The Stone Necklace Sparks Multidisciplinary Arts Events


In celebration of the 2016 One Book, One Community selection, The Stone Necklace by Carla Damron (USC Press, 2016) a number of multi-disciplinary arts events are planned to more fully enjoy the community reading experience, including a three-person photography exhibit opening on Thursday, February 4th with a panel presentation by the participating photographers. In the weeks to come additional programs involving theatre arts and music, all inspired by a reading of The Stone Necklace, are also planned.

Set against the backdrop of contemporary Columbia, South Carolina, The Stone Necklace braids together the stories of a grieving widow, a struggling nurse, a young mother, and a homeless madman, reminding us of the empowering and surprising ways in which our lives touch one another and through which, together, we recover from even the greatest of losses. Bestselling and award-winning author Mary Alice Monroe praises The Stone Necklace as “a celebration of the transformative power of shared experiences and of the connections that bind us.”


Cemetery by Thomas Hammond


Off Page – Photography: Artists Respond to The Stone Necklace will open on the Tapp’s Arts Center on Thursday, February 4th as part of the First Thursday celebration of Columbia arts. Columbia photographers Thomas Hammond, Robert Coffey, and Kristine Hartvigsen, having read advanced copies of the novel, will show the work they created in response. A brief panel presentation discussing the exhibit will take place at 7 pm in the Fountain Room downstairs at Tapp’s. Free.


Vicky Saye Henderson


Off Page – On Stage: Imrov with Vicky Saye Henderson will take place on Thursday, February 11th at 7 pm in the Skyline Room of Tapp’s Arts Center.  In a program created by local theatre artist and educator Vicky Saye Henderson based in part on Damron’s novel, Henderson will lead an improvisation workshop and demonstration.  Free.


Cully Salehi and Todd Mathis

Off Page – Music: A Musical Response to The Stone Necklace featuring original work created by Todd Mathis and Cully Salehi in response to the novel The Stone Necklace will take place on Saturday, February 20th at 7 pm at the Deckle Edge Literary Festival Saturday Night Reception at Main Street Agape. Tickets available via Brown Paper Tickets.

The above events are presented via a partnership between One Book, One Columbia, One Columbia for Arts and History, Jasper Magazine, The University of South Carolina Press, and Richland Library.

About the Artists


South Carolinian Carla Damron is a fiction writer, clinical social worker, and author of the Caleb Knowles mystery novels Keeping Silent, Spider Blue, and Death in Zooville in which she explores addiction, homelessness, and other social issues. Her short stories have appeared in Fall Lines, Six Minute Magazine, Melusine, In Posse Review,and other journals. Named the 2014 South Carolina Social Worker of the Year, Damron holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Queens University and a master's degree in social work from the University of South Carolina.

Thomas Hammond is a freelance photojournalist from Columbia, South Carolina specializing in human interest, political, and cultural stories from the heart of the American South to the Middle East and wherever else the road takes him. In 2015, he won a South Carolina Press Association award for his work documenting the war and humanitarian crisis in and around Syria. More recently, he's covered local stories such as the removal of the Confederate flag, the devastation of the recent floods, and the evolution of the local music scene.

Born in San Francisco, California, Kristine Hartvigsen earned a bachelor’s degree in education and completed graduate studies in journalism at the University of South Carolina. She began her journalism career in the mid-1980s at The State and The Columbia Record newspapers. She is a past editor of South Carolina Business and Lake Murray-Columbia magazines as well as a past associate editor of Jasper magazine. Her photography has been published in:  Sandlapper, South Carolina Business Monthly, Lake Murray-Columbia, Columbia Business Monthly, and Jasper magazines; in The State, the Free-Times, the Myrtle Beach Sun News, Lowcountry Life, and the Georgetown Times newspapers; as well as in print and online publications of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, The Nature Conservancy of South Carolina, and the South Carolina Education Association. In 2012, Muddy Ford Press published her first poetry collection, To the Wren Nesting.

