Nygel Anderson is a profound drummer, educator, and musician from Tallahassee, Florida. With music running in his family, Nygel has always had a knack for rhythm. As a child, you could find Nygel playing on some pots, pans, drums, or even a desk! Nygel attended Augusta Raa Middle School and Lincoln High School and was a member of the concert, marching, and jazz band. In just his second year of high school band, Nygel was awarded the Louis Armstrong award, which went to the most prestigious jazz student in the program. In 2017, Nygel was selected for the Tri-State Honors Jazz Band. This jazz band was comprised of the best jazz students from the states of Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. Nygel is currently enrolled at Florida State University as a third year BM Jazz Drum Set Performance Major. As an educator, Nygel has been teaching drum lessons for two years at Mason’s School of Music, a local school in Tallahassee.
He’ll be appearing at Word of South as part of Sunday’s “Tribute to the Women in Jazz” on the Florida Jazz & Blues/Marriott AC Hotel Ballroom Stage.
William “Scotty” Barnhart is an American jazz trumpeter. A two-time Grammy winner, he has played since 1993 as a featured soloist with the Count Basie Orchestra, and in September 2013 became its director. He has multiple recordings with pianist Marcus Roberts as well as recordings with Tony Bennett, Diana Krall, Ray Charles, and Tito Puente. A solo CD, released with Unity Music, is titled Say It Plain and features Clark Terry, Ellis and Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Roberts, Jamie Davis and Etienne Charles; it achieved number 3 in the Jazz Charts. Also active as an educator and clinician, he is author of The World of Jazz Trumpet – A Comprehensive History and Practical Philosophy (published by Hal Leonard). He is a professor in the College of Music at Florida State University. Scotty will be coordinating this year’s Word of South tribute to the Women in Jazz.
Widely regarded as one of the major music influencers of our generation, Ben Folds has created an enormous body of genre-bending music that includes pop albums, multiple solo albums and numerous collaborative records. His last album was a blend of pop songs and his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra that soared to #1 on both the Billboard classical and classical crossover charts. For over a decade he’s performed with some of the world’s greatest symphony orchestras, and serves as the first ever Artistic Advisor to the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. Folds joins the fiercely talented Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra for a night to remember to kick off this year’s Word of South.
Considered a modern renaissance woman, this three-time Florida State alum is a talented singer and actress, teacher in Leon County Schools, and librarian at FSU’s College of Music library. Music has taken her around the globe allowing her to record and share the stage with such greats as Dave Brubeck, Robert Shaw, the Berlin Radio Choir under the direction of Dr. Andre Thomas, the Count Basie Orchestra under the direction of Scotty Barnhart, FSU jazz faculty, the Tallahassee Ballet, the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, and the Tallahassee Youth Symphony Orchestra. Presently, she is a vocalist in the upcoming production of Voices: A Folk Opera written by Suncoast Emmy winners Kathryn Belle Long and Michael Abraham. She continues to perform and record with local & guest musicians as a solo artist and in regional music festivals such as Hulaween (2021), Suwannee Rising (2022), and Word of South (2022 & 2023), as a solo jazz vocalist and as a singer-songwriter with her band Revival. She’ll be appearing at Word of South with Revival and also as part of the “Tribute to the Women in Jazz” on Sunday.
Carmen Bradford is jazz royalty, a four-time Grammy Award nominee (most recently in 2022, for “Live At Birdland – The Count Basie Orchestra with Carmen Bradford”) and the recipient of the Los Angeles Jazz Society’s Jazz Vocalist Award. With her body of work, which reflects her vast experience, versatility, and technical brilliance, she has carved out her place in jazz history, and she continues to contribute to the preservation of this uniquely American art form.
Bradford was born in Austin, Texas and raised in Altadena, California. The daughter of legendary cornetist and composer Bobby Bradford and world-renown jazz vocalist, composer, and author Melba Joyce, and granddaughter of Melvin Moore (who sang with Lucky Millender and his Big Band, Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band, and the Ink Spots), Bradford grew up with music in her home and in her heart.
She was discovered and hired by William “Count” Basie when she was just 22; she went on to be the featured vocalist with the legendary Count Basie Orchestra for nine years and has continued to perform with them regularly throughout her career. All four of her Grammy Award nominations are for albums with the Count Basie Orchestra, including two in the 1980s and a third, “Big Boss Band,” with guitarist George Benson. (She and Benson performed the classic duet, “How Do You Keep the Music Playing,” on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.) The fourth is this year’s “Live At Birdland.”
In 1992, Bradford released her first debut album, “Finally Yours,” (Evidence Records) to critical acclaim. In 1995, the release of her second solo album, “With Respect,” (Evidence Records) established Bradford as one of jazz music’s most diverse and exciting vocal stylists.
Bradford has performed and/or recorded with Patti Austin, Tony Bennett, George Benson, Shelly Berg, James Brown, Benny Carter, Dori Caymmi, John Clayton and the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra, Freddie Cole, Lena Horne, Kurt Elling, Wynton Marsalis, Jeremy Monteiro, David Murray, Willie Nelson, James Newton, Kenny Rankin, Lou Rawls, Doc Severinsen, Frank Sinatra, Byron Stripling, Tierney Sutton, Jeff Tyzik, Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, Liz Wright, and countless other artists around the world.
She also has performed and/or recorded with the Dallas Symphony, the Dani Felber Big Band, the Detroit Symphony, the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the National Symphony, the Philadelphia Pops, the Rochester Philharmonic, the Vancouver Philharmonic and many other organizations.
Bradford has loaned her inimitable voice to stage productions and the music of Hollywood films, cartoons for television and radio commercials, and the theater. She sang on the haunting soundtrack for Oprah Winfrey’s “Beloved” and starred in the title role of Duke Ellington’s Folk Opera, “Queenie Pie,” at the University of Texas at Austin’s Butler School of Music.
In 2017, Bradford’s gift for teaching and mentoring others inspired the San Francisco Conservatory of Music to recruit Bradford to serve as Vocalist in Residence, and Director of the Jazz Voice Department in the school’s new Roots, Jazz, and American Music (RJAM) Program. Two years ago, she was named Vocal Chair of the department. She’ll appear at Word of South Sunday as part of the “Tribute to the Women in Jazz” on the Florida Jazz & Blues/Marriott AC Ballroom Stage.
Kim Bradley grew up in Monroeville, Alabama, and studied journalism at Auburn University. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of New Orleans. Her short-story collection, Spillway, was published by Stephen F Austin State University Press in March 2022. Her short fiction has also appeared in Natural Bridge, Bayou, Southern Indiana Review, Real South Magazine, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, The Louisville Review, and The Southern Humanities Review. She teaches creative writing and composition at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida, and will be appearing at Word of South as part of our panel of Florida Book Award fiction winners.
Amy Brady is the author of Ice: From Mixed Drinks to Skating Rinks–a Cool History of a Hot Commodity. She is also the executive director of Orion magazine, a contributing editor to Scientific American, and coeditor of The World as We Knew It: Dispatches from a Changing Climate. Brady has made appearances on the BBC, NPR, and PBS. She holds a PhD in literature and American studies and has won writing and research awards from the National Science Foundation, the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference, and the Library of Congress. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut with her spouse and two fickle cats.
Amy will be appearing with the author Alexandra Kleeman as part of a conversation on landscape, resilience and biodiversity hosted by the Sunshine State Biodiversity Group, moderated by the journalist C.D. Davidson-Hiers.
Born and raised on the outskirts of Tampa, Florida, J.T. Brown’s southern influence can be felt throughout his catalog, and in his live performances. With a ‘true connoisseur of music’ for a father, his early influences spanned all genres and styles, but lazy Sunday afternoons were spent diving into the deep cuts of singer-songwriters, from the troubadours of Texas to the pickers in the south. J.T. gravitated to guitar around the age of 12, after playing various other instruments throughout his childhood. What has developed over time is a truly unique blend of folk, americana, R&B, soul and rock ‘n’ roll. With well-reviewed albums and a deep set of songs, he’s garnered praise from both critics and fans alike for his identifiable voice and approach to songwriting. J.T. will be appearing at Word of South with chef and cookbook author Kenny Gilbert.
Leon C. Brunson, a private chef & owner of Leon’s at Lake Ella based in Tallahassee, Florida, immerses guests in a southern hospitality-style experience surrounded by food influenced by international techniques and flavors worldwide. His cooking style is inspired by techniques and flavors inspired by international cuisine—he’s found passion in the emotion food brings to others and himself. Chef Brunson will be preparing several dishes that are featured in the cookbooks of the chef/cookbook authors Ronni Lundy and Kenny Gilbert for audience sampling at this year’s Word of South.
Gunhild Carling is a world-famous musician, singer, songwriter and entertainer, with millions of views on the Internet. She sings and plays more than ten instruments, including the trumpet, trombone, bagpipes, harp, harmonica, recorder and ukulele, and has appeared with big bands, symphonies, chamber orchestras and more. She began playing at the age of seven with the Carling family in Sweden, and she’ll be appearing at Word of South as part of the Tribute to the Women in Jazz Sunday on the Florida Jazz & Blues/Marriott AC Hotel Ballroom stage.
Dr. Tim Chapin is Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy and a Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida State University. As part of the leadership team in the Institute of Politics at FSU, Chapin has promoted a marketplace of ideas and a diversity of worldviews within FSU. Trained as a land use planner, he has analyzed the state’s development patterns and demographic trends to support sustainable development and community resilience.
He’ll be overseeing a Q&A session with historian Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham at Word of South.
Nate Chinen is the author of Playing Changes: Jazz For the New Century. A former jazz critic for The New York Times and former columnist for JazzTimes, he is the editorial director at WRTI, and a regular contributor to NPR Music. A thirteen-time winner of the Helen Dance–Robert Palmer Award for Excellence in Writing, he is also the coauthor of George Wein’s Myself Among Others: A Life in Music. In addition to signing some books and checking things out at the festival, he’ll be moderating the panel discussion at the Tribute to the Women in Jazz Sunday at Word of South on the Florida Jazz & Blues/Marriott AC Ballroom stage.
