Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Anthony Hamilton has released his first-ever Christmas album today. Titled Home For The Holidays, it's 14 songs that are a combination of the Grammy Award-winning singer covering holiday classics and performing original songs (six originals). He has guest appearances by Chaka Khan, Gavin DeGraw, and ZZ Ward, which reflect the many different sounds the album has, but it all comes together in a cohesive and soulful manner.

Home For The Holidays track listing:

1.  It’s Christmas
2.  Spend Christmas With You
3.  Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto
4.  Little Drummer Boy (Interlude)
5.  Little Drummer Boy
6.  Home For The Holidays feat. Gavin DeGraw
7.  ’Tis The Season
8.  What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas
9.  Coming Home
10. Away In A Manger (Interlude)
11. Away In A Manger feat. ZZ Ward
12. Please Come Home For Christmas
13. The Christmas Song feat. Chaka Khan
14. Spirit Of Love

I plan to buy the album by the Charlotte native, and so far this morning I've been streaming it on Spotify, which I've embedded below.

My first impressions of the album are that it's soulful, at times traditional and at times contemporary, with blends of R&B, blues, and gospel. My early favorites are track 9, "Coming Home," and track 14, "Spirit Of Love," which are both original songs. As for covers, my favorite so far is track 8, "What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas."

You can purchase the new album today on Amazon or iTunes for $9.99. I'm old-school when it comes to buying music--I still buy CDs--so I'll be copping it from Best Buy or Target (and then ripping it to MP3's later).

Also, the HamFam will be happy to know that Anthony is embarking on a 17-city Home For The Holidays Tour, beginning November 27 in Dallas and ending December 21 in Wallingford, Connecticut. The Carolinas dates are December 2 in Greenville, SC, December 3 in Durham, and December 12 in North Myrtle Beach.

For all things A.Ham, visit anthonyhamilton.com, Twitter @HamiltonAnthony, Facebook AnthonyHamiltonMusic, and Instagram @AnthonyHamiltonOfficial.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Charlotte has a lot of great restaurants. I do a pretty good job of keeping up with what's what, what's hot, what's new, and so on within the dining scene. But because there are so many great choices nowadays, it often takes a long time for me to make a return visit to a restaurant that is absolutely worthy of repeat visits.

This past week was a busy one for me, but fortunately, among other things, a few of the appointments on my calendar included dining spots.

On Tuesday, I met a friend for lunch at The Liberty. I love the burgers there, but prior to a few days ago, I don't think I'd eaten at The Liberty in more than a year. Well, it's about to get high again on my radar after the meal I had. I started with the fried pickles--the decision inspired by my radio show appearance the day before in which the topic of who has the best fried pickles in Charlotte came up. And my entree was The Carolina Pig Burger, made of Berkshire pork and black Angus beef with pepper jack, candied smoked bacon, chipotle aioli, and tomato jam.

Wednesday was highlighted by the second installment of the Dusk Till Dawn Social Series, which is Charlotte magazine's new monthly event. It took place at Eight Sushi and Asian Kitchen, a new restaurant and bar at NC Music Factory. We had a great time that evening, and even though I didn't eat, I enjoyed drinks there.

Thursday was another great day, kicked off with some exciting morning meetings. And after attending a private reception that evening for the new Microsoft store opening at SouthPark Mall, I had the pleasure of joining friends of a friend for dinner at Del Frisco's. I ordered the pan-roasted chicken breast, served with lemon rice and Provencal sauce. And the sides we had (prepared in sharing-size portions) were cabbage and chateau potatoes. I was in the presence of some esteemed guests, so I didn't take any pics of my food. You know, as Childish Gambino rapped, "We don't take pictures. When you're rich, you just see it again."

And last but not least, my lunch on Friday was amazing. I had the privilege of sampling several of the items on Nan and Byron's new fall menu. I had the "Cutting Board," which is an array of artisan cheeses and meats, the Burrata salad, Porcini mushroom ravioli, sushi grade tuna tartare, and braised pork belly.