Vicky Saye Henderson is a performer and teaching artist, whose projects include live stage, film, TV, voice-overs and cabaret. On staff at Trustus Theatre, she serves as Director of Education and Professional Development.  She is also a member of Trustus' residential performing ensemble, appearing most recently in The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical. She is the recipient of the SC Arts Commission's 2015 Individual Artist Fellowship in Acting and was named the 2013 Jasper Artist of the Year in Theatre. She received her improv training in Orlando, FL (KVG Studios) and is co-director of Trustus' Improv and Sketch Comedy master track Apprentice Company program. Vicky recently provided vocal narration for USC Press' audiobook of Carla Damron's novel, The Stone Necklace. 

For the past 15 years, Todd Mathis has been a solid fixture of the South Carolina music scene, and well beyond, playing in a number of groups from the indie soul of Betty Sneetch to the Brit-tinged rock of Boxing Day (Universal/Republic), fronting the alt-country turned rock of American Gun, crafting the soundscapes of Interruptions of the Mind, and releasing a few solo albums along the way.

Cully Salehi, a graduate of North Carolina School of the Arts, began her journey in music as an orchestral violist. After eight years of classical playing she began exploring the worlds of improvisation, jazz, and rock. Since contributing viola and keys to North Carolina Indie rock group Silver Hill Mine, she has performed several seasons with Columbia Community Orchestra and Lake Murray Symphony Orchestra. She currently enjoys playing local venues, growing in her own songwriting, and collaborating on recording projects at Jangly Records.


Community Talk: Jam Room Music Festival 2015 Announcement, Cory Branan Edition

11732033_708312529272830_1273592294353685023_o We here at Jasper are stoked for the 2015 Jam Room Music Festival, a free all-day concert that is celebrating its fourth year on Main Street this year. But rather than us telling you how awesome some of the bookings are, we thought we'd ask some community figures about their personal experiences with some of the bands booked. We started by asking American Gun's Todd Mathis about his history with Nashville singer/songwriter Cory Branan, one of the most celebrated under-the-radar Americana acts around.



The first time I heard the name Cory Branan was in the song “Tears Don’t Matter Much” by Lucero.  Ben Nichols sings:

“Cory Branan’s got an evil streak

And way with words, that will bring you to your knees

He can play the wildest shows

And he can sing so sweet”

Not long after, while browsing around Acme Comics, Randy Dunn suggested I buy The Hell You Say, Branan’s debut album from 2002.  I listened, thought it had some good songs, “Ms. Ferguson” and “Skateland South” being my favorites, but was overall unimpressed.  I thought Lucero was much better and the production on the album was scattered.  Sometime later in 2005 (the exact dates from those days blur) I saw where Cory’s manager, Brian, was looking to fill some tour dates and I decided to try and help out.  The Whig had just opened so I asked Phil Blair if I could book Cory to play there.  Phil agreed and I got in touch with Brian and we booked the date.  I lugged my band’s PA equipment down the stairs to the Whig, set it up and had it ready.  I sent out emails to Uncle Gram (at WUSC) and rounded up as many of my friends as I could and Cory played for the first time in Columbia.

After seeing that show I realized why Ben Nichols had thought enough of Cory to put him in a song.  Cory was great live, and it was just him and a guitar. Charismatic, spastic, tender, and thoughtful were a few of the descriptions that ran through my mind.  His debut album had not done him justice. (And actually, none since have done justice to the live show.)  This guy was madly talented and anyone that saw him had to crack a smile at some of his stories and tunes. There were maybe 20 people in the audience that night, but I think everyone had a good time.  Cory drank some whiskey and followed me back to my house where I left him sleeping the next morning.  I went to work and was surprised to get a call from Brian (the manager) that afternoon asking if I had Cory’s phone.  I found it on the back of the toilet and Fed Exed it to Cory’s next show.

