10 Cookbooks by Musicians (Sort Of)

Some years ago while I was finishing graduate school, a friend gave me a Patti Labelle cookbook. She knew I liked good food, and she knew I liked good music. I thought, “that’s nice,” shelved it (because graduate school), and didn’t think about it much until two years ago. That’s when the Southern Foodways Alliance asked me to write a blog series on the intersection of food and music in southern culture. When I started to brainstorm posts, I began to[Read more]

This Week in American Music: May 16

This week, I was happy to see this Pop Matters article about a new book by respected historians Doug Seroff and Lynn Abbott. Awhile back, Seroff did some great research into the Black gospel quartet tradition of Birmingham, Alabama. He also collaborated with Abbott on the excellent collection of primary sources called Out of Sight: The Rise of African American Popular Music, 1889-1895. Seroff and Abbott are back again with a book titled The Original Blues: The Emergence of the Blues in African American Vaudeville. The book[Read more]

Not by Bread Alone: Gospel Quartets & Food Sponsorships

On Christmas Eve, 1926, the radio jingle was born, in a sudden and unequivocal fashion few historical phenomena can claim, when a male quartet crooned the question “Have You Tried Wheaties?” to a Minneapolis-St. Paul audience. The song extols the cereal’s virtues through advertising’s classic cocktail of fact (“they’re whole wheat with all of the bran”) and overreach (“wheat is the best food of man”). The tune is arranged in the lockstep harmony and uniform rhythm characteristic of early barbershop styles. It’s actually[Read more]

This Week in American Music: May 8

A few recent dispatches from across the various genres and styles to which we can affix the label “American music”: Blurring the line between the “real” world of country music and the constructed version of it presented on the television show Nashville, Charles Esten (who plays songwriter Deacon Claiborne on the show) will host the 2017 CMA Awards. Remember last week’s news update, which mentioned the upcoming Jack White/T. Bone Burnett documentary American Epic? Turns out the film will be accompanied by a 100-song soundtrack.[Read more]

Eating and Listening: A Summer Playlist

Food and music cross paths daily in our lives–often inelegantly, and typically unobserved. Since May marks the unofficial start of picnicking season, this month American Soundscapes will focus on intersections between food and music in southern culture. Stay tuned for articles, playlists, and a roundup of cookbooks written by musicians. To start us off, check out food-themed playlist for your next picnic or dinner party. It skews pretty heavily towards early blues and jazz–partly because I’m a fan of that stuff, but also because those styles were notorious for[Read more]

This Week in American Music (May 1)

Here are some of the events, performances, media releases, and stories related to American music that caught my attention over the past few weeks. CNN’s Soundtracks series looks at historical moments through the lens of the songs associated with significant times, places, and events in recent U.S. history. I haven’t had a chance to watch any of it, but I’m always curious about shows like this: who acts as the aesthetic gatekeeper and decides what constitutes a moment-defining song? What criteria are they drawing[Read more]

Corn From a Jar

Note: as you may have noticed last week, I’ve had country music on the brain–maybe because I live in Nashville, which is highly relevant to today’s post! While I’m on a maternity break, I’ll be re-running some older pieces. A version of this one originally appeared on the blog of the Southern Foodways Alliance. Enjoy! In recent years, country radio has broadcast an endless and dreary litany of songs promoting a hegemonic, collective, and mythical rural Southern identity. Recently I started listening hard for where[Read more]

National Museum of African American Music Breaks Ground in Nashville

Good news for those awaiting the country’s first museum dedicated solely to African American music: groundbreaking occurred April 18 at the Bridgestone Pavilion in Nashville. In a recent Nashville Channel 5 news report, the newly-approved design was unveiled. The groundbreaking anticipates the Museum’s annual gala luncheon on June 1st, which will honor Patti LaBelle and Kirk Franklin, among others. The museum, which will reside in a multi-use complex in downtown Nashville, is scheduled to open in 2019. Curators and other staff have[Read more]