Top Picks: Spoleto Festival, Regina Carter, Cooking Channel, and other recommendations

Spoleto Festival USA opens, violin virtuoso Regina Carter's new album, the new Cooking Channel launches, and more top picks.

Courtesy of Scott Simontacchi/Full Light Records
Darrell Scott's latest album release is 'Crooked Road.'
Courtesy of Tim Turner
Black bean salsa, found in Norman Van Aken's 'New World Cuisine.'
Violinist Regina Carter new album is titled 'Reverse Thread,' an eclectic but haunting reimagining of African folk songs.

Violin Virtuoso

Violinist Regina Carter, the first jazz artist and African-American to play Niccolo Paganini's famed Guarneri "Cannon" violin, has performed with symphony orchestras and with artists as diverse as Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, and Mary J. Blige. With her new album, "Reverse Thread," an eclectic but haunting reimagining of African folk songs, this MacArthur "genius" grant recipient establishes herself as a world-class soloist with a singular imagination.

Uncommon courage

The Korean War, often called the "forgotten war," ushered in a new era of racial relations in the military when it anointed the first US Marine of Chinese descent to lead US troops into battle. Lt. Chew-Een Lee fought not only communism and hypothermia, but racism and prejudice to become a war hero, leading 8,000 trapped US soldiers to safety after being encircled by Communist Chinese forces. "Uncommon Courage: Breakout at Chosin," airs on May 31, at 8 p.m. on the Smithsonian Channel.

A festival to delight

The Spoleto Festival USA opens its 17-day arts bonanza May 28 in Charleston, S.C., at the newly renovated 300-year old Dock Street Theatre with a reprise of the ballad opera "Flora" – the first opera ever performed in the American Colonies. The festival's lineup, always a mix of well-known names and newer faces, includes Brazilian jazz singer Fabiana Cozza and Georgia's National Ballet.

War's home front

Nominated for two Academy Awards, "The Messenger" is about two Army officers assigned to break bad news to next of kin. With terrific performances from Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster, director Oren Moverman captures the fear factor in the lives of these men without turning them into the usual home-front head cases. Out on DVD May 18.

Crooked road

Singer, musician, songwriter, producer – Darrell Scott has put them all to good use on his latest album "A Crooked Road" (Full Light Records, $16.99) released May 25. The Nashville native wrote all 20 songs and played all the instruments in a mix of ballads and love songs drawn from "the crooked road of [his] own life," as he puts it in the liner notes.

Foodie alert

Master your fears of global cuisines from the Caribbean to Chinese and Indian. Cook alongside the pros 24/7, getting tips on everything from healthy eating, travel, and farm-to-table dining. The new Cooking Channel, brainchild of the Food network creators, launches May 31. For food people and by food people, it will feature shows from stars such as Aida Mollenkamp ("Foodcrafters"), Chuck Hughes ("Chuck's Day Off"), and Roger Mooking ("Everyday Exotic"). Due later this year: shows from Rachael Ray, Bobby Flay, and Emeril Lagasse.

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