Cory Brandon Clay is a Musician, Filmmaker, Songwriter, Photographer, Poet and Storyteller. A native of Hannibal, Missouri, best known as the hometown of Mark Twain; he has always identified with Mr. Twain’s assessment that “the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
In 2002 Mr. Clay relocated from Saint Louis to Los Angeles, where he continued to photograph award winning films and television programs. Continuing to pursue his passion for music, he discovered the sounds of Bakersfield Country Music and also West Coast Country Rock; and in 2007 he founded The Twains. The group played their first show to a sold out crowd at The House of Blues on the Sunset Strip; then subsequently played venues such as The Roxy, The Mint and the Cowboy Palace. In 2013 he partnered opened a creative production agency in Nashville, TN; The Jukebox Romeos. The focus being music videos and concert films, and the company slogan is We See Music. Cory and his team worked with many stars of Country and Americana music which lead to one of his first co-writing ventures with Shooter Jennings, son of Country Music icon Waylon Jennings. The band continues to write and record independent original music, currently working on their third release. In 2022 the band signed with a music agent, Laura Kochan, and her agency; La De Da Entertainment.
Whatever the creative means, Cory’s purpose is to contribute a verse to the grand chorus of the human condition. Stories of love, sorrow, joy, pain, freedom, suffering, alchemy, fascination, determination, acceptance, despair and hope. He believes in the wisdom of Woody Guthrie, “about all a human being is, anyway, is just a hoping machine.” “Thunderstorm in your eyes, wiser, on the run. Take all the happy days and ball them into one. There’s a light that shines our way and I’m gonna save you some, to cut through the darkness” from “With Me All the While” by Cory Brandon Clay.
Cory will be appearing at Word of South with the author Melissa Scholes Young.
John Cribb is a bestselling author who has written about subjects ranging from history to education. Old Abe, his first novel, tells the story of the last five years of Abraham Lincoln’s life. His other works include coauthoring The American Patriot’s Almanac and The Educated Child, both New York Times bestsellers; coediting The Human Odyssey, a 3-volume world history text; and developing online history courses. His writing has been published in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, FoxNews.com, RealClearPolitics, and several other publications. During the Reagan administration, he worked at the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. A native of Spartanburg, SC, John studied literature at Vanderbilt University. He and his wife, Kirsten, are the proud parents of two daughters.
He’ll be appearing at Word of South with the author Tracey Enerson Wood.
Sylvia Cuenca is an active drummer on the New York jazz scene who is contributing outstanding performances in a variety of situations. She has had the honor of sharing the bandstand with saxophone legend Joe Henderson for 4 years and trumpet legend Clark Terry for 17 years. She performed with the Clark Terry Quintet and Big Band at clubs, concerts and festivals in the U.S, Europe, the Caribbean and South America. While working with the Clark Terry quintet she had the opportunity to perform with guest artists Al Grey, Red Holloway, Jimmy Heath, Frank Wess, Marian McPartland, Dianne Reeves, Joe Williams and Lou Donaldson, to name a few.
Sylvia was a guest clinician at the Sisters in Jazz Program at the IAJE Convention in NYC and the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival, Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Cuenca has been a longtime faculty member at the Jazz for Pre-Teen and Teens Program and all female residency at NJPAC and the Stanford Jazz Workshop and Jazz Camp West in California. She was an artist-in-residence at various universities in the U.S. and Europe with the Clark Terry quintet, Eddie Henderson quartet and as a leader with her own groups. In 2019 she was a Guest Artist at the Skidmore Jazz Institute in Saratoga Springs, NY.
In 2014 she received a B.A. degree in Jazz Performance from Empire State University in NYC.
In 1988 and 1991, she received jazz performance grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and in 1992 she was a semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk International Drum Competition. Recently she received New Works grant from the 2022 Jazz Aid Fund made possible by San Jose Jazz. She’ll appearing at Word of South as part of the “Tribute to the Women in Jazz” Sunday on the Florida Jazz & Blues/Marriott AC Hotel Ballroom stage.
Brought together by family ties and a shared appreciation for folk, rock, and roots music, The Currys are an Americana trio featuring brothers Jimmy and Tommy and cousin Galen Curry. Like many family groups, their songs are anchored by the sort of elastic, entwined harmonies that only seem to exist among kin. On their second record, West of Here, their songwriting chops match those interlocking voices, with all three members contributing songs to an album that deals with the constant search for home. For their third album, This Side of the Glass (2019), The Currys provide the organic, lived-in feel of roots music, but the album aspires to a greater variety of form and orchestration than earlier releases. This Side of the Glass is an insightful and satisfying new chapter from a band with many more stories to tell.
Jennifer Daniels is an award-winning singer/songwriter and teaching artist who has released nine music albums, a picture book, and has just welcomed her first novel into the world! As an assistant to Eric Litwin (author of Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes), Jennifer’s family shows are full of interactive songs, stories, and movement activities with an emphasis on fun and successful literacy. Jenn hails from Lookout Mountain, Georgia where she lives with husband/guitar-hero Jeff Neal, their thirteen-year-old boy/girl twins, and a one-hundred-pound tongue inside of a black lab named Ziggy. Visit JenniferDaniels.com to find out more.
CD Davidson-Hiers is a native Floridian who grew up on a 40-acre horse farm in North Florida and serves as Vice President of the Sunshine State Biodiversity Group. Her nonfiction has appeared in the Nation, The Bitter Southerner, Flamingo Magazine, WFSU Radio and others. She worked previously as a local reporter for the Tallahassee Democrat, and USAToday. Currently, Davidson-Hiers spearheads the Education Writers Association’s membership outreach while providing training, resources, and professional recognition for its journalist members. She served as the 2021-22 VP of programs for the Florida chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. She graduated summa cum laude from Florida State University, with degrees in Creative Writing and French, and is currently working on a nonfiction master’s degree. Davidson-Hiers’ reporting on the US Covid-19 vaccine rollout received recognition from NPR, The Washington Post, Soledad O’Brien, and other national news outlets. In 2020, Davidson-Hiers founded the Florida Student News Watch, which she describes as “a network of Florida journalism that emboldens and trains college-age writers to engage with the important issues facing Florida.” She will be moderating and participating in the Sunshine State Biodiversity Group’s environmental conversation with Amy Brady and Alexandra Kleeman at Word of South.
The Dedicated Men of Zion came up out of this singing land of eastern North Carolina, around the city of Greenville and its small neighboring town of Farmville. Each trained in the church and the home, the group’s four vocalists – Anthony Daniels, Antoine Daniels, Dexter Weaver, and Marcus Sugg – share the bond of that upbringing and another more literal bond of kinship (they’re all family now through blood or marriage).
Theirs is a community dense with talent and legendary impact on the origins of gospel, funk, R&B, soul, and jazz; a place where the sounds of Saturday night and Sunday morning couldn’t help but jump their lanes. The group’s own backgrounds tell that story. Anthony Daniels, the eldest of the group, led a career in R&B down in Atlanta, backing up the likes of Bebe Winans, Toni Braxton, and Elton John. Antoine Daniels, the youngest member and son of Anthony, was playing keyboards and organ in church while simultaneously injecting his hip-hop production work with traditional gospel roots. But the church was always the backbone. Weaver, whose grandmother managed several gospel groups around Greenville, had sung with elder quartet groups for years, running into Anthony Daniels around the gospel circuit. When they both found themselves without a group, Weaver turned to Daniels and said “I don’t know what you’re gonna do but if you do something, I’m on board with you. I want to be with you.”
In 2014 Weaver and Daniels, with Antoine on keys, came together to form the Dedicated Men of Zion’s original iteration, along with singers Trevoris Newton and Darren Cannon. The group was quickly gaining a following in eastern North Carolina when Newton suddenly passed away in 2018. The loss of one member was soon followed by Cannon’s departure. The arrival of Marcus Sugg re-completed the group. Sugg, who had grown up singing in church choirs and a little on the side during a stint in the military, was soon to be Anthony Daniels’ son in law.
The Dedicated Men of Zion’s, Can’t Turn Me Around, was recorded in Memphis at Watson’s Delta-Sonic Sound in 2019. The album marks a moment of clarity for the group. By embracing their own roots, they knew they were pointedly taking a right turn where some of their peers had veered left in a race to make gospel sound like anything other than what it was back in the day: soul music. Each track on Can’t Turn Me Around comes from that overflowing heritage of gospel soul. Tradition sets a high standard of excellence. What more can new artists pour into that cup? The Dedicated Men of Zion accepted that challenge with the seriousness of their raising and the joy of spiritual inspiration. With their second album they get back to where they came from – soul and the salvation of harmony. In Anthony Daniels’ own words, “You want to live, get to where the root is. Get close to the root.”
As a D.C. native, Demp has spent the majority of his life in Tallahassee establishing strong roots and instilling positive impressions in the community. Demp has worked as a DJ since the age of 13 and established himself as an internationally known celebrity DJ. DJ Demp is a member of legendary group Ghostown DJs best known for their classic ’96 record “My Boo.” My Boo peaked at No. 31 on the Billboard Hot 100 when it released in 1996. In 2016, My Boo became popular again after the “Running Man Challenge” and re-entered the Hot 100 reaching a new peak of No. 27 twenty years after it first released.
DJ DEMP’s fans often refer to him as the “G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) DJ.” He has worked at 107.9 the beat in Valdosta, Georgia, 100.7 the beat and 105.7 and the beat in Tallahassee. He’s also DJ’ed for entertainment giants like Luke, Trick Daddy, Lil Flip, David Banner, Trina, and Juvenile with appearances on Carson Daly and BET 106 & Park. He was also nominated for DJ of the Year by Radio One Dirty Awards.
DJ Demp is the first DJ to receive two proclamations from both the former mayor John Marks of Tallahassee as well as current Mayor John E. Dailey, via Demp Week which just celebrated its 25th annual Demp Week milestone in January of 2022. He is the only DJ to have his own week to celebrate his birthday. DEMP WEEK has grown to a week-long party attracting people around the world with events like anti-bullying rallies, celebrity basketball games, bowling, sip and paints, spades tournaments, concerts and more —to a proclaimed “Tallahassee Holiday” earning him humanitarian recognition.
