Category Archives: Arts

Another Conversation With Nathaniel Popkin

After Nathaniel Popkin first appeared on Life Elsewhere in 2018 to talk about his novel, Everything Is Borrowed we didn’t hesitate to invite the Philadelphia-based author back. Then, in response to the American political crisis, the movement, Writers Resist proved a renewed interest amongst writers in political discourse and prompted Stephanie Feldman and Popkin to co-edit, Who Will Speak For America? The eloquent and intellectually curios Nathaniel Popkin returned to our show to discuss the anthology. Now Nathaniel is back to talk about his latest work of fiction – set against the backdrop of 1976 Philadelphia, The Year Of The Return follows the path of two families, the Jewish Silks and African American Johnsons, as they are first united by marriage and then by grief, turmoil, and the difficult task of trying to live in an America failing to live up to its ideals. Both hyper-real and feverishly imagined, and told in the unfiltered voices of the characters themselves, Popkin summons the electric dimensions of racial conflict, sexual liberty, and economic collapse during America’s post-Vietnam urban meltdown. Paul Silk and Charlene Johnson are journalists whose love for each other and commitment to social justice were formed in the peace movements of the 1960s. But the idealism of that era leads to the urban deterioration of the 1970s. Mayor Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia is a place of crime, white flight, and class resentment that is inhospitable to their interracial marriage, forcing them to move away. But when Charlene dies of cancer, Paul returns. Unmoored and unable to let go of Charlene, he wades back into the lives of the two families, with the hope of helping Charlene’s younger brother Monte, once a prodigy and now a troubled veteran of the Vietnam War. Their explosive reunion leads to the baring of personal revelations and dangerous secrets. This is a vivid story of families trying to reconnect with and support each other through trauma and loss, and a meditation on the possibility of moving on to a better future. We are delighted to welcome Nathaniel Popkin back to Life Elsewhere.

Plus new music from Felicia Douglass and Eric Gundel out Brooklyn who perform under the moniker, Gemma. You’ll hear Love Trade from Feeling’s Not A Tempo, their latest album, which we highly recommend. Montreal-based, multi-talented singer-songwriter, Sarah Krier gives us Wrap from her new long-player, Avoidable Injuries. Digital Vagabond hail from Denver, Colorado, Patrick Boyle is the composer, producer, and knob-twiddler on The Tyndall Effect, featuring Carly Lynn Meador aka Spirah on vocals. 

And, Norman B voices an opinion on guns, he first aired on a talk radio show in the early ’80s.

Show #336

Portrait by Peter Woodall

Summer Rayne Oakes. J Ryan Stradal. Gafacci.

“Is taking care of plants the best way to take care of yourself?” This question posed by Summer Rayne Oakes is creatively answered in her new book, How to Make a Plant Love You: Cultivate Green Space in Your Home and Heart. She explores ways to elevate the common potted plant from a decorative object that makes one’s space “look good” to a gateway to something deeper. “Taking care of other living things is a basic human need.” Says, Summer, “Without exercising care for others, we become stuck in own heads, anxious, lonely, and unreceptive to beauty. Becoming a good plant parent can radically open your mind. Watering plants, listening to their needs, and breathing in their scents can mold you into a more mindful and caring person.” The urban houseplant expert and environmental scientist wants to bring nature indoors, Summer has managed to grow 1,000 houseplants in her Brooklyn apartment (and they are thriving). Her secret? She approaches her relationships with plants as intentionally as if they were people.

J Ryan Stradal, the author of the best-selling, Kitchens Of The Great Midwest returns to Life Elsewhere to talk about his latest novel, The Lager Queen Of Minnesota. Edith Magnusson’s rhubarb pies are famous in the Twin Cities–they were named the third-best in the state of Minnesota and St. Anthony-Waterside Nursing Home has quickly become the hottest dinner ticket in town. Still, she lays awake wondering how her life might have been different if her father hadn’t left their family farm to her sister Helen, a decision that split their family in two. With the proceeds from the farm, her sister, Helen Blotz, built her husband Orval’s family soda business into the top-selling brewery in Minnesota. She singlehandedly created the light beer revolution and made their corporate motto ubiquitous: “Drink lots, it’s Blotz.” But Helen dismisses IPAs as a fad, and the Blotz fortune begins its inevitable decline. Soon, though, she finds a potential savior that’s surprisingly close to home. . .Diana Winter earns a shot at learning the beer business from the ground up just as the IPA revolution begins. The stakes couldn’t be higher: just as she’s launching her own brewpub, she’s due to deliver a baby girl. When the unthinkable happens, it’s up to Grandma Edith–and a delightfully surprising cadre of grandmother friends–to secure the next generation’s chances for a better future. Can Grandma Edith’s Rhubarb Pie In A Bottle Ale save Diana’s fledgling brewery, and change their hearts and fortunes forever?

Also in the show, we go to Accra, Ghana to hear new music from Gafacci. The beat-maker is known for his unique sounds and infusing afro rhythms into his electronic-based instrumentals.  This Ghanaian style is called aokpor directly influenced by his father, Sega Gafatche, a former band member of juju music legend, Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey. On Gafacci’s new four-track EP, Tash BNM, (meaning Tash bought new music) he collaborates with vocalists Tinuke, Lazee, and Amaarae. Listen, enjoy and dance!