About a year or so later (again, timeframes here blur) I booked Cory again in Columbia, this time being at New Brookland Tavern.  I got Rob Lindsey to open, and I think I played a few songs too, and we had a better crowd.  Things were going pretty good that night until soundman Benji had a heart attack and died in the club.  Cory’s set was cut short and we all moved to the Red Tub where most sat in disbelief.  It was a pretty sad scene, Benji being such a great, nice dude.  Again, Cory came back to the house, and again, I got a call later in the evening asking about Cory’s phone.  I found it under the guest bed.

After those two shows in Columbia, Branan didn’t need my help booking him anymore.  He moved on to a better booking agency and traveled back through Columbia a few more times where he always played amazing live shows.  I even caught him in Nashville once with a full band and a near-packed house, something he hasn’t quite been able to do here in Columbia.  I’ve suggested Cory to the powers that be for the Jam Room Music Festival since its inception and was thrilled to see him on the bill this year.  I’m sure more than a few folks will come away saying, “Dang, that Cory Branan guy put on a hell of a show.” -Todd Mathis

Here's a link to Todd's new project, Interruptions of the Mind, along with some Cory Branan tunes:

Taking an American Gun to the Confederate Flag: Todd Mathis Releases Protest Tune "Fuel the Flag"

fuethatflag By: Michael Spawn

In a world of uncertainties, it’s comforting to know we can always count on Todd Mathis for a good protest song.

In 2013, the American Gun frontman, along with members of Whiskey Tango Revue, released “NRA,” three minutes and thirty seconds of honky-tonk satire in which Mathis assumes the perspective of a loud-and-proud firearms enthusiast, hell-bent on protecting an Amendment that is actually in little to no peril. The song is funny, but where “NRA” uses irony to make its point, Mathis’s latest bit of musical conscience arrives in truly earnest form—no jokes, no winks or nudges; simply his feelings on an issue that has the eyes of the nation fixed squarely (again) on South Carolina. But Mathis’s sincere delivery is completely appropriate, given how simultaneously delicate and explosive that issue really is.

Along with ad-hoc backup band The Discard Pile (Paul Bodamer and Philippe Herndon) Mathis just recorded and released “Fuel That Flag,” a protest song in the staunchly American tradition. Musically, the song couldn’t be less subversive; its standard chord progression rides merrily atop an unflashy, mid-tempo backbeat, with the overall feel being that of mid-‘90s alternative rock, a sludgier Superdrag. The tune is easy to latch onto and the chorus pops with confidence, but as with all protest music, the lyrical message is really the whole trip. “Fuel That Flag” began life as a poem partially inspired by Abram Joseph Ryan’s famous Conquered Banner, and once he was satisfied, Mathis put his words to music, recruited a couple of friends, and turned his verse into a recorded document. The lyrics are plaintive without being overly maudlin; they express anger but leave ample room for hope. “Show the state / And show the world / Fuck this talk / Of respectful furl / Take it down / And start tomorrow / To put away / The pain and sorrow,” Mathis sings in the song’s second verse, which gives way to the chorus of, “You say heritage / I say hate / Fuel it now / It’s not too late.” Given Mathis’ well-known humorous touch, (this is, after all, a guy who named his band American Gun, only to turn around write a piece of Second Amendment satire) his sincere delivery is all the more powerfully felt. The vocals dominate the mix—he wants you to hear what he’s saying and how strongly he feels about it all.

Protest music in the United States first gained real traction in the 19th century and from there, it’s bloodline moved through Woody Guthrie, to Bob Dylan and Janis Ian, on to the hardcore punk scene of Washington D.C., and finally finding its most recent wide-reaching embodiment in the vitriol of Rage Against the Machine. I’m obviously only skimming the surface. The total history of American protest music isn’t nearly as important as the history that music aims to make. Not all succeed, but our society inevitably progresses. With this in mind, it might be fair to say that Todd Mathis has written the most important song of his career. While one song might not change the world, passionate people do. And songs don’t write themselves.

