The Appalachian Soul Man is going west.
Aristotle Jones, the Morgantown musician, community activist and podcast host who is also known professionally by the above moniker, will perform in Salt Lake City in November at the National Black Storytelling Festival and Conference.
This will be the 41st year for the gathering, hosted annually by the National Association of Black Storytellers, which is headquartered in Baltimore.
Jones was recently named to the organization’s 2023 class of Black Appalachian Storyteller Fellows, joining five other inductees from Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio and Virginia for the honor.
Visit www.NABSinc.org for full details on the association and the conference.
Meanwhile, Jones was selected, in part, on the strength of his most recent album, “Mountain Doo-Wop and the Streets of Osage,” an autobiographical collection of songs about life in the former coal camp.
Through at least the 1950s, when the mines were at full strength, Osage was a pocket of diversity in a place not known for it.
Workers and their families from Italy to Alabama journeyed here to carve their purchase of the American Dream in coal. Osage kids grew up hearing smatterings of the 19 or so languages represented in the camp.
“This is exciting,” said Jones, who is also the creative director of WVRC Media in Morgantown.
In addition to gigging with his own band, Jones also showcases regional musicians on his “Sounds Good to Me” podcast, which can heard at various outlets across the Mountain State, via the West Virginia Radio Corp.
“It’s an honor that now I get to be part of this organization and this tradition,” Jones said of the invitation.
On the main stage in Salt Lake City next month, he’ll do the same thing he does on the bandstand at venues across north-central West Virginia and surrounding region.
He’ll play his guitar and sing his songs about pigment and place: Songs about rural Blackness in America and Appalachia, drawing on diverse musical influences from jam bands to Mississippi John Hurt.
That’s while simply introducing himself as a person of color from West Virginia, he said.
Such introductions, he said, build empathy and awareness – which, in turn, can create whole communities.
“And I get to bring a little bit Osage to Utah,” he said. “Pretty cool.”