Interview: William Shatner Has ‘The Blues’

As Captain James T. Kirk on the television show Star Trek, William Shatner went “where no man has gone before.” Shatner has had a long successful career since his days of space exploration on television, and the now 89-year-old star has never been without work as he stays busy acting, producing and directing, writing screenplays and authoring books. Recently Shatner has appeared as the host of “The UnXplained” on the History Channel, a program where he is also the executive producer. And while he was once and is again associated with the mysterious and the unknown, Shatner’s latest project is something completely down to earth — an album of blues music simply called The Blues

Photo courtesy of Cleopatra Records

The Blues is a star-studded event as Shatner has, on every song but one, a famous player featuring on guitar. Among the well-known ax-slingers are James Burton, Albert Lee, Steve Cropper, Ronnie Earl, Sonny Landreth and country music star Brad Paisley. From the rock world, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Pat Travers and Ritchie Blackmore and his wife Candice Night also appear. The guests contribute to a set that features covers of classics like “Sweet Home Chicago,” “Smokestack Lightnin’,” “Crossroads,” “Mannish Boy,” and “The Thrill is Gone.” Shatner called from his home in California to give American Blues Scene the lowdown on The Blues.

Kevin Wierzbicki: Are you having a beautiful bluesy morning?

I am! I’m filled with the joy of the blues. It’s kind of an oxymoron, but what are you gonna do? 

You’ve been a fan of the blues for a long time. In your earliest appreciation of the music, was there a particular artist or concert or recording that really got you interested in the genre?

I can’t think of somebody who might of … you know the blues is a strange venue. It crosses over, so you might say “I like that blues song” and somebody else will say “that isn’t blues, that’s rock ‘n’ roll, or jazz.” I love music, and the bane of my life is that I’m not a classical tenor. So I’ve tried to make music in various ways and done my best on that.

This album is like the culmination of trying to put lyric and melody line together. Every one of these songs was suggested to me by some artist of one kind or another as I asked them “what are your favorite songs.” I found these songs and thought I could do these the best. So I would record the lyric as though I were an actor doing a scene. “The Thrill is Gone,” not to compete with anybody, especially B.B. King, but I approached it as an actor as somebody whose love now had dissipated, and not being able to quite understand why. And then of course with Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night on guitar and harmony vocals, it came together.

But each one of these songs is an acting scene which I tried to perform as though I was entertaining you by performing a scene, and having the music as background. And this album is the culmination of doing that, like with my Christmas album that did very well last year and a country music album that I did prior to that. During this time I’ve recorded an autobiographical album too and I’ve had fun with that. That’ll be released next.

Speaking of every song being a scene, the technique is really obvious on your cover of Canned Heat’s “Let’s Work Together” and the lyric “c’mon, c’mon, let’s work together” where at one point you really stress the word “c’mon.” Come onnn! It’s very easy to picture you trying to convince someone to see reason.

That sort of thing is exactly what I mean. The more I would practice, the more I would rehearse the song, as actors do, in the toilet, the bedroom, the dining room, driving a car, the more the lyric began to have more meaning. I was talking to various blues people before recording and they reminded me of the reverence for the music idiom that the true believer has, and not to violate that.

That was one of the concerns: that I don’t overstep myself in doing the blues, that I show a reverence for this music and whence it came. I didn’t fool around; I was being as earnest as I could. Except in those songs which themselves were fun. “I Put a Spell on You” is an example. Pat Travers is a great Canadian rock guitarist, (Shatner is momentarily interrupted by the barking of his dog, Macchiato) my dog is calling me. Be quiet! (Laughs) Macchiato is outside saying “let me in!” “I Put a Spell on You” is great fun and Pat Travers does a great accompaniment. 

How was the album recorded? You sang to the backing tracks and the guitar parts were added later?

That’s exactly right. I had a backing track. I tried to interpret the lyrics and I tried to make them my own, yet stay within the context of what it was meaning and how it was done prior to me. And then we sent it out. And the amazing thing to me were the great artists who agreed to be on the tracks.