As the founding member and lead Singer/Songwriter for the Fried Turkeys, Tallahassee native Frank Douglas approaches the topics of love, lust, loss, politics and many other common societal themes with an ear for harmony and a head for irony.
His tunes combine influences ranging from folk to blues to country to rock, and his lyrics take inspiration from sources ranging from the absurd, to the ongoing poetry of his 93 year old mother, a lifelong muse. Some songs will make you laugh, and some may make you cry, and some will make you do both at the same time.
He’ll be appearing at Word of South with The Fried Turkeys and also with the author Ronni Lundy and musician Doug Moody.
Hannah Duhon is a jazz trombonist hailing from Fort Walton Beach, Florida. She began her music career at the age of thirteen years old, and by fifteen had become completely enamored by the artistry of jazz music and composition. A senior at Florida State University, Duhon is pursuing her B.M. in Jazz Studies and Music Performance, studying under the FSU Jazz Faculty. Hannah Duhon is a Ravinia Jazz Scholars Alum out of the Ravinia Steans Music Institute, and has studied with and performed with the likes of Scotty Barnhart, Rufus Reid, Billy Childs, Michael Dease, Kevin Jones, and Steve Wilson. She hopes to inspire more young women to follow their passions in jazz, and to teach the art of jazz to the next generation of young musicians. She’ll be appearing as part of the Tribute to the Women in Jazz Sunday on the Florida Jazz & Blues/Marriott AC Ballroom stage at Word of South.
Brian Evenson is the author of a dozen books of fiction, most recently the story collection The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell (2021), which received a starred review from Publishers’ Weekly. R. L. Stine has said of his work, “His stories are deeply terrifying and so troubling that they linger in your mind long after you’ve read them.” Locus Magazine called it “A collection of unnerving horror fiction, one that reminds readers that Brian Evenson is one of the genre’s most talented horror writers.”
Other recent books include Song for the Unraveling of the World (2019), which won the Shirley Jackson Award and the World Fantasy Award and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times’ Ray Bradbury Prize and A Collapse of Horses (2016) and The Warren (2016). It was on the Washington Post’s Best Horror Fiction of the Year list, and on NPR Best Fiction of 2019. His novel Last Days won the American Library Association’s RUSA award for Best Horror Novel of 2009. His novel The Open Curtain was a finalist for an Edgar Award and an International Horror Guild Award. His 2003 collection The Wavering Knife won the International Horror Guild Award for best story collection. Evenson is the recipient of three O. Henry Prizes, an NEA fellowship, and a Guggenheim Award. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages. He lives in Los Angeles and teaches in the Critical Studies Program at CalArts. He’ll be in conversation with the writer Jeff VanderMeer at this year’s Word of South.
The Eyrie is Tallahassee Community College’s award-winning student art and literary magazine, which publishes original poetry, prose, art, and photography. The magazine also provides students enrolled in Literary Magazine Production at TCC with the experience of magazine production, from the evaluation of materials to blue-line copy. The Eyrie (the nest of a bird of prey) was founded in 1981 by two students, with the motto of “quality, good taste, and creativity.” The magazine is published annually and distributed free to all college personnel and students, and to the public upon request.
For this year’s Word of South, the Eyrie will present readings, art, and photography from select students published in the 2023 edition.
Faith and Harmony is a gospel family group—two sets of three sisters who are first cousins. They grew up singing together in Greenville, North Carolina. All six members are descendants of Dorothy Vines Daniels of the Glorifying Vines Sisters, and great nieces of sculptor/guitarmaker/author/musician Freeman Vines.
Member Christy Moody recalls singing in the church choir when she was scarcely bigger than a toddler. “I was so short,” she says, “they would take and put me on the chair so people could see me.”
Like their great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents before them, harmony and song have been part of the very essence of their existence throughout their lives. When Faith & Harmony officially formed their group in 2012, they solidified their commitment to carrying on the Daniels family’s musical legacy.
“You know how they pass the baton in a relay race?” asks member Keamber Daniels, “Now it’s our turn to carry it as far as we can. Until hopefully we’ll be able to leave a legacy for our kids. And the future generations to come.”
The young and vibrant Southwest Louisiana band Feufollet takes Cajun, honky-tonk, and string-band music as their starting point, and keeps an open mind about where their song craft will lead them. On Two Universes, their first studio album in over five years, Feufollet proves their Cajun roots don’t define them as much as propel them forward; whispers of the swamp and its time-honored waltzes trigger a modern and broad musical imagination, one that finds equal expression in blues, old-time, country ballads, rock’n’roll, whatever, all for the sake of the song.
Following the celebrated releases Cow Island Hop (2008) and En Couleurs (2010), Two Universes is the product of long-steeping recording sessions and collaborative songwriting between bandleader Chris Stafford and singer and multi-instrumentalist Kelli Jones, whose contributions make this a breakout album, of sorts.
Cajun, country, and rock’n’roll all began as homespun enterprises, by musicians tinkering with inherited melodies until new sounds were struck. Feufollet keeps that experimental spirit alive and well with their diverse musical palette, edgy arrangements, and pop-song sensibilities. On their 11-track release—exquisitely packaged with the psychedelic-folk art of Louisiana painter Francis Pavy—the band accomplishes the unusual feat of creating a sound that is at once familiar and fresh, classic and yet unmistakably original.
They’ll be appearing at Word of South as part of our “Bourbon Street Saturday” on the Marriott AC Hotel Plaza Stage.
Noemí Figueroa Soulet was born in Puerto Rico but raised in New York City and currently resides in Kissimmee, Florida. She wrote, directed and produced the PBS documentary film “The Borinqueneers,” about the history of the only Hispanic-segregated unit in Army history. The film won the Military Channel Award at the GI Film Festival and the Audience Award Winner at the Orlando Hispanic Film Festival, amongst other awards. For more than 24 years, she has been speaking as an authority on the regiment at corporations, universities, military facilities and community organizations; recorded veteran interviews and preserved archival photographs. Noemi also self-published a directory of veteran photographs from the regiment. She is a graduate of New York University and has a Certificate in Digital Filmmaking from CUNY-Westchester Community College. She’ll appearing at Word of South as part of our panel of non-fiction Florida Book Award winners.
Combining a surprising blend of truly original music and a uniquely eclectic selection of covers, the Fried Turkeys will have you dripping in greasy, hippy, roots-country music. Soulful pedal steel, soaring vocal harmonies, a thumping rhythm section, dixieland piano lines, and a wooden Americana sound will have you tapping your feet and singing along. The grease is ready. Drop the bird.
Born and raised in suburban Cleveland, Kenny Gilbert’s curiosity for the kitchen started young. His mom noticed how captivated her son was when she cooked or entertained, and so in an effort to harness it, began teaching him the basics. Kenny’s father, an avid BBQ man, schooled him in the ways of the grill, presenting him with his very own small Weber at the age of seven. By age 11 Kenny was cooking the entire Thanksgiving dinner solo, and in high school, was cooking for his entire swim team on a portable electric double burner in the locker room. Throughout his career, Kenny has traveled the world, staging in some of the top restaurants in Japan, Spain, France and the Caribbean. He has cooked at the James Beard House, participated in wine & food festivals around the country, cooked for the Sports Illustrated Super Bowl party and appeared on the “Today Show,” Jacksonville’s FOX 30 and in the LA Times. Kenny has also recently penned his first book titled, A Chef’s Journal. He’ll be appearing at Word of South with the Tampa-based bluesman J.T. Brown, whose southern influence and blend of americana, R&B and should make for a rocking performance.
Ronald Gruner is the author of We The Presidents: How American Presidents Shaped the Last Century, which discusses a century of presidents from Warren G. Harding to Donald J. Trump, and how their presidencies have contributed to what America is today. A first-time author, Gruner wrote the non-partisan We The Presidents to help Americans better understand the historical context of today’s divisive issues. A former technology CEO, over his forty-year career Gruner founded and managed three successful companies. Raised in Ponca City, Oklahoma, Gruner moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1969 where he spent his career. Since 2010, Gruner, and his wife Nancy, happily reside in sunny Naples, Florida. He’ll be appearing at Word of South as part of the panel of 2022 non-fiction Florida Book Award winners.
It’s the old way of doing things that inspires a new sound for upstate New York-based artist Shane Guerrette. Drawing influence from classic soul and roots rock genres, Shane has only just begun to craft his own retro flavored sound. With a recent self-released debut album called “Here’s Hoping”, you’ll want to keep an eye out for what’s to come from this rising star.
Bishop Albert Harrison has been traveling and singing gospel music solo since the 1980s. When he was in the hospital in 2006, he took stock of his life and decided resolutely to start a group—The Gospel Tones. Harrison hails from the experimental planned black community of Soul City in Warren County, North Carolina, while The Gospel Tones make Ahoskie, NC their home base. Talking about gospel musicians in Eastern North Carolina, he says, “We all come back from a long way back. We all come up on farms. Our mothers and fathers and grandfathers always used to sing. It’s something we love to do.” Harrison says that he sings in the “old jubilee style.” And he sings it anywhere he can. “Wherever the Lord sends me, I go,” he says, “that’s the way I feel about it.”
The Heavy Heavy create the kind of unfettered rock-and-roll that warps time and place, immediately pulling the audience into a euphoric fugue state with its own sun-soaked atmosphere. Led by lifelong musicians Will Turner and Georgie Fuller, the Brighton, UK-based band began with a shared ambition of “making records that sound like our favorite records ever,” and soon arrived at a reverb-drenched collision of psychedelia and blues, acid rock and sunshine pop. As revealed on their gloriously hazy debut EP Life and Life Only, The Heavy Heavy breathe an incandescent new energy into sounds from decades ago, transcending eras with a hypnotic ease.
Columnist Mark Hinson, who is a fifth generation North Floridian, has written for the Tallahassee Democrat and Tallahassee.com, both part of the USA Today Network, for more than 25 years. He has covered the arts and entertainment scene in the Capital City for the same amount of time. Over his long career, Hinson has interviewed and written about such musical figures as Mavis Staples, Philip Glass, George Clinton, Ella Fitzgerald, Renée Fleming, Jim White, Bo Diddley, Sam Moore, Alan Parson, Billy Preston and many more.
