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Should be an interesting month, October, between the seasonal shift of the scenery—and its resulting attendants—and the relentless media freak-out running up to the midterm elections. Almost all major Hudson Valley-affected seats are in play in November, and no seats (well, maybe Schumer’s and Hinchey’s) are safe. It’s hard to watch as real national suffering and righteous anger are being adroitly channeled into political regression, with this whole “Tea Party” thingy. I’m promising myself to keep the braying media boxes at arm’s length until after Election Day, and I’d advise the same to you. Better to stick with the pretty leaves, hollering at slowpoke weekenders.

Or, you can enjoy this: what may be our best Roll yet. I’m really happy with everything here this month, but three standouts come to mind.

First, I have to share with you my enjoyment and appreciation of Woodstock-based painter Hongnian Zhang, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing—along with his wife, portrait artist Lois Woolley—last month. Like the enormous historical paintings he has become most famous for, Zhang’s life is an epic story, one that a small arts magazine like Roll can hardly do justice to (we tried!). But, if a picture tells a thousand stories, Zhang’s “pictures” could be considered veritable libraries, as you can see for yourself in these pages.

In addition to the strenuous demands of his art, Zhang makes time in his life to generously share his talent and teach others, both at the Woodstock School of Art and Shanghai University, as well as being an attentive family man. And if his work looks more immediately familiar—well, other than having seen one of his several National Geographic covers—it should: Roll readers may recall this year’s July cover, the kids playing in the surf. We’re thankful to have Zhang and Lois in our pages this month.

When Meshell Ndegeocello came out with her debut Plantation Lullabies in 1993, a good friend pressed a copy into my hand, saying “I KNOW you’re gonna be into this one.” Understatement; it completely blew my soul/R&B lovin’ mind, as did the following Peace Beyond Passion (1996), which I saw on tour in Nashville. That night I experienced a fully-formed artist, with enormous musical, vocal, and lyrical depth, and a generosity of spirit that captivated what is one tough-ass crowd—Nashville. And the band, led by her peerlessly funky bass/keyboards—I’m still hollering about it: you’ve got to YouTube to believe!

But then her next CD, the tender, intimate Bitter (1999), took a commercial left turn away from the funk, and to me—and my wife Jamaine—it’s one of the most beautiful and honest works we have ever heard, a must-hear “desert island disc.” Meshell has had seven releases since, all excellent, and moved to Hudson in 2007, where she and her partner raise a child together, recently donating her time and talent (and curating) to a fundraiser for community radio station WGXC. This month’s interview with Peter Aaron…well, moments like this are why I do this magazine. Thank you, Meshell.

It goes without saying that we have pined for a Levon Helm piece in Roll since Day One. How bad? Shoot, we even put him on the cover last year—in tribute to his Grammy Award for Electric Dirt—with a previously unpublished photo by Barry Feinstein. We got lucky this month thanks to our good friends Kay Cordtz and Catherine Sebastian, who managed to get some time with Levon and his team: a precious commodity to the press to be sure. Between the Kid’s Rambles at Levon Helm Studios, visitations to cancer-stricken kids, bringing music and good vibes, and his local fundraising on behalf of under-funded regional school arts and music programs, Levon and his band have been making quality time for the improvement of lives of kids in the Hudson Valley. And the music? You know it’s really, really good. Don’t miss out on the Onteora show (see Roll the Music)!

As long as we make this magazine, these are exactly the kind of people we want to bring to you, Roll readers. We hope you enjoy the results before you. And please…don’t forget to vote!

Cheers, Ross Rice
Editor, Roll Magazine

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