Those people who are on the tracks are some of the greatest musicians that we have in the world, and for them to accompany me is beyond anything that I could think; that Brad Paisley would come with me, Kirk Fletcher and all the others. Ronnie Earl plays on “Mannish Boy,” the Muddy Waters song. He’s unbelievable.

Do you know any of your guest guitarists, or have you had personal interactions with any of them?

No. No more than a passing few words to some of them; none at all to many of them. But several of these guys have been on other albums of mine, and while I don’t know them personally, I know their work and apparently they know mine because they’ve agreed to be on it.

Everyone knows your work.

No, no; blues. Albert Lee plays on “In Hell I’ll Be in Good Company,” a song by The Dead South, I don’t know if you know them or not. Albert Lee has received five consecutive Guitar Player Magazine awards for Best Country Guitarist. Within the industry he’s known for his sound. It’s just extraordinary when you look at this list of people. I’m honored by some of these guys.

There’s one cut on The Blues, the album closer “Secrets and Sins,” where you don’t have a guest guitarist. The cut sounds much more personal to you.

That’s one of the songs that I wrote with my lyricist and composer. My lyricist is in New York City, the composer is in upstate New York and I’m here in Los Angeles. This is for the autobiographical album, for which we’ve written 18 songs, and we thought we’d fit in “Secrets and Sins” on this album because it was most like a blues. The whole autobiographical album is very personal songs.

Does that album have a title yet?

Yes, it’s called ‘Love, Death and Horses.’

In the cover photo for The Blues you’ve got a guitar slung over your shoulder. I can’t quite make it out, but it looks like it might be a resonator guitar.

That’s fascinating; only an aficionado would know that about the guitar.

Yes, the guitar was given to me and it’s in my office. The cover is an amalgam of what we could do and what I wanted. What I wanted was sort of a modern version of “Crossroads,” alone in the city of Los Angeles, at the corner of two streets in downtown L.A., with a silver guitar slung over my shoulder, and that’s our crossroads. We couldn’t get the permits to do that so the background is green screened, and with the guitar I would’ve used. 

The Blues is going to be available on vinyl, on colored vinyl. How do you listen to music? Do you have a vinyl collection or are you all digital?

I’m all digital. The vinyl is for fans and people who like to collect those things. My music education is, like everybody else’s, eclectic, but I don’t hold on to those things. I listen to a lot of music where I don’t quite know who’s playing it. I know when I hear it that it’s a song I like, but I don’t have a name. I’m very primitive in my music collection. But for the people who collect vinyl, it should resonate.

Is there also going to be a video released the same day that the album comes out?

Yes, there’s going to be a music video for “I Put a Spell on You.” I suggested to the animators, because it’s going to be an animated music video, that it was like a bar and this crazy guy is at one end, and there’s a buxom maid behind the bar. And this lonely guy, in his mind, is saying “I put a spell on you” and cackling, and totally crazy. Of course he’s not speaking out loud, and the animator got it completely. I’ve seen some of the animation and you’re going to laugh and have fun with it the way I do. I think you’ll just start to laugh at the concept.

Hot Tuna History! Quarantine Vault Premieres Saturday!

This Saturday, September 19 at 8 p.m. ET the Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp digs deep into their vault where treasures are stored. For the next four Saturdays you can livestream for free some of these musical gems. The magic begins with Quarantine Vault Premiere #1, a concert recorded in 2013 featuring Electric Hot Tuna (Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, and Barry Mitterhoff) with guests Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams, Bob Margolin, and guest drummer Jim Wall.

Go to the Fur Peace Ranch YouTube Channel and subscribe! The Live Quarantine Concerts return October 17 when Jack Casady will be back at The Ranch and Hot Tuna Live Quarantine Concerts will commence.

For over 50 years, Hot Tuna (Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady) have brought a wealth of emotions to their music through deep perceptions and tremendous talent.  Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady are always injecting fresh energy into their sound with constant improvisation taking their musical horizons further.