He’ll be interviewing the legendary bluesman Bobby Rush at Word of South.
The music of Asheville, North Carolina based outfit Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters is nuanced, bringing insight and wit to the stories Platt tells through songwriting. Lyrically driven, the band’s country roots music often inspires introspection, whether it be about life on the road, heartache or hope.
There is an empathetic and charming wit ingrained in Platt’s songwriting. She has a knack for accessing a deep well of emotion and applying it to her story-telling, whether she is writing from her own experiences or immersing herself into the melody of emotions in another person’s life.
Performing along with Platt, The Honeycutters are Matt Smith (pedal steel and electric guitars), Kevin Williams (keys/vocals), Rick Cooper (bass/vocals), and Evan Martin (drums/vocals).
Ravi Howard received the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence in 2008 for his novel LikeTrees, Walking, a fictionalized account of the true story of the 1981 lynching of a black teenager in Mobile, Alabama. His novel Driving the King is the story of Nat King Cole told through his driver, and explores race and class in 1950’s America. A television producer as well as an author, he lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He’ll be interviewing the authors Ladee Hubbard and Tom Piazza at Word of South.
Ladee Hubbard is the author of two novels: The Talented Ribkins– which received both the Ernest J. Gaines Award and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction—and The Rib King. Her collection of short stories, The Last Suspicious Holdout, was published in March 2022. She is a recipient of a 2022 Guggenheim fellowship and has also received fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies and the American Academy in Berlin, among other organizations. She earned a BA in English from Princeton University, a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a PhD in Folklore and Mythology from the University of California, Los Angeles. She currently lives in New Orleans, and will be appearing at Word of South in conversation with the author Tom Piazza.
Kara Jackson is a singer/songwriter, musician, and writer from Oak Park, Illinois. Jackson served as the third National Youth Poet Laureate from 2019-2020. She is the author of BLOODSTONE COWBOY (Haymarket Books, 2019). Kara’s highly anticipated debut album under Jonathan Dickins September Records was released fall of 2022.
In 2014, Duquette Johnston and his artist wife Morgan had their first child, after many years together. But their joy became complicated, as Morgan fell ill with a bacterial infection and nearly died. When Duquette, who’d been gearing up to promote his third solo album, stepped away from the music business to take care of his wife, it was the beginning of an unexpected new chapter in his life.
And at first, one full of uncertainty. Fortunately, he’d just landed a song placement in a TV spot for University of Virginia Children’s Hospital, appropriately enough with a cover of Delaney & Bonnie’s “Never Ending Song of Love.”
“I’d stopped everything in my life at that point, so that commercial was like a little nest egg for us,” Duquette says. “I was just taking care of my son, and taking care of my wife, trying to get her back to being the best woman she could be. In the middle of that, I started writing songs. It was a slow process, but I wrote constantly. All I had was my wife, my son and my guitar.”
The result of all Johnston’s expanded creativity now takes shape in The Social Animals, a new album that reverberates with hopefulness and an awe for the mysteries of our dandelion existence. Though the album has been finished since 2017, Johnston says, “I don’t think it was supposed to come out back then. I don’t think the meaning behind some of the songs mattered as much as they do now.
Johnston’s optimism is born out of much personal evolution and expansion, over what he calls his “wild, incredible life.” Raised in Birmingham and the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming, he started playing music and promoting punk rock shows in high school, which led to him playing bass in late ’90s Merge Records buzz band Verbena. “We were having all this crazy success, touring with the Foo Fighters, then everything fell apart in my life,” Johnston recalls. “I left the band, my home life at the time fell apart, and I started doing drugs. I thought I had to live in misery to create great art. But that is a freaking lie the world will tell you.” In the early ’00s, a drug charge landed him in Etowah County Correctional Facility. Resolutely positive (“There is beauty in darkness if you seek it out” Johnston says in Etowah, a short documentary about his time in lock-up), he got out and and went on to release four solo albums, including Etowah (2006) and Rugged & Fancy (2010). “Music is center for me,” Johnston says.
Rodney Jordan is a native of Memphis, Tennessee where he grew up playing the bass in church and with his high school orchestra. He later studied music with Dr. London Branch, Alvin Fielder, and Andy Hardwick at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. During his college years, Jordan joined the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra where he served as Assistant Principal Bassist. During his years in Georgia, Jordan served as a bass instructor at Darton College (part of the University System of Georgia) in Albany and at Georgia State University in Atlanta. While living in Atlanta, Jordan became one of the city’s most active jazz bassists, performing and recording with some of America’s finest jazz musicians, including Marcus Printup, Mulgrew Miller, James Williams, Milt Jackson, George Coleman, and Russell Gunn. He joined the faculty in the School of Music at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL in 2001 where he now holds a rank of Professor of Jazz Studies. Jordan teaches jazz bass, jazz combo playing, music education classes, and a jazz styles class, and is a member of the Marcus Roberts Trio.
He’ll be appearing at Word of South as part of Sunday’s “Tribute to the Women in Jazz” on the Florida Jazz & Blues/Marriott AC Hotel Ballroom Stage.
The Rounder Records debut from Amythyst Kiah, Wary + Strange marks the glorious collision of two vastly different worlds: the iconoclastic alt-rock that first sparked her musical passion, and the roots/old-time-music scene where she’s found breakout success in recent years, including recognition from Rolling Stone as “one of Americana’s great up-and-coming secrets.” Along with tapping into the vibrant musicality she honed in part through her studies in East Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass, Old Time, Country Music program, the Chattanooga-bred singer/songwriter expands on the uncompromising artistry she’s displayed as a member of Our Native Daughters—an all-women-of-color supergroup whose Kiah-penned standout “Black Myself” earned a GRAMMY nomination for Best American Roots Song and won Song of the Year at the Folk Alliance International Awards.
Produced by Tony Berg (Phoebe Bridgers, Amos Lee, Andrew Bird) and made with esteemed musicians like Blake Mills, Wary + Strange arrives as a deeply immersive body of work, endlessly redefining the limits of roots music in its inventive rhythms and textures. With an unforgettable voice that’s both unfettered and exquisitely controlled, Kiah gracefully interlaces political commentary and personal revelation, ultimately offering a raw yet nuanced examination of grief, alienation, and the hard-won triumph of total self-acceptance.
Alexandra Kleeman is the author of the novel Something New Under the Sun, Intimations, a short story collection, and the novel You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine, which was awarded the 2016 Bard Fiction Prize and was a New York Times Editor’s Choice. In 2020, she was awarded the Rome Prize and the Berlin Prize, and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Fiction in 2022. Her second novel, Something New Under the Sun, named one of the New York Times’ Notable Books of 2021, was published in 2021 by Hogarth Press. Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Zoetrope, Conjunctions, and Guernica, among others, and other writing has appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, VOGUE, Tin House, n+1, and The Guardian. Her work has received fellowships and support from Bread Loaf, Djerassi, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Headlands Center for the Arts.
Alexandra will be appearing with the author Amy Brady as part of a conversation on landscape, resilience and biodiversity hosted by the Sunshine State Biodiversity Group, moderated by the journalist C.D. Davidson-Hiers.
John Kurzweg is a multi-platinum record producer and multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter who first became known for his work with successful post-grunge band Creed in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Three of Creed’s records, which Kurzweg produced & mixed, were certified multi-platinum and helped Creed achieve worldwide popularity. John has also produced other popular rock artists such as Puddle of Mudd, Godsmack, and Eagle Eye Cherry.
Kurzweg, who in the late 80’s signed with Atlantic records as a solo artist, continues recording & performing his own brand of rock music and can often be found playing various venues around the Santa Fe, New Mexico area (and Florida in the winter!).
And of course, John still finds time on the other side of the glass producing & mixing for various current artists and still living the studio life…
Patience, also known as Lady P., is a 7 year old second grader born and raised in Tallahassee. Her favorite color is blue and her favorite hobbies include dancing, rapping, & having fun with her family. She is a TikTok and Instagram sensation after going viral for her dancing skills and her ability to achieve all things with only one hand! She aspires to influence and motivate everyone across the world to achieve the goals that they have set out for themselves, and remember that nothing is impossible!
Frank Lindamood has been playing Old Time American Music for over fifty years.
His love for music was passed down from his father, a native of the mountains of West Virginia. His weapons of choice are the banjo,, harmonica and resonator guitar. He sings with great volume and little subtlety.
Frank’s influences, besides his father, are as old as the music itself—Samantha Bumgardner, Roscoe Holcomb, John Hurt and Skip James, to name just a few. He has of late been trying to write new material on the great themes of Life, Love and Death, involving events and figures mythological, historical and personal, including takes of Adam and Jesus, Persephone and Prometheus, Beethoven and Gamble Rogers, among others.
He is a retired carpenter and stagehand who helped raise three sons by the bad example method and now has three grandchildren and seven step-grandchildren, and is proud of them all. Frank lives in Sopchoppy in a homemade cabin in some old turpentine woods. He’ll be appearing at Word of South with the musicians Lis and Lon Williamson.
Eric Litwin is a song singing, guitar strumming, # 1 New York Times Best Selling author who brings early literacy and music together. He is the original author of the Pete the Cat series as well as the author of The Nuts and Groovy Joe. Eric’s books have sold over 12.5 million copies, been translated into 17 languages, and won 26 literacy awards including a Theodor Geisel Seuss Honor Award.
Ronni Lundy, the award-winning author of Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes (Clarkson Potter, 2016), has been writing about the food, music and culture of the southern Appalachians and the American South for more than 30 years. Born in Corbin, Kentucky and raised in Louisville with strong ties to the mountains, she often writes from the perspective and about the experience of the Appalachian diaspora.
In 2017, Victuals, received the coveted James Beard Award for Book of the Year, as well as best American Cookbook honors from both the Beards and the International Association of Culinary Professionals. The book was also shortlisted for The Art of Eating Prize and reached the Elite Eight in the annual Piglet competition. Ronni’s other nine books, include Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken(Atlantic, 1990), named by Gourmet as one of the six essential cookbooks on Southern food, Butter Beans to Blackberries (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999) and Sorghum’s Savor, (University Press of Florida, 2015). Lundy was also the editor of Cornbread Nation 3: Foods of the Mountain South. (University of North Carolina Press, 2005).
