This week I’ll hit the road to talk about John Prine: In Spite of Himself in the North Carolina mountains, then return home to Greensboro this weekend to talk about it some more – with some friends helping out in Greensboro by singing a few Prine songs. I’ll be in good company from the highlands to the Piedmont, yakking with veteran musicians and producers Jim Rooney and Chris Stamey, as well as authors Elaine Neil Orr and Emily Edwards.
Up first is the annual conference for the Southeast Regional Folk Alliance, which takes place in Montreat, N.C., May 16 – 20. At 4 p.m. Thursday I will have the great honor of joining Jim Rooney for a panel called “Writing About Folk Music.” Prine fans will recognize Rooney as co-producer of some of the singer’s finest albums, including Aimless Love, German Afternoons, John Prine Live, In Spite of Ourselves, and For Better, or Worse. He also managed the legendary Club 47 in Cambridge in the mid ’60s, served as director of the Newport Folk Festival, and produced the first New Orleans Jazz Festival 50 years ago. Rooney’s memoir, In It for the Long Run: A Musical Odyssey, is an entertaining and enlightening look back over an incredibly diverse career.
My adopted hometown will host the first Greensboro Bound Literary Festival May 17 – 20, featuring such luminaries as Daniel Pink, Naima Coster, Stacy McAnulty, Carmen Maria Machado, Kevin Powers, Beth Macy, Nikki Giovanni, and John T. Edge. I will participate in two events on Saturday. At 2 p.m., a panel on writing memoirs and biographies will pair me with Elaine Neil Orr, author of the 2003 memoir Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life. She also wrote the novels A Different Sun and Swimming Between Worlds – the latter set in Winston-Salem in the 1960s.
A musical event will help close out the festivities Saturday night. At 8:30 p.m. I will join Chris Stamey, legendary musician and producer. Highlights of his long and varied career include co-founding the dB’s, power-pop pioneers from Winston-Salem by way of Hoboken; releasing a series of acclaimed solo albums; and producing albums for Whiskeytown, Alejandro Escovedo, Tres Chicas, and others. He recently published a memoir, A Spy in the House of Loud: New York Songs and Stories. It’s part of the same American Music Series from the University of Texas Press that produced my book.
After a brief Q&A with me, Stamey will read from his book and play some songs, accompanied by cello and violin. Then Emily Edwards and I will read from our books and offer up music courtesy of our friends Sam Frazier, Big Ron Hunter, and the duo of Skip Staples and Bob Costner. Edwards’s second book, Bars, Blues, and Booze: Stories from the Drink House, was published by the University Press of Mississippi. I wrote about it in 2016 for UNCG’S Research magazine.
By the way – the Greensboro Bound events are all free! See you there.