Jorma Kaukonen
Hot Tuna
Fur Peace Ranch
Jack Casady

Neil Young to Release Live Album and Movie with Promise of the Real

Neil Young and has announced a live double album and a film titled Noise and Flowers, scheduled to arrive early 2021, chronicling his 2019 European summer tour with Promise of the Real. The band has recorded two studio albums with Young, The Monsanto Years (2015) and The Visitor (2017); a soundtrack album, Paradox (2018); and a live album, Earth (2016).

YouTube screenshot of Neil Young + Promise Of The Real – “Peace Trail”

The 2019 tour closely followed the death of Young’s longtime manager, Elliot Roberts.

“[Daryl Hannah] and I were on the bus, on our way to New York to catch a plane to Europe, when we got the call. After returning to the funeral for our beloved Elliot, we got on the plane and left for the tour,” writes Young about Roberts in the Neil Young Archives.

He continues, “During the tour, we had a poster of Elliot on a road case, right where he always stood during our shows. Everyone who was with us felt that this tour was amazing for its great vibe. The Real and I delivered for Elliot. [Noise and Flowers] is truly a great collection, dripping with the soul of our band as we played for our fallen leader.”

The tracklist for Noise and Flowers is to be announced.

Trump Declares Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain” The Greatest Music Video Of All Time

One of the more amusing and unexpected turns in recent history is the fact that, somehow, Axl Rose is woke. His Twitter presence is often a funny and aghast series of reactions to the goings-on in our country, and he’s clearly no fan of Trump. (One of many examples: GNR’s “Live And Let Die With Covid 45? T-shirt from earlier this year.) It turns out, however, that Trump is seemingly a big fan of Axl’s.

Last week, Trump played “November Rain” at one of his rallies. As it goes with such situations when Republican politicians play the work of well-liked musicians, we can likely assume this was not sanctioned and the band, or at least Axl, would not be very happy about it. But apparently Trump’s been gearing up for this a long time. He loves “November Rain.” In fact, he apparently thinks it’s the best music video of all time.

As Bloomberg’s White House reporter Jennifer Jacobs pointed out on Twitter, there’s a passage in Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ new book addressing Trump’s supposed love for “November Rain.” In between complicated situations with North Korea and some infamous tweets, Trump apparently talked about wanting to add “November Rain” to his rally playlists, made his case for the video, and then forced everyone to watch it in the Oval Office.

In addition to like, everything else, have you ever stopped and thought what goes through this fucking guy’s head about these rally music picks? Like, is “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” just a very passive-aggressive bit of trolling? “November Rain” might be cathartic but it’s also … an elegiac power ballad. Then again, it makes complete sense that Trump would love this kind of mad coked-out excess. Anyway, it’s not exactly an original thought and not that I want to give Trump any credit for being right on anything, but “November Rain” is indeed one of the greatest music videos of all time and you can revisit it below.

Nora Jean Wallace Deals Straight Chicago Blues on New CD ‘Blueswoman’

Severn Records announces an October 30 release date for Blueswoman, the new CD from Blues Music Award-nominated singer Nora Jean Wallace. The new album was produced by Severn label head David Earl (who also plays guitar on four tracks) and recorded at Severn Studios in Annapolis, MD. Backing Wallace’s powerhouse vocals are Severn’s A-list team of musicians, including Johnny Moeller – guitars; Steve Gomes – bass; Kevin Anker – organ; Steve Guyger – harmonica; Stanley Banks – keyboards; and Robb Stupka – drums. Multi-Blues Music Award-winner Kim Wilson is a special guest on harmonica on one track.


Nora Jean Wallace (formally Bruso) returns after 16 years since her 2004 BMA-nominated and critically-acclaimed release, Going Back to Mississippi. Blueswoman shows why Nora was born to sing the blues. A staple of the Chicago Blues scene, Nora Jean pours her heart into eight originals including the Koko Taylor inspired title track, “I’m a Blues Woman,” and “Rag and Bucket” written with co-writer, Stanley Banks. The Syl Johnson classic, “I Can’t Stop,” and George Jackson’s “Evidence” are great canvases for Nora’s powerful gift. No wonder The Chicago Sun-Times called her performance at the Chicago Blues Festival “show-stopping,” and the legendary Koko Taylor is quoted as saying, “Nora Jean sounds just like I did when I was her age!” This is a must for all fans of real-deal blues.