Ronni will be appearing at Word of South with the musicians Frank Douglas and Doug Moody, and samples of some of her recipes will be available.
Eric J. Lyman is a Rome-based journalist and writer who started his career in Tallahassee, where he graduated from FSU and worked at The Flambeau. In the many years since then, his work has been published by hundreds of publications ranging from Fortune Magazine, The Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal to The Hollywood Reporter and Wine & Spirits. In the profile photo, he’s the one wearing the glasses. He’ll be appearing at Word of South with the author Lisa Nikolidakis.
Andy Marlette is a nationally syndicated political cartoonist and comic strip creator.
Born and raised by underpaid public school teachers in Sanford, Fla., Marlette received a priceless editorial cartoon education from his uncle, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and creator of “Kudzu,” Doug Marlette. The elder Marlette drew with a ferocity that left no politician revered and no hypocrite un-skewerd. With this in mind, Andy works daily to carry on the family tradition that his uncle once described as “a gift for pissing people off.”
Marlette’s cartoons are distributed throughout the United States by Creators Syndicate. In 2021, he launched the comic strip “Shrimp and Grits” — a 100% Florida-grown comic about an internet-hating 8-year-old named Shrimp and her pet gator, Grits, who has unhealthy fixations with smart phones, social media and keeping up with the Kardashians.
In addition to cartooning, Marlette was an award winning columnist and editorial writer at the Pensacola News Journal for more than a decade. His work was both hated and adored by readers in Northwest Florida, and he has been awarded by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors for both his writing and cartoons.
Marlette resides in the outer wildlands of Escambia County just across the river border with Alabama. He lives with his lovely and brilliant wife Dahlonega, their truck-obsessed son Waylon, their dog Sweet Potato and a sizable flock of chickens whose eggs are among the finest in the Florida Panhandle.
Andy will be appearing at Word of South with the author Craig Pittman.
Katie Martin is a multimedia artist and songwriter based out of Alabama, with a unique blend of blues, folk, and soul that is immediately compelling.
She began working with Grammy Award winning producer Larry Mitchell in 2012, and has since released three albums with him: “Purpose” (2015), “Hope” (2018), and “Faith” (2022).
Mixing hand drawings, photography, videography and prose, each album is paired with a collection of artwork in both the digital and physical realms so that the listener can experience the albums on multiple levels.
Martin is also a Live Looping Artist, which means she composes songs with loop pedals for live performances. She has performed in Live Looping and Songwriting festivals across the United States and Mexico. Additionally, as an artist whose work emphasizes introspection and growth, Katie’s songs have also been featured on the “Women of Substance: Music with a Conscious” podcast.
Katie Martin’s refreshing individuality leaves a lasting impression long after the stage has grown silent. She’ll be appearing at Word of South with Larry Mitchell and also in a special solo event at Proof Brewery on Saturday afternoon.
Tara Lynn Masih is a National Jewish Book Award Finalist and winner of a Julia Ward Howe Award, a 2018 Florida Book Award, a Benjamin Franklin Award, and multiple Foreword Book of the Year Awards. She is the author of the acclaimed novel My Real Name Is Hanna and editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction. How We Disappear is her second story collection and won a bronze medal in the 2022 Florida Book Awards. She lives in St. Augustine, Florida, and will be appearing at Word of South as part of our panel of Florida Book Award fiction winners.
Presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham is one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals. With a depth of knowledge about politics, history, religion, and current affairs, Meacham has the unique ability to bring historical context to the issues and events impacting our daily lives.
The author of several #1 New York Times bestsellers, Meacham has written acclaimed books about Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, George H.W. Bush, and civil-rights icon John Lewis. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the Society of American Historians, Meacham is a distinguished visiting professor at Vanderbilt University, where he holds the Rogers Chair in the American Presidency. His latest book, And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle, was published in the fall of 2022 and immediately hit the bestseller list. He’ll be appearing at Word of South first with the musician Yasmin Williams, and then in a Q&A session hosted by Dr. Timothy Chapin of the FSU Institute of Politics.
Larry Mitchell exemplifies the success that can be achieved when one chooses to follow his passion. The gifted Grammy Award winning performer, producer, and engineer continues to amaze. Larry’s guitar textures demonstrate his abilities as a solo artist and as an ensemble player. Larry has had the opportunity to tour with Tracy Chapman, Billy Squier, Ric Ocasek, and Miguel Bosѐ. While on tour with Tracy Chapman, Larry performed for the late Nelson Mandela. In 1999, Larry won a San Diego music award for Best Pop Jazz artist.
In 2007, Larry won a Grammy Award for producing, engineering and performing on the Best Native American Music Album, “Totemic Flute Chants”, by Native American artist Johnny Whitehorse, who is best known as Robert Mirabal. Larry is also the proud recipient of 26 New Mexico Music Awards in various categories which include pop, adult, contemporary, rap, rock, country World music, and Native American music with artists such as Dawn Avery, Joy Harjo, and Shelley Morningsong. In 2009, Larry had the honor of playing on the Dalia Lama Renaissance album.
Larry newest release “The Light within” (acoustic) 10th and “Shadows on the Soul” 11th (Electric) can be purchase and streamed on larrymitchell.bandcamp.com.
Larry will be appearing at Word of South in his own solo show, and also with the poet Vanessa Angelica Villarreal and with the author Maurice Carlos Ruffin.
Fiddle player Doug Moody has been delighting audiences for decades with some of the country’s best musicians…blues great Popa Chubby, Celtic legend Kevin Mckrell, cosmic country rockers The Steam Donkeys and many others. Doug has toured both nationally and internationally for many years, bringing his unique style and interpretation to the many genres of music he performs. Always looking share his gifts, Doug loves to bond with an audience and create an unforgettable experience! He’ll be appearing this year at Word of South with the musician Frank Douglas and the chef and cookbook author Ronni Lundy.
Inspired by the experience of his Sicilian grandparents who settled in the sugarcane fields of Louisiana, Gary R. Mormino wrote his doctoral dissertation at UNC-Chapel Hill about a famous Italian immigrant community in St. Louis, Missouri, known as “The Hill.” As a history professor at University of South Florida in Tampa in 1977, he fell in love with another immigrant enclave, Ybor City. Once or twice a week he visited the neighborhood’s immigrant social clubs and conducted hundreds of interviews. In 1987 he and a former classmate published The Immigrant World of Ybor City, whichreceived the Howard Marraro prize as the year’s best study in Italian history.
While reading Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling, Dr Mormino realized that the next great story he needed to tell was occurring every single day in Florida: scrub forests bulldozed to build a shopping center while another thousand transplants arrived. In 2005, he wrote Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida. His new book, Dreams in the New Century, represents a sequel and explores one of the most transformational decades in state history, 2000-2010. He’ll be appearing at Word of South as part of our panel of non-fiction Florida Book Award winners.
It’s been a particularly fruitful few years for Motel Radio, with new songs, new homes, and new lives all blossoming into a bountiful harvest. Looking back, the band’s growth and evolution may seem somewhat inevitable now, but it wasn’t that long ago that the acclaimed indie rockers were facing a harsh reckoning with their very survival, and so the sweetness of this moment isn’t lost on them one bit. In fact, if you take a listen to the quartet’s entrancing new album, The Garden, you’ll find that sweetness is very much front and center.
Founded by Wellman and fellow guitarist/co-lead singer Winston Triolo while the pair were still just roommates in college, Motel Radio generated early buzz in their adopted hometown of New Orleans on the strength of their 2015 debut EP, Days & Nights, which helped land them dates with the likes of Kurt Vile and Drive-By Truckers in addition to festival slots at Firefly, Jazz Fest, and more. The band followed it up with the similarly well-received Desert Surf Films in 2016 and their first full-length, Siesta Del Sol, in 2019, touring the country on a seemingly endless loop as they built up their devoted following one night at a time.
“We loved being on the road,” says Triolo, “but at a certain point, there’s only so much of your life you can spend in a van before you start spinning your wheels creatively. It became obvious to all of us that we needed to figure out how to step back and tend to each of our personal lives and development if the band was going to last in any meaningful way.” And so half the group relocated to the West Coast—Wellman to San Francisco, Triolo to Portland, OR—while half stayed put in New Orleans. Engagement, marriage, pregnancy, and personal and professional resets ensued, but rather than drive the four apart, all the distance and change only seemed to bring them closer together.
“If anything, I think it made us tighter and more appreciative of each other and what we have,” says bassist Andrew Pancamo. “It forced us to be more intentional and figure out what really matters to us, both as individuals and as a collective.”
Motel Radio will be appearing at Word of South as part of our “Bourbon Street Saturday” on the Marriott AC Hotel Plaza Stage.
Lisa Nikolidakis’s memoir, No One Crosses the Wolf, about the traumas of a perilous childhood, a shattering murder-suicide, and a healing journey debuted in September 2022. It was selected by Amazon for its “First Reads” program; Vanity Fair named it one of “14 New Books to Read in September”; Buzzfeed picked it as the #1 of “15 Incredible Memoirs to Look Out for This Fall”; and it was listed on Audible’s “Top 10 True Crime Books of 2022.” Her essay “Family Tradition” was selected by Jonathan Franzen for inclusion in The Best American Essays 2016. Her writing has won various prizes and mentions, including the Annie Dillard Prize for Creative Nonfiction 2021, Gulf Coast Prize, Indiana Review’s Fiction Prize, the Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction, the Calvino Prize,A Room of Her Own’sOrlando Prize, and others. She aims to help demystify the shame of trauma and neurodivergence by continuing to write and speak publicly about it, and more information about her work can be found at www.lisanikolidakis.com. A graduate of the FSU Creative Writing Program, she’ll be appearing at Word of South with the writer Eric J. Lyman.