Here's a link to the song's Bandcamp, where you can listen for free or as a name-your-price download.




Music at the Release Party for Jasper Vol. 002, No. 003

A quick run down of the music for tomorrow night's festivities! 6:45 Prettier Than Matt – An acoustic duo featuring Jeff Pitts, a guitarist for local hard rock band Deleveled, and Jessica Skinner, who sports a sultry voice and a ukelele, Prettier Than Matt describes themselves “as if Bon Jovi and Alison Krauss had a baby,” and they tend to follow through on that promise. Think warm Americana goodness tempered with an unabashed love of pop/rock, with an catalog of covers and increasingly potent originals.

8:15 Todd Mathis – Over the course of four full-lengths in the alt. country outfit American Gun, singer/songwriter and guitarist Todd Mathis has established himself as one of Columbia's finest and most consistent scene members, and that's not counting his work in Betty Sneetch and Boxing Day, two now-defunct local rock bands that also were at the top of their class, or his solo releases. Mathis' steady creative output over the years gives him a huge catalog to draw from, but expect a good dose of tunes from AG's last album, Therapy, and a few from an upcoming solo effort recorded with Whiskey Tango Revue.

9:00 Latenights – Young indie rockers Latenights close out the night with their catchy brand of indie rock, mixing Weezer-ish guitar-pop perfection with edgy, distorted riffs more appropriate for Modest Mouse or Les Savvy Fav. Throw, on top of it all, lush, dreamy harmonies and hooks galore, and you have the band's signature sound. Those of you paying attention might also notice that the group made Jasper's Top 10 Local Releases of 2012 with their debut, self-titled full-length!

-Kyle Petersen

New Music: The Hollerin' River Talkers + TONIGHT = Jasper #006


Our magazine release parties (if you’ll forgive me for saying so), have had some fairly awesome live performances. And while I have written about our headlining band The Restoration in the past, I want to take some time before the party tonight to tell you about a new, lesser known act who is also capable of blowing your mind.

The Hollerin’ River Talkers, a diverse project-group of singer/songwriters spearheaded by Shallow Palace leader Greg Slattery, is dedicated to reviving classic old folk and blues tunes into a modern context. This task is something that, to put it simply, they blow out of the f***in’ ballpark.

Marshall Brown is the lead-off singer in the troupe, and contributes a (for-him) relatively straightforward vocal that still brings the Donovan-esque psychedelia he is known for to “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home.” Daniel Machado (of the The Restoration) makes a banjo-led attack on “Mary,” an old folk tune about how cheating on your wife ain’t gonna get you to heaven, while Aaron Berg and Slattery both take a gorgeously dirty stab at the blues standards “Catfish Blues” and “Death Room Blues.” Todd Mathis rounds out the set with a dirty rock take on the gospel tune “Wade in the Water,” the only tune which fully makes use of drummer Steve Sancho’s presence.

All of these tunes are ragged and sparse, but that’s not what makes them great—it’s the fact that each contributor never forgets the feeling that these songs first inspired, with lust, laughter, and longing all mixed up in equal measure. It’s a short collection, but I guarantee you’ll want to hear it again and again.

To listen/buy all of these tunes:

Come out and see us tonight at Tom Law's Conundrum Music Hall on Meeting Street in West Columbia. We're starting at 7:30 with poetry from Kristine Hartvigsen and Cassie Premo Steele, three short films by Wade Sellers, the Next Door Drummers, a set of classical guitar from Amelia Mau, a solo set from Rhodes Bailey of the Whiskey Tango Revue, then the Hollerin' River Talkers and The Restoration, who will be missing their drummer so they'll be laying down some pretty damn good blue grass. JoeTurkaly will be making supper ($) and two bars will be open. The event itself is free. All to celebrate Columbia's badass arts scene and the release of Jasper #006 -- a solid year of bringing you the magazine we said we would, when we said we would, and in the best possible shape we could get it to you.

You can count on Jasper.