During a very low period in my career, a friend reminded me that the Bible says your gifts will make room for you. When I gave serious thought to that which I already knew, I never looked back. Slowly but surely my gifts indeed have made, and continue to make, room for me and this project is living proof of that.

I left the blues scene to take care of my mom who was sick at the time (she has since passed). From the cotton fields of Mississippi to the bright and steamy windows of Chicago blues, she always supported me. I think a part of her felt guilty because I had to leave what I loved doing the most to take care of her. And although she’s gone, she’s still with me. I thank God for all she instilled me. She always told me to put God first, never quit and everything else will fall in place.

Here I am in 2020 embarking on a renewed career in blues. The gifts that have made room for me have come in the form of creative people who’ve helped me pave a new path in the blues. I believe God had a hand in it all and has placed people in my life to make me better, stronger and more determined to do what I love best…sing the blues. – Nora Jean Wallace

Wallace is a Chicago Blues singer with deep Delta roots. Like so many blues greats that hail from the Delta of Mississippi, Nora was born and raised in Greenwood, a town in the heart of this blues-rich region. From birth her father, Bobby Lee Wallace, a professional blues singer and sharecropper, and her Uncle, Henry “Son” Wallace, a blues singer and guitar player, infused the blues in her soul. Also contributing to her musical education was her mother, Ida Lee Wallace, a gospel singer, and her grandmother, Mary, who ran a juke house. As a child, Nora would sneak down to her grandmother’s place on Friday and Saturday nights and listen to her relatives sing blues classics. It was during these years that Nora developed a love for the music of Howlin’ Wolf that has continued to the present day.

Nora’s singing career in Chicago began in 1976 when her Aunt Rose heard her sing at home and brought her to several clubs she was promoting. It was at the Majestic on the West Side of Chicago that Nora sat in with Scottie and the Oasis. She was invited to join the band and spent several years with them before Scottie’s unfortunate passing. During this time many local Chicago musicians, most notably Mary Lane and Joe Barr, encouraged Nora and taught her the finer points of her craft.

Nora’s big break came in 1985 when Jimmy Dawkins saw her perform at a local Chicago club and invited her to join his band. For the next seven years Nora toured and recorded with Jimmy and his band and appeared on two of his CDs, Feel the Blues (JSP, 1985 & 2002 with a bonus NJB track) and Can’t Shake These Blues (Earwig, 1991). She also released a single, “Untrue Lover” (Leric, 1982) and her first solo release in 2002, Nora Jean Bruso Sings the Blues (Red Hurricane).

While touring Europe, Canada, and the United States, Nora refined her performing skills and developed an international fan base. She appeared on many major festivals including the King Biscuit Blues Festival, AK, the Chicago Blues Festival and the Pocono Blues Festival.

Nora has lived a life full of passion and pain, triumph and despair, and with it has come a wisdom out of which art is born. Living involves pain but offers redemption as well. That is what the blues is all about.

Seems like this day would never come, but through it all Severn Records has been steadfast in making sure this project would be a success. With their support, I’ve been able to once again share my voice with fans and the blues community that I’ve grown to love. Big, big shout out to Stanley Banks who put pen to paper to write some incredible songs for this project as well as share his talent. – Nora Jean Wallace

Nora Jean Wallace Facebook

*Feature image photo credit: Donna Grass DGPhotoDesigns courtesy of Mark Pucci Media

George Benson Announces Electrifying New Live Album

On November 13th, GRAMMY-winning jazz icon George Benson will release Weekend In London, an electrifying new live album capturing his 2019 performance at London’s intimate 250-seat Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. Only a handful of lucky fans were present as the lights went down that magical night in 2019. But now, Kevin Shirley’s dynamic production is your invitation to slide onto Ronnie Scott’s red velvet banquette and catch the sparks as Benson’s honeyed vocal and fluid licks drive the finest live outfit in modern jazz.