John Nogowski grew up in New Hampshire, worked in the newspaper business for 25 years in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Michigan, Florida and Georgia. He taught as an adjunct professor at Florida State University, Tallahassee Community College and Bainbridge State College before settling in at Gadsden County High School in Havana, Florida for a dozen years, retiring in 2022. His student newspaper, the Gadsden County Gazette was a two-time National Scholastic First-Place Winner in high school competition. “Last Time Out” and “Bob Dylan: A Descriptive, Annotated Discography 1961-2022” are updated editions of earlier books. “Last Time Out” originally appeared in 2005. This updated edition includes 18 new chapters, including a final chapter about his son’s first MLB game. “Bob Dylan” is the third edition of a comprehensive work done for McFarland and Co., covering Dylan’s long career. John will be leading our panel of Florida Book Award non-fiction winners at this year’s Word of South.
Mixing warm, pastoral indie rock, touches of psychedelia, and the buoyant sounds of early-’60s pop, Okey Dokey was formed by established members of the Nashville music scene in the mid-2010s. They made their full-length debut with Love It, Mean It in 2017.
Vocalist and visual artist Aaron Martin and guitarist Johny Fisher met when they briefly played together in a band in 2013. Martin had been invited to join the group after doing artwork for them, then ultimately left his position to make more time for art-related projects. The duo started playing together, however, and called themselves Okey Dokey with Fisher on guitar and Martin singing. They drew on a collective of musicians from area bands to flesh out the lineup. Okey Dokey’s first album, ‘Love You, Mean It’, arrived in early 2017 with the lead single “Wavy Gravy” taking over the blogs of the time. Their early success led them to play Austin City Limits Music Festival later that year, and in 2018, the duo returned with a fresh batch of singles, including “When They Get Older” featuring Rayland Baxter . Two years later the band emerged with their dynamic, genre-spanning sophomore effort, ‘Once Upon One Time’. The band frequently collaborates with other artist friends like No Vacation, Liz Cooper, Arlie, Devon Gilfillian, and more on other albums. In 2022, Okey Dokey released a covers album of their favorite artists and inspirations entitled ‘Karaokey Dokey’.
Currently, the band is recording their new studio album with Jonathan Rado (of Foxygen, prod. credits include The Killers, Whitney, Weyes Blood, Father John Misty, Cuco, Houndmouth). The first single “Late Riser” releases on 3/24/23.
A native of São Paulo, Téka mastered the traditions of Brazilian music at an early age. Along the way, she became equally entranced by American jazz. As her artistry grew, her talented singing and guitar playing fused the sensual rhythms and harmonies of Brazil with the sophistication and improvisation of jazz – a fascinating musical blend she calls New Bossa.
Téka has performed and recorded with Brazilian legends Hermeto Pascoal , Gilberto Gil, Flora Purim and Airto Moreira.
Her first CD, Garden Planet, included original music with an environmental theme. Both Garden Planet and her second release, Watercolours of Brazil, received high praise from critics and audiences.
Reviewing those first two albums, The Los Angeles Times wrote that, “Like João Gilberto, Téka brings everything into a unified expression, combining her vocal lines and rhythmic guitar accompaniments into a single, elegantly buoyant musical blend.”
Her latest release, So Many Stars, was described by the International Review of Music as “a definitive statement that she has matured into a gifted, world-class musical artist. Téka has a summer evening breeze quality to her voice always. She is as smoooooooooooth as bossa nova can be and that is very smooth indeed.” Téka will appear at Word of South as part of the Tribute to the Women in Jazz on Sunday at the Florida Jazz & Blues/Marriott AC Ballroom stage.
William Peterson is a Professor of Music in Jazz Studies and Music Theory/Composition at Florida State University, where he teaches jazz piano, jazz arranging and jazz combo. He holds the M.M. degree from the Eastman School of Music and the B.M. from the University of Cincinnati. He released “Singularity”, a duo recording on Centaur Records with F.S.U. faculty member trombonist Kevin Jones in 2021. He has previously released a trio recording on Summit Records. He has performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival, Blue Note Jazz club NYC, Paraguay International Jazz Festival and Savannah Music Festival as part of Swing Central. He’ll be appearing at Word of South Sunday as part of the Tribute to the Women in Jazz on the Florida Jazz & Blues/Marriott AC Ballroom stage.
Tom Piazza is celebrated both as a novelist and as a writer on American music. His twelve books include the novels A Free State and City Of Refuge, the short-story collection Blues and Trouble, the post-Katrina manifesto Why New Orleans Matters, and Devil Sent The Rain: Music and Writing in Desperate America, a collection of his essays and journalism. He was a principal writer for the innovative HBO drama series Treme, and the winner of a Grammy Award for his album notes to Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: A Musical Journey. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Bookforum, The Oxford American, Columbia Journalism Review, and many other periodicals. He lives in New Orleans, and will appear at Word of South in conversation with the author Ladee Hubbard.
Craig Pittman is a native Floridian. Born in Pensacola, he graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where his muckraking work for the student paper prompted an agitated dean to label him “the most destructive force on campus.” Since then, he has covered a variety of newspaper beats and quite a few natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and the Florida Legislature, winning state and national awards. He is the author of six books, including The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World’s Most Beautiful Orchid, which is the only book ever classified as “True Crime/Gardening,” and Oh, Florida! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country, which won the gold medal for Florida non-fiction from the Florida Book Awards. His fifth book, Cat Tale: The Wild, Weird Battle to Save the Florida Panther, published in January 2020, earned him the Rachel Carson Award from the national Sierra Club, and led the Florida Heritage Book Festival to declare him a Florida Literary Legend. His latest book is The State You’re In: Florida Men, Florida Women, and Other Wildlife. He lives in St. Petersburg with his wife and two children, and writes a weekly column for the Florida Phoenix and co-hosts the Welcome to Florida podcast.
Craig will be appearing at Word of South with the cartoonist and comic book creator Andy Marlette.
A timeless rock & roll band for the modern world, The Prescriptions sharpen their sound with Time Apart. Produced by Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes) and Brendan Benson (The Raconteurs), the album funnels a half-century of American and British sounds — including taut power-pop, explorative indie rock, jangling heartland hooks, and New Wave nuances — into something sharp and singular. The result is a warm, widescreen follow-up to The Prescriptions’ 2019 debut, Hollywood Gold, its songs balanced halfway between classic craftsmanship and progressive exploration.
“You can listen to our first record and hear our different influences,” says drummer John Wood. “We’ve always had wide interests, but Time Apart allowed us to become more specific.”
Fiery and forward-looking, Time Apart explores both sides of the pop/rock divide. It’s a 21st century album rooted in everything that made the classic stuff so compelling — sharp songwriting, ringing refrains, percussive stomp, and guitars that chime one minute and churn the next.
“If you’ve ever daydreamed about hearing “Being There”- era Wilco jam with “Bends”-era Radiohead, your wish is granted. ” — AL.COM
Tommy Prine’s debut album “This Far South,” coming June 23, 2023, is not only a long-awaited introduction but a testimony to Prine’s 20’s and the loss, love, and growth that has defined them. Co-produced by close friend and kindred musical spirit, Ruston Kelly, and beloved Nashville engineer and producer, Gena Johnson, the album is rich and dynamic, from cathartic jams to nostalgic storytelling. This year, alongside his own runs of headline shows, Prine opened for Tyler Childers on his “Send In The Hounds Tour” in London. He was also named one of Amazon Music’s 2023 Breakthrough Artists to Watch.
“I feel like I’ve learned more about myself in the last year and a half than I ever have in my life,” Prine says. “And I think that speaks a lot to doing something that I’m passionate about. I love and respect the craft. Just hitting the road and doing what so many people before me have done and will continue to do, it’s really resonated with me. I think it’s transformed me into the person that I am meant to be.”
Zariah Tucker was born in Tallahassee, Florida. Now 11 years old, she is known as the Motivational Rapper–Rapper Z! Rapper Z started her musical journey at the age of 4. She recorded her first single at age 7, with her hit AR Goal in 2019. Her second hit single was recorded in 2020 called No Doubts. She’s performed at many Back-to-School Events, she was featured on WCTV performing her single AR Goal, she’s a local actress, successful basketball player, and she’s also performed with known celebrity, DJ DEMP to promote kids to continue to learn, grow, and to be successful. Rapper Z has a goal of reaching people of all ages with positive vibes, and motivational music.
Tallahassee powerhouse Revival takes to the stage with the incomparable Avis Berry’s dynamic voice and stage presence. These folks have catapulted to the top of Tallahassee’s musical mountain with a stellar ensemble of gifted local musicians including Jeff Davis on bass, Dillon Bradley-Brown on drums, Chris Skene on guitar and vocals, and John “JB” Babich on piano and vocals. True to their name, they revive old rock ‘n’ roll, blues, soul, gospel, rock and jazzy influences created in their own inimitable style. Vocal harmonies abound. A show not to be missed.
Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s most recent book is the story collection, The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You (One World, 2021), a New York Times Editor’s Choice, a finalist for the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, and longlisted for the Story Prize. His first book, We Cast a Shadow (One World, 2019) was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the PEN America Open Book Prize. It was longlisted for the 2021 DUBLIN Literary Award, the Center for Fiction Prize, and the Aspen Words Literary Prize. The novel was also a New York Times Editor’s Choice. Ruffin is the winner of several literary prizes, including the Iowa Review Award in fiction and the William Faulkner–William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition Award for Novel-in-Progress. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the LA Times, the Oxford American, Garden & Gun, Kenyon Review, and Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Ruffin was asked, “What is your favorite part of The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You?” He responded, “It’s kind of unique. There aren’t that many short story collections by African-Americans coming out of New Orleans, which is weird considering how legendary my hometown is. So I feel like the book is at the vanguard of a movement I hope will happen. I want to see books flooding out of New Orleans. We have so many stories to tell!”
A New Orleans native, Ruffin is a professor of Creative Writing at Louisiana State University, and the 2020-2021 John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. Ruffin was also the 2022 Grand Marshal of the Mardi Gras Krewe of House Floats. He’ll be appearing at Word of South with the musician Larry Mitchell.
The Rumble, featuring Chief Joseph Boudreaux Jr., is New Orleans’ premier Mardi Gras Indian Funk ensemble, representing the legacy and preservation of NOLA music and black masking culture. Through their authentic Big Easy brass sound fused with deep funk and Black Masking street culture, The Rumble gives audiences a full-on New Orleans experience.