I haven't gone into much detail about each of the menu items here, but just rest assure that everything was delish! Certainly worth writing home about (or blogging about). And frankly, I just wanted to take a little time to tip my cap to these great restaurants that I, coincidentally, ate at this past week. Trust me, my typical week of meals doesn't look like this.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I was a guest on Charlotte Talks on WFAE 90.7 FM yesterday morning, alongside fellow writer/journalist (and friend) Sarah Crosland. The show's topic was Stuff All Charlotteans Should Do, and it was derived from Sarah's new book, 100 Things to Do in Charlotte Before You Die, and Charlotte magazine's August cover story, "50 Things Every Charlottean Should Do," of which I was one of the writers.

During the hour-long radio show, host Mike Collins asked us about many of the numerous activities, events, and places that made our respective publications' lists. He engaged us in conversations that shed insight into just how vibrant this city is--the many great places to eat, drink, play, explore, be entertained, and more. It was fun talking about things to do in Charlotte, which is something I often do both in my work and personal life.

You can listen to the podcast of the October 13 episode by clicking here (or here on iTunes).

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I had the privilege of writing about Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s newest milestone for the October issue of Charlotte magazine. Titled "Junior Turns 40," it's about, well, Junior turning 40 years old. But if you've gotten the chance to read the eight-page feature (the print issue came out about three weeks ago, the story went online two weeks ago), then you know the story is about much more than a birthday. It's about how much Dale Jr. means to this area (he's got a bar at the EpiCentre, his dad's got a roller coaster at Carowinds, to put each of them mildly), how much this area means to him (he still resides in his hometown of Mooresville), and sprinkled in between are anecdotes about how he's worth $300 million, has his name attached to more brands than Disney, and has been the most popular driver for more years than you have fingers.

But if you've paid close attention to the story, then you've also realized that it's both a reflection of how Junior has grown and evolved over the years, just as any of us hope we are as we reach our 30th, 40th, 50th birthdays, etc.; and how the Charlotte area, including Mooresville, has grown and evolved with him. And, as the story illustrates, he's such a down-to-earth, humble person, that he'll even stop outside of his favorite hometown pizza joint to help a lady whose car won't start.

Since the story came out, I've received some of the most flattering feedback I've ever gotten during my career as a writer. One of the best came in the form of a tweet from Dale Jr.'s sister, Kelley Earnhardt:

And I've received several emails from readers, expressing how much they enjoyed the story. Here are a couple:
Great work on the Dale Jr. piece. I really liked the ending about the billboard. Among many great insights, this was the best: "For years, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was famous because of his father. But time does funny things, and now that he’s older, the shift is apparent: These youngsters standing in front of the car only know who Senior is because they know who Junior is." I'm fairly certain every NASCAR writer is going to write a "Dale Jr. is 40" piece and frankly they shouldn't bother after this one.
I wanted to take the time to say I thoroughly enjoyed the recent article you authored about Dale Earnhardt Jr. Given his iconic stature, there is no shortage of articles about Dale, but there is a shortage of well written or insightful articles. I found yours to be both. You touched upon so many facets and nuances that I believe others miss, or dismiss, in their attempts to grab headlines or create them with their words.

Okay, enough of my victory lap (pun intended).

Now, Junior's big day is upon us. His birthday is this Friday, October 10, the day before he competes in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, his hometown track. My guess is that what he wants most for his birthday is to win the race Saturday night, to put himself in better contention to win the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup (the championship), which would be his first.

But he's probably been celebrating all week. According to a post on Whisky River's Facebook page, there was a surprise party for him Monday night:

And even Dale Jr. shared a photo from the private party:

On Thursday, his girlfriend Amy Reimann is competing in the Better Half Dash, the annual fundraising competition in which the wives and girlfriends of several NASCAR drivers, crew chiefs, and team owners drive race cars. You can bet Dale Jr. will be there to cheer on his better half. And on Saturday afternoon, the speedway is throwing the Dale Jr. Birthday Pit Party.