We captured a lot of the atmosphere on ‘Weekend In London.’ It was very crowded, like it always is at Ronnie Scott’s, no matter who’s there. We were almost touching as we were playing, people all up on the bandstand. But I’m always happy to be in those surroundings. A lot of big Benson fans were there – and some of the screaming ladies. It was a fantastic night. – Kevin Shirley

The 2019 show that became Weekend In London was another fabled night to go down in the club’s folklore. This hard-bitten jazzman might prefer spontaneity to setlists, but this latest live album nods to many of his countless career peaks, whether he’s opening with the deathless groove of 1980’s US #4 smash “Give Me The Night,” revisiting fan favorites like “Love X Love” and “In Your Eyes,” or breathing fresh mojo into classic covers like Dave Bartholomew’s “I Hear You Knocking” and Donny Hathaway’s “The Ghetto.” “We don’t plan the show out in advance,” explains Benson. “But we know there’s things we gotta play, and if you leave too many out, you’re in for a troubled night. We know what people have come to hear. So I’ve got half the battle won.”

For jazz fans, of course, part of the appeal lies in the improvisation – and Weekend In London furthers Benson’s reputation as the best in the business. “Basically, the whole show is improvised except the melody itself and the ensemble playing,” he explains. “We play the arrangements, to remind the audience what song they’re listening to, but then we can go crazy and do all the improvisation.”

As an all-time icon and Grammy-winning giant of jazz, we have grown used to seeing George Benson on the stages that befit his sky-high status. During a six-decade career marked by awards, acclaim and Billboard-topping output, the Pittsburgh, Hill District-born veteran has earned his place in both the history books and the biggest venues around the world. So it’s a rare treat – and a whole different thrill – to find this megastar going nose-to-nose with the breathless 250-capacity crowd at London’s most prestigious bolthole. “I like that kind of intimacy,” says Benson. “I can feel the love when it’s up close and personal.”

If Benson sounds utterly at home on Ronnie Scott’s cramped stage, that’s because it’s how he started out, all those years ago, before fame came calling. From the age of seven, the kid with the golden voice known as Little Georgie Benson was a regular fixture at the street corners, drug stores, jazz joints and R&B houses of his native Pittsburgh. Yet the young man swiftly rose up the rankings, taking requests from punters to cutting his first sides with RCA, still aged just ten. As Benson’s ageless career has crossed over the decades, he’s walked a perfect tightrope, still commanding a fierce respect among the most discerning jazz audiences, while firing off hit singles that are loved the world over. His most recent release, Walking To New Orleans – his first on Mascot Label Group – masterfully reinterprets the hits of Chuck Berry and Fats Domino.

It’s been a long and winding road from the juke-joints of Pittsburgh to the beating heart of the London jazz scene, and George Benson has been great company every step of the way. Now, on ‘Weekend In London,’ the same club that hosted that young hotshot back in the early-’70s welcomes back the older, wiser legend to burn down the house. Perhaps the compère says it best: “You don’t get stars this big in rooms this small very often, ladies and gentlemen. Please be prepared to be dazzled – Mr. George Benson…!”

Cruise Control is one of my favorite instrumentals because it was completely off the cuff. I kept getting ideas as we got into the song and one of the ideas was to inject vocal inserts at different places during the improvisational part of the performance. – George Benson

George Benson

Watch Trailer for 2020 Documentary about Billie Holiday

A new in-depth documentary about the life of Billie Holiday will be released in theaters on November 13th. Verve/UMe will also release the official soundtrack for the film that day. Billie dives into her unbelievable career in jazz, as well as the indelible imprint she left on the American conscience with her 1939 protest anthem, “Strange Fruit.”

Archival photographs have been restored and colorized; interviews originally conducted in the ’60s by Linda Lipnack Kuehl for an unfinished Holiday biography will finally be heard. Talking about Holiday on the tapes are Tony Bennett, Charles Mingus, Sylvia Syms, Count Basie, and more. The tapes also feature high school friends, lawyers, pimps, and the federal agents who framed her for narcotic possession (ultimately killing her).