The group was created in 2021 by seven members of multi-Grammy-nominated band Cha Wa. After its mass exodus, the collective vowed to both preserve and further its musical vision that blends New Orleans culture from past, present and future.
From Black Masking culture, to the brass band tradition, to the legacy of jazz, funk, and other forms of New Orleans music and culture, The Rumble is the whole package. This band is the future of New Orleans music and is continuing on in the footsteps of great bands such as the Wild Magnolias, the Meters, and the Neville Brothers, delivering that classic mystique of the past, while bringing a fresh original sound that is in-tune with the times.
The Rumble is appearing at Word of South as part of our “Bourbon Street Saturday” on the Marriott AC Hotel Plaza Stage.
2-time Grammy winning legend, Blues Hall of Famer, six-time Grammy nominee, and 14-time Blues Music Award winner, with cameo in the Netflix original Dolemite Is My Name starring Eddie Murphy, and a recent Autobiography, Bobby Rush has been making records for nearly 70 years and has more than 400 recordings, 75 career releases, and now 27 studio albums to his name. He’s finally told his story in his autobiography I Ain’t Studdin’ Ya: My American Blues Story, achieving feature stories in The New York Times Sunday Edition, The Guardian and NPR’s Here and Now. The literary media outlet Kirkus Reviews recounts “A fascinating story well told… A richly detailed account of a bluesman’s full life.”
But Rush, who turned 88 in November is not done yet. 2021 marked the 50th Anniversary of his Billboard R&B charting hit “Chicken Heads”. To commemorate the occasion Bobby Rush recorded four new versions in distinctly different styles with an array of prolific collaborators including Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Buddy Guy, Allman Brothers alum Warren Haynes’ jam-rock band Gov’t Mule, and from the new generation of blues stars and current Grammy nominee Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, plus Bobby Rush with his band showcasing the Southern Soul style they’ve performed it in their live shows for decades. The four cuts were included on a special Black Friday Record Store Day exclusive 12” vinyl and followed digitally in early 2022.
With the release of his 2020 album Rawer Than Raw, an all-acoustic effort that pays tribute to the rich blues history of Mississippi, Rush has cemented his reputation as one of the preeminent bluesmen in the world, one of the last living links to the music’s glorious past, and an inspiration for its future stars. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album, his second Grammy Award and sixth nomination. He’ll be interviewed at Word of South by Tallahassee writer Mark Hinson.
Allison Russell is an artist, activist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist of extraordinary power, talent and grace. A founding member of the acclaimed groups Our Native Daughters (with Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla and Amythyst Kiah), and Birds of Chicago (with her husband/musical partner JT Nero), the Montreal native has begun to emerge as a potent force among creative circles worldwide.
On her debut solo album (Fantasy Records, Spring 2021), Allison shares the harrowing story of her abusive childhood in a deeply moving, unforgettable song-cycle of courage, empathy, hope and love. With its vivid detail, brilliant songwriting and fearless soul, Russell’s album is both a triumphant artistic statement and life affirming achievement. Allison has been nominated for three GRAMMY awards, multiple Americana UK and US awards including Best International Artist, 4 Canadian Folk Music Awards and her new album appeared on the long list of the prestigious Polaris Prize in 2021. Outside Child topped the “Best Of 2021” lists for a number of outlets including New York Times, NPR Music, The Atlantic, Variety, Stereogum, Barack Obama’s list, and more.
Referred to by Billboard Magazine as “One of Music Row’s greatest veteran tunesmiths,” Jerry Salley has had an incredibly successful, multi-award winning songwriting career. Nominated in 2019 for the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame & for a Grammy for producing the multi-artist project GonnaSing, Gonna’ Shout, Salley is the 2019 & 2018 IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) Songwriter of the Year and was named the 2003 SESAC Country Music Songwriter of the Year. Salley has had over 500 different songs recorded and his songs have sold in excess of 18 million records worldwide. He is an eight-time Dove Award nominee, having won a prestigious Dove in 2021 (with Dolly Parton) and in 1990 (with Steven Curtis Chapman). Jerry has received numerous awards and nominations from different associations for his songwriting accomplishments (GRAMMY, IBMA, NSAI, SESAC, Country Music Association of Australia, Gospel Voice Magazine, Absolutely Gospel, etc.). Writing and singing in Nashville since 1982, he has written multiple hits in country, bluegrass, and gospel music and may well be the most successful songwriter to have earned equal recognition from all three genres of music.
As an artist, Jerry has released 7 solo albums and has performed on numerous stages, including the honor of performing as a soloist many times on the world famous Grand Ole Opry.
David Sanchez is a graduate of the University of South Florida and the University of Miami. His debut novel, All Day Is a Long Time, has won the Mary Frances Hobson Prize, Florida Book Award Gold Medal, and an International Latino Book Award for Best Popular Fiction. He lives in Tampa, Florida where he works in residential construction. He’ll be appearing at Word of South as part of our panel of Florida Book Award fiction winners.
Amina Scott is an upright and electric bassist, composer, and arranger. Her interest in music began at an early age when her grandmother began giving her piano lessons.
Amina has ties to the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music (OPCM) which was started by trombonist Angela Wellman to provide arts and music classes to the Oakland community in an economical way. Through OPCM, Amina has taken her skills to Lima, Peru to be part a of a group that represented the United States at the first Festival of Music and Dance in the African Diaspora where she played various concerts around Lima and held seminars discussing the music of the African Diaspora in the United States.
An FSU graduate and now based in New Orleans, LA, Amina joined the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra led by Adonis Rose. Along with leading her own projects, she has performed with various artists including Dee Dee Bridgewater, Chief Xian Atunde Adjuah (formerly Christian Scott), Jazzmeia Horn, Steve Turre, Wessell “Warm Daddy” Anderson, Nicholas Payton, Jason Marsalis, David Murray, Jamison Ross, Joanne Brackeen, Don Vappie, Herlin Riley, and more.
She’ll be appearing at Word of South as part of our “Tribute to the Women in Jazz” on Sunday on the Florida Jazz & Blues/Marriott AC Hotel Ballroom stage.
Upright and electric bassist specialized in sultry, Venezuelan infused, jazz music, Jose Serrano currently teaches at FSU as graduate assistant, pursuing his Master’s in Jazz Performance. Raised in Venezuela, he was brought up in the classical scene, playing in orchestras since age 10. By age 16, he was able to move to the U.S., and shortly after he found the love for Jazz, Funk, Soul, Blues, and other American styles. Growing up, he was exposed to music ranging from classical to Brazilian Maracatu, and now he’s able to perform in several groups in a wide virility of genres. He’ll be appearing at Word of South as part of the Tribute to the Women in Jazz Sunday on the Florida Jazz & Blues/Marriott AC Ballroom stage.
Grammy award winning baritone saxophonist Lauren Sevian is one of the most in demand musicians on the scene today. Ms. Sevian came to NYC in 1997 to attend the Manhattan School of Music, and soon thereafter began touring with groups such as Diva and the Artie Shaw Orchestra. She can be seen performing as a bandleader around the NYC area with her quartet, the LSQ; or LSAT, her quintet co-led with alto saxophonist Alexa Tarantino, which recently won first place in the “Made in NY” jazz competition. As a sidewoman, she can be heard regularly with the Mingus Big Band, and has performed with countless other groups, notably the Dizzy Gillespie all star big band, Christian McBride’s Big Band, Robin Eubanks Big Band, and the legendary Count Basie Orchestra. Her debut album “Blueprint” was released on saxophonist Greg Osby’s label Inner Circle Music to critical acclaim, winning a SESAC jazz award for national performance activity, and receiving rave reviews in publications such as Downbeat, Cadence, and All About Jazz. Ms. Sevian also co-leads “Lioness”, an all female collective featuring the horn section of Alexa Tarantino, on alto sax, Jenny Hill on tenor sax, organist Akiko Tsuruga, guitarist Amanda Monaco, & drummer Allison Miller.
She’ll be appearing at Word of South as part of our “Tribute to the Women in Jazz” on Sunday on the Florida Jazz & Blues/Marriott AC Hotel Ballroom stage.
Annamarie Simoldoni is a journalist and researcher based in South Florida. She graduated from Florida State University with a degree in Editing, Writing, and Media. While a student, she joined the Society for Collegiate Journalists and worked as a staff writer for Strike magazine. She is currently working with the News Watch to research environmental policy and sea turtle conservation in Florida. Her research work has appeared in publications such as The Nation.
Wes Singletary is the author of three books of non-fiction: The Right Time: John Henry “Pop” Lloyd and Black Baseball; Al Lopez: The Life of Baseball’s El Senor; and Florida’s First Big League Baseball Players: A Narrative. He is also a contributing author on The Pride of Smoketown: The 1935 Pittsburgh Crawfords. His first novel, Big Guava, is due out in 2023. Wes earned a Ph.D. in history from Florida State University, and currently teaches AP United States History at Lawton Chiles High School. He also serves as an adjunct history professor at Tallahassee Community College. Wes is married to the former Toni Zarate and they have two adult children, Patricia and Nelson. Wes can be found on Twitter @TampaGuy6.
Minton Sparks is a decorated poet, playwright and author, and has been invited to prestigious events such as the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival and Berry College’s Southern Women Writer’s Conference (alongside Maya Angelou and Kaye Gibbons).
She has performed in the American Songbook Series at the Lincoln Center, made her debut at the Grand Ole Opry, appeared at the venerable Old Towne School of Folk Music, and served as teller-in-residence at the Jonesborough National Storytelling Festival.
Minton has shared the stage with heavyweights like John Prine, Nanci Griffith, Ben Folds, Rodney Crowell, Punch Brothers and the Indigo Girls, and has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, BBC’s Bob Harris Show and WoodSong’s Old-Time Radio Hour. Those who have seen her before at Word of South know that this isn’t one to miss.
