Originally published on Wed October 2, 2013 9:41 am
Singer, songwriter and guitarist Rokia Traoré has always been a sophisticate. She grew up as the daughter of a diplomat who was posted in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. Her most recent stage project was Desdemona, a critically acclaimed theater piece riffing on Shakespeare's Othello, done in collaboration with novelist Toni Morrison and renowned theater director Peter Sellars and mounted at London's Barbican, in Vienna and at Lincoln Center.
Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 2:16 pm
There's an element of Gregory Porter's singing that feels like a welcome throwback, though he doesn't spell it out precisely. It's in the way he leans heavily into and erupts "Hey!" without fear of coming up short. It's in his coat-and-tie handling of an audience, well-mannered but without quaint mannerisms. It's in one of his better-known songs, where he asks "1960 what? 1960 who?" without a distinct answer — just a suggestion of the decade's historic events, alert black community and cathartic swing.
Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 10:59 am
Lou Barlow has been reuniting with old bandmates left and right in the last decade or so, even as his personal life has broken apart. In 2005, the rock veteran rejoined Dinosaur Jr., having long since moved past the acrimony surrounding his departure, and he's now back with Sebadoh for the first time since the turn of the century.
Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 11:00 am
The new documentary Muscle Shoals recalls how interracial harmony in tumultuous times made possible a new kind of music. Leading African-American artists traveled to North Alabama — not exactly a place they thought they'd be welcome in the civil rights era — to jam with an all-white crew of session players. In little rooms near the wide Tennessee River, they perfected soul and anticipated Southern rock.
On her latest album, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, singer Neko Case lays her heart — and her healthy sense of humor — bare. It's a deeply personal record that, among other things, offers intimate, sometimes wry meditations on the recent loss of both of her parents and a grandmother. NPR Music's Stephen Thompson and I spoke with Neko Case about the music, and shared questions from listeners, in this interview that we originally webcast live on Aug. 29.
Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 4:13 pm
The story of Sylvester Stewart — we call him Sly Stone — is that of a great urban engineer who launched out of the Bay Area in 1967 with a series of bridge-making hits: fusing rock to rhythm and blues, bringing jazz and funk into the mainstream with a band that was black and white, male and female. The story takes a weird corner and ends (or at least peaks) with some chattery scary masterpieces, isolated midnight moanings, fear and dread as universal in the '70s as love had been a few years before.
Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 8:09 am
If Bob Dylan's long career as a genius of the American spirit has taught us anything, it's that one fan's trash is another one's treasure. "I never looked at songs as 'good' or 'bad,' only different kinds of good ones," he once said. Dylan's music, from the magpie folk of his early years to the historically conscious balladry of his current albums, has always reminded us that our legacy includes not just ennobling beauty, but also minstrelsy, dirty blues, sentimental sappiness and rama-lama-ding-dong.
Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 8:10 am
It's human nature to romanticize a specific time and place in the past — a moment when everything felt just right, or opportunities were laid out like a banquet. For Okkervil River's Will Sheff, it's been impossible to let go of Meriden, N.H., circa 1986: That tiny town is where he spent his childhood (he turned 10 that summer) and where his parents taught at an area boarding school.