Billie director James Erskine made this statement: “We had the images and footage, of course, and we pulled together her surviving audio interviews, but what was essential to me was to make sure there was enough room in the film to sit back and admire her power, her genius, and also to ensure the audience grasped that Billie’s story was told through the songs she sang. Taking the narrative of Billie, blending it with a coherent music structure and then tracing out her life and her changing image was the essence of the film.” Erskine wanted the film to elucidate Holiday’s enigma, so he made sure her immortal presence was felt from beginning to end.

Watch the official Greenwich Entertainment trailer for Billie below.

The Next Verzuz Battle Is Gladys Knight Vs. Patti LaBelle

Arguably the most prominent institution to emerge from this year’s state of widespread lockdown is the Verzuz battle. Conceived by Timbaland and Swizz Beatz as a way to entertain homebound people during the early days of the pandemic, Verzuz events pit two comparable musical acts from the same era against each other in an informal livestreamed contest. There’s no official winner, just two artists attempting to one-up each other, hit after hit, in some online descendant of sound clashes and street-corner rap battles. Thus far the events have matched up rappers, singers, and producers from eras ranging from the 1990s to the early 2010s. They’ve been as recent as Rick Ross vs. 2 Chainz and gone as far back as RZA vs. DJ Premier. But now Verzuz it taking it really old-school.

This coming Sunday, Sept. 13, Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle will face off in the latest Verzuz battle. The two 76-year-old soul legends are worthy competitors. They were born four days apart in May 1944. They’ve both racked up a stunning number of classic records in their lifetimes, including the #1 hits “Midnight Train To Georgia” (Knight) and “Lady Marmalade” (LaBelle). Even their nicknames align them: Knight is known as the Empress of Soul; LaBelle is the Godmother of Soul.

The Verzuz Instagram account teases, “Leave ya church clothes on all Sunday and pull up to the affair of all affairs. Y’all gotta get dressed up in ya Sunday’s best for this one.” The Knight/LaBelle battle will be viewable on Verzuz Instagram Live and Apple Music starting at 8PM ET this Sunday.

Louis Armstrong House Museum Names Regina Bain as New Executive Director

Regina Bain

The Louis Armstrong House Museum, the National Historic Landmark dedicated to the cultural, historical and humanitarian legacy of Louis Armstrong, announces Regina Bain as its new Executive Director. Bain is an artist, leader, facilitator and program designer with close to two decades of experience working in nonprofit organizations.

Regina is currently the co-chair of Culture @3’s anti-racism subcommittee, and serves on the national advisory council of Urban Bush Women (UBW), a dance company that galvanizes artists, activists and audiences through performances, artists development and community involvement. She produces The Drama Podcast, leads the Yale Black Alumni Association and serves on the Yale Board of Governors.

Previously, Regina served as Associate Vice President of the Posse Foundation, a national leadership and college access program which helps to send teams of students or “Posses” to top colleges and universities. She was deputy to the COO, helping to onboard and provide oversight for Executive Directors in Posse’s 10 site offices. As the organization developed, she helped to establish the offices in Atlanta, New Orleans and Miami and double Posse’s STEM initiative. She also helmed Posse’s Training and Evaluation department which works with human resources to onboard all new staff, provide skill training and professional development, and design curriculum. Regina’s efforts helped to increase Posse’s national student graduation rates for four consecutive years.

Ms. Bain earned her BA in African-American Studies and Theater from Yale University and her MFA from the Yale School of Drama.

“Globally famous Louis Armstrong chose to live in Corona, Queens, because he craved its sense of community and its diversity,” says Queens College President Frank H. Wu.“A musician and international ambassador like no other, he left us an enduring and vital legacy that we are honored to uphold. In Regina Bain, the new director of the Louis Armstrong House Museum, we have found a leader who possesses the depth and breadth of skill — spanning arts management, community engagement, administration and mentorship — needed to make Armstrong’s legacy even more accessible at a time when it is most needed. It is my pleasure to extend to Ms. Bain a warm Queens College welcome.”

“As a member of the Search Committee I asked myself what is the most important criteria for selecting our new director,” Board Chair of the Louis Armstrong House Museum Jerry Chazen says. “I ultimately realized it was ‘is this the person Louis Armstrong would have picked to run this organization?’ Regina was the one who best fit that bill. Her desire to interpret Louis’s legacy as an artist and humanitarian will pave the way for new generations to discover his genius and contributions to our history.”

