to give an initial and special shout out to Guy Ash, based in Bridgeport, Illinois. Guy has been doing a ton of heavy lifting, recording, engineering and producing some of the songs in addition to writing, singing lead and playing guitar, harmonica, bass, piano and drums on a few of the tracks! In comparison I feel like the guy in Cheech and Chong's Earache My Eye; "I only know three chords." The project could never have advanced without Guy's pivotal role. Plus, he's a terrific human being. I've never seen him without a smile on his face which tells you quite a bit about a person.
I had the pleasure of being interviewed this week by some folks from the Riverlands Podcast based in St. Louis. It's a really interesting project with the tagline, "where haunted history meets the weird and the monstrous." Some of my historically accurate, but dark music, particularly about Hickory Hill, or The Old Slave House in Gallatin County qualified for the program. Kayla and Jason we're really nice, engaging hosts and I look forward to see how they use our conversations.
January 30, 2021
Covid Covid Covid. Somebody else already said that. But, when life hands you the proverbial lemons you know what to do. I've really, really been enjoying our new Lawrence County Illinois themed project, The Red Hills Music Collective. We've ended up working with great people we haven't seen in years, renewing friendships and literally mailing the music back and forth to each other. Read more about the project on the home page. It's looking like a late spring release online via Spotify and all the other streaming sites. It turns out no one is buying CDs anymore under age fifty five, and though I quality as a CD purchaser it doesn't make much sense anymore. We can burn CDs for those who need them. Like my parents.
As for the other project Foster's Satchel, I miss playing with those guys and can't wait to get covid shots and start working again. We felt we had a really great live show going and maybe by summer we can start playing and begin recording the album again. We were excited about recording portions of the album at the magnificent Stafford Library in Cairo, Illinois. Hopefully we can resume those plans.