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Nick Drake: 'A Real Musician's Musician'

Apr 14, 2013

English folk musician Nick Drake died decades before the song "Pink Moon" found him a wide audience, thanks to a series of Volkswagen ads back in 1999. They sparked a resurgence of interest in Drake's work — music largely ignored in his day but now inspiring legions of young musicians.

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This July, The Rolling Stones will play London's Hyde Park for the first time in 44 years. The band's last concert there — July 5, 1969 — turned out to be a defining moment in musical history, which those who were there will never forget. Mick Jagger hasn't.

In South Africa, A Reggae Legacy Lives On

Apr 1, 2013

It's Thursday night in downtown Johannesburg and some 500 people are packed into Bassline, a warehouse-like club in a hipster-friendly neighborhood. They're here for South Africa's longest-running sound system, or crew of reggae DJs. But tonight they get something extra: a young woman sporting dreadlocks and an army cap gets on the mic to freestyle.

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There's something about Kurt Vile's voice that transcends whatever comes out of his mouth. He's not classically trained (not even close), and has no traditional range to speak of, but the laid-back Philadelphia guitarist is transfixing all the same. His mumbled words resonate with dogged determination. It's one of the reasons Vile has become something of a patron saint for the Great Recession's legions of accidental bohemians, who work hard while hardly working.

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First Listen: Bombino, 'Nomad'

Mar 26, 2013

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Bebo Valdés, Giant Of Cuban Music, Is Dead

Mar 23, 2013

One of the giants of Cuban music, pianist and composer/arranger Bebo Valdés, died Friday in Sweden due to complications from pneumonia, according to his wife and manager. He was 94.

Toro Y Moi On World Cafe

Mar 21, 2013

Performing and recording under the name Toro Y Moi, Chaz Bundick draws on elements of soul, jazz, Latin disco, funk and modern pop. With Toro Y Moi's 2010 debut, Causers of This, Bundick became a pioneer of what's often called chillwave.

His new album, Anything in Return, is a set of electro-pop songs enhanced by his smooth vocals. In this installment of World Café, Toro Y Moi plays a few songs from the album and talks about the inspiration behind his lyrics.

The Allman Brothers Band produced the sound at the heart of Southern rock. At Fillmore East, the live double album that launched Duane and Gregg Allman into the rock stratosphere, was recorded 42 years ago this month. But on Oct. 29, 1971, just days after the record was certified gold, 24-year-old Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident.

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In 20 years, Low's basic ingredients haven't changed much: Guitarist Alan Sparhawk and drummer Mimi Parker swap and sometimes layer their vocals, with a third member joining the married couple on bass. The pace, for the most part, is kept deliberate, even glacial, with strategically deployed silence hanging between notes in order to enhance their power. Low songs don't often change tempo noticeably, instead achieving tension through variations in volume.

Josh Ritter On World Cafe

Mar 5, 2013

Idaho native and folk-rock singer-songwriter Josh Ritter has been named one of the 100 Best Living Songwriters by Paste. Ritter's seventh album, The Beast in Its Tracks, was released last March. Inspired by the breakup of his marriage, the record offers a raw and personal account of heartbreak and recovery.

For a guy who gets tagged with a lot of limiting descriptors — "freak folk," "hippie" and so forth — Devendra Banhart doesn't like to let his music sit in any spot for long. His catalog, which now includes seven official albums, has taken him through warmly intimate ballads, raw and unselfconsciously strange home recordings, songs in several languages (Banhart spent much of his childhood in Venezuela), a lot of smoothly strummy folk-pop and the occasional low-key anthem about free-spiritedness.

Robyn Hitchcock turns 60 this weekend. The British singer and guitarist has traveled a long way to this point, beginning in the 1970s as the frontman of proto-punk group The Soft Boys and continuing through a solo career that has produced hundreds of songs. He's even appeared in a few films: Jonathan Demme showcased the singer in Storefront Hitchcock and gave him a cameo as a Russian operative in the 2004 verison of The Manchurian Candidate.

Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side,' 40 Years Later

Mar 3, 2013

It begins with a heartbeat. Released in 1973, The Dark Side of the Moon was Pink Floyd's eighth studio album. It would become one of the best-selling albums of all time, and its iconic cover image still hangs in college dormitories everywhere.

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