Show #335

A Conversation With Wreckless Eric

His songwriting ability should not be ignored. From the poignant quest for the love of the perfect woman in his 1977 seminal hit, Whole Wide World to the sharp autobiographical, Father To The Man from his recent album, Transience. And, his musicianship should not be underestimated. As demonstrated throughout his career on numerous recordings, not least of all, Transience where his savvy as a true rock and roll guitarist, arranger and producer is in full effect. He is Eric Goulden, better known as Wreckless Eric, a frequent guest on Life Elsewhere. In an excellent review of Transience for Soundblab, Howard Scott closes with this, “It has been brought to my attention that many people in Britain count Wreckless Eric as a one-hit-wonder from decades ago. I find that not only strange but somewhat tragic. Apparently, too many people just weren’t listening to what was being offered, for a myriad of reasons.  From what I have managed to absorb Goulden’s long career, he is still improving with age, and the best just may be still to come. If life was as fair as we would all like it to be, Wreckless Eric should be a national treasure.” Well said, Howard. In A Conversation With Wreckless Eric, we discuss Transience, Eric tells stories, and, he recounts how hard the past year had been for him with the death of his mother. “I had to do something.” Says Eric, “So I made this album.” In all the times Eric has appeared on the show, we have come to expect his commentaries will be forthright, sometimes blunt. This time, Eric reflects on life and death, yet he is animated and seemingly optimistic. The conversation is hardly ever morbid as Eric easily throws in a witty comment here or a sardonic observation there. “I’ve lived my life in episodes.” Announces Eric. Thankfully, we were able to document his latest.

Show #334

Reggae + Passion = Brighton

Brighton is a seaside resort on the south coast of England, located 47 miles south of London. Archaeological evidence of settlement in the area dates back to the Bronze Age, Rome and Anglo-Saxon periods. The area underwent various stages of development throughout the centuries, eventually becoming a fashionable seaside resort in the Georgian era, encouraged by the patronage of the Prince Regent, later King George IV. With the arrival of railways in 1847, Brighton became a popular destination for day-trippers from London. The town continued to grow in the 20th century and become renowned for its diverse communities, quirky shopping areas, large cultural, arts and music scenes. Perfect then, for the home-base of Roots Garden which began storming Brighton’s club night scene in 1995 by presenting authentic Reggae sound system culture. Roots Garden’s passion and dedication to representing the very best of Reggae music and its many branches have secured its name as an integral part of Brighton’s musical landscape. Established in 2005, Roots Garden Records represents many of the talented artists, musicians and producers had been club favorites over the years. Working closely alongside pioneering UK Dub/Reggae Producer, Nick Manasseh, the label has released music with the cream of the crop of Jamaican and British artists and musicians including, Johnny Osbourne, Earl 16, Cate Ferris, Luciano, Danny Red, Johnny Clarke, Richie Phoe, Dark Angel, Jah Mali, Brother Culture, Vin Gordon, Freddie McGregor, Josey Wales, Bob Skeng, and Tiawa and more.

Nick Manasseh & Tiawa in the studio

In the next edition of Life Elsewhere we welcome Roots Garden label honcho, Jon Jones, Reggae Producer, Nick Manasseh, and upcoming singer-songwriter, Tiawa. The trio select exemplary cuts from their label – Earl 16, Vin Gordon, Danny Red, Cate Ferris, and Tiawa. Make sure you listen carefully to Tiawa talk about her new release, Pain Killa. “People think it’s about love…a love song. It’s not a love song!” She insists. “It’s about dealing with the world we live in.” We were already bowled over with Tiawa’s superb recording, and Nick’s creative production, now after hearing her impassioned explanation we are raving. Our conversation with Jon, Nick, and Tiawa explores their passion for Reggae, how Roots Garden came about, making Reggae music, and why they love Brighton.

The Podcast is available at NPR One, Apple Podcasts & Mixcloud

Sundays 12 noon ET at The Source WMNF HD3
Sundays 10.00am ET at WNRM The Root
Mondays 5.00pm PT & Wednesdays 2.00pm PT at 
NWCZ Radio
Thursdays 6.00pm ET at Internet Radio Network
Fridays at 9.00pm GMT on Cornucopia Radio

Life Elsewhere Music airs:
Sundays 11.00am ET at 
WNRM The Root
Wednesdays at 3.00pm Pacific Time on 
NWCZ Radio
Fridays at 10.00am Eastern Time on IRN
Cornucopia Radio airs Life Elsewhere Music throughout each week
You can hear all the volumes over at Mixcloud

Show #333

A Conversation With John Robb

He sports an impeccably-coiffed mohawk. In photos, he often appears shirtless or exposing his impressive ripped torso and well-defined biceps. Cameras always catch a striking scowl on an arresting-yet-handsome face. And, his unfiltered Lancashire brogue suggests you better not ask, “Sorry, what did you say?” As it happens, John Robb has a lot to say. He has experienced so much and he wants to share his thoughts, so…you better listen. Not because his stern visage is intimidating, but because John is a charming, polite and knowledgable man. Pick a topic, any topic and Mr. Robb will offer up a well-considered commentary.

Inspired by the DIY ethic of the punk scene, 16-year-old John Robb co-founded  The Membranes in his hometown of Blackpool, Lancashire, in 1977.  The energy he displayed then, is still in full effect today.  On June 6,  The Membranes released What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away, a double album deservedly receiving generous praise from critics and fans alike. Taking time out from his busy schedule, John chatted to Norman B about the new album, reflected on making music, the story of The Membranes, rock and roll, and selected cuts to play on Life Elsewhere. Make sure you don’t miss this entertaining conversation with one of rock music’s most eloquent voices.

portrait of John Robb by John Middleham

Show #332

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