The announcement comes at the time when the Louis Armstrong House Museum is focusing more than ever on how to engage with the community through its unique family-friendly blend of arts and education – a vision that Bain will help grow and steer. This vision includes putting into motion several long-in-the-works initiatives, including the restoration of the House Museum this fall and launching the virtual “Armstrong Now!” program. Bain will also help develop new programs and activities focusing on community engagement, as well as ensuring that the House Museum continues to be a sustainable and accessible environment amid COVID-19.

I am so proud to join this community dedicated to celebrating the legacy of Louis Armstrong. The House Museum is a crown jewel in American culture. Mr. Armstrong’s archives is among the most significant Black archival collections, and one of the most substantial of any jazz musician.

The health, economic and racial pandemics afflicting America have had a profound effect on the House, but like Louis Armstrong, we see opportunity within challenges. With the opening of the new Louis Armstrong Center in Spring 2021, the House Museum is poised to grow exponentially. The expanded campus will become a new, international destination celebrating Armstrong’s preeminent place in our culture and living out his values of artistic excellence, global ambassadorship, youth leadership and service to community. – Regina Bain

The museum will honor Armstrong’s legacy of social justice during its virtual gala webcast held on September 17th. This is the same day that, in 1957, Armstrong during an interview called out President Eisenhower who was slow to intervene when Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus used the National Guard to bar nine students from entering Little Rock’s Central High School because they were Black.

Louis Armstrong remains an icon to this day, with the museum becoming a destination for fans new and longtime, including Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts (who visited the museum last fall) and Paul McCartney, who just performed at a benefit playing Louis’ trumpet – which is kept safe at the Museum.

Louis Armstrong House Museum

R.E.M., Jeff Tweedy, etc. Make ‘Good Music to Avert the Collapse of American Democracy’

Forty artists have contributed forty tracks to Good Music to Avert the Collapse of American Democracy, a compilation of previously unreleased recordings. Among the artists are R.E.M., Jeff Tweedy, Thurston Moore, The Decemberists, Preservation Jazz Hall Band, Death Cab for Cutie, and many others. The collection will be available exclusively for 24 hours only via Bandcamp this Friday, September 4th as part of their Bandcamp Fridays initiative.

100% of the net proceeds from the album’s sales will go to Fair Fight, a voters rights organization that promotes fair elections around the country through voter education, election reform, and combating voter suppression.  

The comp features never-before-heard new songs, covers, remixes, live versions, and unreleased demos from incredible artists across many genres. Good Music To Avert The Collapse Of American Democracy is a miscellany of conscientious artists who want the message of voting rights and election reform to thrive this fall. The track list with full details is below.


Good Music To Avert The Collapse Of American Democracy was executive produced by author Dave Eggers, along with artist managers Jordan Kurland and Darius Zelkha(Brilliant Corners Artist Management), Christian Stavros (Little Operation Management), and Barsuk Records label head Josh Rosenfeld.  This is the fourth fund-raising project around a presidential election spearheaded by Eggers and Kurland; their other initiatives have included the much-loved projects 30 Songs, 30 Days (2016), 90 Days, 90 Reasons(2012), and The Future Dictionary of America (2004). 

Says Eggers, It’s going to come down to bringing out and protecting the vote this fall, so the work Fair Fight does is crucial. Jordan and I figured a painless way to raise some money would be to ask musicians to donate unreleased tracks, people pay a few bucks for them, and maybe we can edge toward a functioning democracy again.”

Kurland agrees, saying, As in our previous election-based projects, Dave and I were looking for a relatively simple platform for artists to get involved in the political process.  Seeing how impactful Bandcamp Fridays have become, we felt  this was the perfect way to create urgency by releasing new music from a collection of amazing artists for a very short window of time.”

The compilation’s cover art was created by acclaimed artist Shepard Fairey, who created both the iconic Obama Hope and Tom Petty: An American Treasure posters. A limited edition signed poster of the artwork will also be sold on Friday via Bandcamp, with net proceeds going to to the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, Color of Change.  

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