Ali Sperling is an assistant professor of English at Florida State University, where she teaches and conducts research on science and speculative fictions, queer and feminist theory, and the environmental humanities. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and has written extensively on modernist and contemporary literature. Her work has appeared in the Bloomsbury Handbook of 21st Century Feminist Theory, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and many others. Sperling has served as the IPODI Postdoctoral Fellow at the Technical University Berlin and an Affiliate Research Fellow at the Institute for Cultural Inquiry Berlin. She will be MC-ing the collaboration of poet Vanessa Angélica Villarreal and musician Larry Mitchell at Word of South, for the Sunshine State Biodiversity Group slate of events.
Helen Sung is an acclaimed jazz pianist and composer and a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow. A native of Houston, Texas, and alumna of its High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (where she studied classical piano and violin), she eschewed her classical upbringing after a jazz epiphany during undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Helen went on to become part of the inaugural class of the Thelonious Monk Institute (now the Herbie Hancock Institute) at the New England Conservatory of Music, and win the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Jazz Piano Competition.
Sung’s newest album Quartet+ (Sunnyside Records) garnered a 4.5 star DownBeat review and inclusion in its “Best of 2021 Albums” list, and a JazzTimes cover story (January 2022 issue), while previous releases Sung With Words (Stricker Street), a collaborative project with renowned poet Dana Gioia, and Anthem For A New Day (Concord Jazz) topped the jazz charts. In addition to her own band, Helen has performed with such luminaries as the late Clark Terry, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Wynton Marsalis, Regina Carter, Terri Lyne Carrington, Cecile McLorin Salvant, and the Mingus Big Band.
Helen’s 2021 Guggenheim fellowship is being applied toward a multi-movement composition for big band; one of the movements, “Wayne’s World,” won the 2022 BMI Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize. And in October 2022, Helen debuted at Carnegie Hall with her Quartet+ project.
Helen has served on the jazz faculties of the Berklee College of Music and the Juilliard School. She is currently visiting faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and an Associate Professor at Columbia University, where she also was the inaugural jazz artist-in-residence at its prestigious Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute exploring the intersection of jazz and neuroscience. She’ll appear at Word of South as part of the Tribute to the Women in Jazz on Sunday on the Florida Jazz & Blues/Marriott AC Ballroom Stage.
The mission of the TSO is to engage, enrich, and inspire people at all stages of life through great music.” Founded in 1979 by Hungarian immigrant Nicholas Harsanyi—a student of Bartók, Dohnányi, and Kodály—the TSO has long-aspired to serve Florida’s historic Capital City through thrilling performances, edifying educational programs, and inclusive community engagement initiatives, many free of charge.
Over its 42-year history the TSO has worked in schools and community centers, has presented annual outdoor events that showcase the area’s natural and mysterious beauty, and has developed robust partnerships with our city’s 3 higher-educational institutions and our City/County governments.
In recent years, the TSO has embarked on ambitious new projects—such as a 35th anniversary gala with soprano Renee Fleming, the creation of a jazz orchestra, and the adoption of Carnegie Hall’s educational ‘Link Up’ program—and has embraced social justice concerts, such as the 2017 “Requiem of Resistance” concert, a 2019 performance of Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, and a planned community concert celebrating Florida’s Emancipation Day in May, 2023. The TSO will be appearing with the artist Ben Folds at Word of South.
Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!, the new album from Aaron Lee Tasjan, a genre-bending rising star who’s bold reimagination of classic sounds and songwriting has established him as one of the most idiosyncratic artists of his generation.
Tasjan has been on a shapeshifting musical journey his whole life. From his glam rock roots, when Jimmy Iovine told him “guys in make-up don’t sell records” and Lady Gaga would open for his band in NYC, to his legend-hopping guitar sideman days, where he played with everyone from The New York Dolls to Sean Lennon and traveled the globe, collecting road war tales from doing mushrooms with Bono to twitter spats with Peter Frampton.
Whilst his tour plans were pushed during the pandemic he’s been working with Noon Chorus and been delivering some great live streams and historically he has opened for Marcus King, Greta Van Fleet and opening festival stages for Willie Nelson, Jeff Tweedy and Social Distortion with his band at festivals from Stagecoach to Summer Fest to Bonnaroo.
Jeff VanderMeer has been profiled by the New York Times, Audubon Magazine, and the Guardian, in large part for his environmentalism and his exploration of the nonhuman world in his fiction. His NYT-bestselling Southern Reach trilogy has been translated into over 35 languages. The first novel, Annihilation, won the Nebula Award and Shirley Jackson Award, and was made into a movie by Paramount in 2018. Other works include Dead Astronauts, Borne (a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award), and The Strange Bird. These novels, set in the Borne universe, are being developed for TV by AMC. His most recent novel, Hummingbird Salamander (MCD/FSG), a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award, interrogates the foundations of our modern world in an environmental context. Called “the weird Thoreau” by The New Yorker, VanderMeer frequently speaks about issues related to climate change and storytelling. His nonfiction about wildlife and nature has appeared in Orion Magazine, Esquire, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. In January of 2023, VanderMeer founded the Sunshine State Biodiversity Group, a nonprofit devoted to rewilding, biodiversity education, and environmental journalism. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife Ann, cat Neo, and a yard full of native plants. Jeff will be in conversation with the author Brian Evenson at this year’s Word of South.
Vanessa Angélica Villarreal is the author of the collection Beast Meridian, a 2019 Whiting Award recipient, a Kate Tufts Discovery Award finalist, and winner of the John A. Robertson Award for the Best First Book of Poetry from the Texas Institute of Letters. Her work in Poetry has been recognized with a 2019 Friends of Literature Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and has also appeared in the New York Times, Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, the Rumpus, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, Buzzfeed Reader, and elsewhere. She is a CantoMundo Fellow and is pursuing her doctorate in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where she is raising her son with the help of a loyal dog.
The poet’s Blood Meridian is kind of a nexus of a rich connection to the environment, mythology, and exploration of colonialism. She’ll be appearing at Word of South with the musician Larry Mitchell, sponsored by the Sunshine State Biodiversity Group.
John Paul White is an American singer-songwriter and a former member of the duo The Civil Wars, which won the 2012 Grammy Awards for the best Folk Album and Country Performance by a Duo or Group and recorded four albums. A co-owner of “Single Lock Records,” a local indie label that has released records by some of the Yellowhammer State’s finest, including Dylan LeBlanc, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, and legendary singer and songwriter Donnie Fritts, his album Beulah was released in 2016, and his latest album, The Hurting Kind, in 2019, and he’ll be closing out this year’s festival on Sunday.
A native of northern Virginia, Yasmin Williams, now 24, began playing electric guitar in 8th grade, after she beat the video game Guitar Hero 2 on expert level. Initially inspired by Jimi Hendrix and other shredders she was familiar with through the game, she quickly moved on to acoustic guitar, finding that it allowed her to combine fingerstyle techniques with the lap-tapping she had developed through Guitar Hero, as well as perform as a solo artist. By 10th grade, she had released an EP of songs of her own composition. Deriving no lineage from “American primitive” and rejecting the problematic connotations of the term, Williams’ influences include the smooth jazz and R&B she listened to growing up, Hendrix and Nirvana, go-go and hip-hop. Her love for the band Earth, Wind and Fire prompted her to incorporate the kalimba into her songwriting, and more recently, she’s drawn inspiration from other Black women guitarists such as Elizabeth Cotten, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Algia Mae Hinton. On Urban Driftwood, Williams references the music of West African griots through the inclusion of kora (which she recently learned) and by featuring the hand drumming of 150th generation djeli of the Kouyate family, Amadou Kouyate, on the title track.
Since its release in January 2021, Urban Driftwood has been praised by numerous publications such as Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, The Wasington Post, NPR Music, No Depression, Paste Magazine, and many others. Williams will be appearing at Word of South with the author Jon Meacham.
Lon and Elisabeth Williamson, musical and life partners for over 40 years, are well known around the Sunshine State for their artistry as a duo, blending eloquent harmonies with accomplished musicianship. Add to that their dynamic repertoire of original, old-time, jazz, swing, and bluegrass tunes and you’ll have a show that you’re not likely to soon forget. They are also members many bands around Florida which include Medicine Springs, The Driftwoods and The Gatorbone Trio. This weekend they’ll be appearing with Sue Tice, a wonderful fiddler who hails originally from Maryland. When not on the road, the Williamsons spend time at their home deep in the Florida sandhills, where Lon builds beautiful instruments (Williamson Mandolins and More) and Lis creates original millinery, greeting cards and prints at her workshop, The Land of Flowers.
Lis and Lon will be appearing with the musician Frank Lindamood at this year’s Word of South.
Tracey Enerson Wood loves discovering amazing women whose stories have been lost to history, and bringing them to life for today’s readers.
Her debut novel, The Engineer’s Wife, the story of the woman who saw to the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge is an international and USA Today best seller. Her sophomore novel, The War Nurse tells the unforgettable tale of Julia Stimson and her nurses in WW1 France. Both novels are published by Sourcebooks.
Her co-authored anthology/cookbook Homefront Cooking, American Veterans Share Recipes, Wit, and Wisdom, was released by Skyhorse Publishing in 2018 and all authors’ profits are donated to organizations that support veterans. Life Hacks for Military Spouses is her latest non- fiction release, also an anthology from Skyhorse.
Tracey has always had a writing bug. While working as a Registered Nurse, starting her own Interior Design company, raising two children, and bouncing around the world as a military wife, she indulged in her passion as a playwright, screenwriter and novelist. She has authored magazine columns and other non-fiction, written and directed plays of all lengths, including Grits, Fleas and Carrots, Rocks and Other Hard Places, Alone, and Fog. Her screenplays include Strike Three and Roebling’s Bridge.
Other passions include food and cooking, and honoring military heroes.
A New Jersey native, she now lives with her family in Florida.
Tracey will be appearing at Word of South with the author John Cribb.
Melissa Scholes Young is the author of the novels The Hive and Flood and editor of Grace in Darkness and Furious Gravity, two anthologies by women writers. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic, Ms., Washington Post, Poets & Writers, Ploughshares, Literary Hub, and Believer Magazine. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Foundation, the Center for Mark Twain Studies, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Born and raised in Hannibal, Missouri, she is a Professor in the Literature Department of American University where she directs the undergraduate creative writing program.
Melissa will be appearing at Word of South with the musician Cory B. Clay.