And just imagine all of the celebrations we aren't privy to! Though, Dale Jr. has revealed some of his gifts on Twitter, @DaleJr.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Your Chance to Own a Piece of 'Homeland'

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 10/06/2014 No comments
Although it's a fictional television show, reality set in last night for many of us Homeland fans who live in Charlotte. The realization that now that the critically acclaimed, award-winning Showtime series has kicked off its fourth season, we will no longer have the pleasure of spotting the Queen City throughout the episodes. As most locals know, since Homeland's inception, the show has largely been filmed in Charlotte, which was used as a stand-in for Washington, D.C. (remember that time "I Sat at the Bar with Carrie and Brody"). We learned in the spring that the series would be moving production out of Charlotte and into Cape Town, South Africa for this season.

Well, after three years of calling Charlotte home, a television production as big as this one surely accumulates a lot of stuff. And now, you can own a piece of Homeland stuff.

A "Homeland Sale" is being held on October 10 and 11, beginning at 7:30 a.m. each day, taking place at a large warehouse located at 6935 Reames Road in Charlotte, which had been converted into a soundstage by Homeland's producers. According to the advertisement, thousands of items from the show's production are for sale, including furniture, housewares, electronics, office supplies, clothing, construction materials, tools, hardware, and more.

Back to the show, last night was a special two-episode premiere that revealed a lot of what we can expect (and the always unexpected) this season from Carrie, Saul, and the gang. And the Twitterverse was fixated on how much Carrie's baby from Brody actually looks like the fictional father.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Rapper, actor, poet, and author Common was the speaker at the second annual Gantt Symposium last night. The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture brought in the Chicago star who spoke to a sold-out audience at the Knight Theater across the street. The topic of his talk was "Greatness" and he both inspired it and exemplified it.

Many hip-hop fans have followed Common's work for two decades, from his iconic 1994 song "I Used to Love H.E.R." to his 2005 classic, multi-Grammy-nominated album Be to his recently released album Nobody's Smiling. And we know he's always been a "conscious" artist, one whose songs are filled with messages about struggles, love, and prevalent social issues. We've also witnessed his movie career take off, including roles in Smokin' Aces, Wanted, Just Wright, and several others (he also has a role in the upcoming Oprah Winfrey-produced Selma).

My camera phone had trouble adjusting to the theater's darkness, but you get the picture.

And after last night, Common proved he could have a successful career as a public speaker. His prominent message was that each person should: "Find your path, believe in your path, and live your path." And he illustrated it with stories from his life: when he was a ball boy for the Chicago Bulls at age 12; how a school lesson about the death of Emmett Till forever changed him; the role his mother, an educator, played in his life and when he told her he wanted to drop out of Florida A&M University to pursue a career as a rapper; being heartbroken after his breakup with Erykah Badu; the highs and lows of his music and acting careers; and so on.

Each of those anecdotes was compelling, he was extremely engaging, oftentimes funny, and came across like a common man despite his star power. One memorable line was when he said he realized that he needed to "stop dimming his light" for people. His message of greatness and how it's in all of us, was truly inspiring.

Also, being the quintessential lyricist he is, before he began his talk, he freestyled a rap. An actual freestyle, meaning he spoke lyrics off the top of his head. "To prove that this is a real freestyle, somebody give me a word to begin with," Common said. Someone yelled, "intrigue," and that's what he built his two-minute freestyle around, while also shouting out several Charlotte references (including Mert's, Beatties Ford Road, Wells Fargo, and Queen Charlotte). Luckily, @raej captured the video on her phone, which you can watch below.

After Common's 45-minute talk, he was joined on stage by Harvey Gantt for a Q&A, where the Charlotte icon and former mayor asked questions about the generational gap and the importance of education.

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