One of my favorite performers, Patrick Watson is dramatic but understated; deadly serious but unexpectedly candid and funny. And the music feels so warm, with melodies that haunt and enchant. The singer-pianist and his band put out a new record in 2012, Adventures in Your Own Backyard, and it's one of my favorites of the year.
During almost 30 years hosting The Thistle & Shamrock, I've been privileged to hear thousands of albums recorded on everything from vinyl to MP3. For my list of 100 Essential Celtic Songs, I hand-picked songs and instrumentals by passionate performers from across the decades who helped define the sound of my radio shows.
Originally published on Wed December 12, 2012 3:13 pm
It's New Year's Eve at The Blue Whale, a "live jazz + art space" in the Little Tokyo section of downtown Los Angeles. Founded in 2009 by singer Joon Lee, this is a listening room. There's food at the bar, poetry (Rumi!) on the ceiling, and wall-to-wall people. The Blue Whale has been sold out for days, and the phone keeps ringing off the hook because everybody wants to be on the air, cheering for Billy Childs live on NPR's Toast of the Nation.
Originally published on Fri November 16, 2012 9:27 am
The Irish indie-folk duo The Lost Brothers makes its first appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live on the campus of Ohio University in Athens. Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland aren't actually brothers; they met nearly a decade ago, while they were both working with other bands in Liverpool. The two began writing songs together in their spare time, and liked the results so much that they decided to form a singing duo.
Originally published on Thu November 15, 2012 3:24 pm
The Chicago-based record label Thrill Jockey, led by founder Bettina Richards, has been presenting music on its own terms since 1992. Like any great independent label, it's difficult to identify the core "sound" of its releases, but its fans can easily identify its curatorial spirit. This is by design. "The way I listen to music, there are no categorical limits," Richards says.
Originally published on Fri November 16, 2012 10:30 am
William Basinski has lived on both American coasts, but I know a Southern gentleman when I hear one. The ambient music composer, who grew up in Texas, is on vacation visiting the Celeste ranch of his partner James Elaine's family when I call him — "I just fed the horses apples," he mentions — and is just as sweet as I'd heard from colleagues. He pauses long between words, measuring each one because the weight of each word is just as important as its meaning.
These days it's not unusual to find classical musicians performing in unlikely venues — pubs, clubs and out-of-the-way places. But long before this trend took hold there was Matt Haimovitz. Ten years ago, the intrepid cellist lugged his instrument across the country, bringing music by J.S. Bach to barrooms, coffeehouses and even Manhattan's famous punk club CBGB.
Originally published on Tue December 18, 2012 12:01 pm
This is a languid gem of a song paired with very disturbing video. The music, "Even If We Try," is by Night Beds, the project of Winston Yellen. Yellen is a Colorado Springs musician now making his home in Nashville. In fact the songs on the debut album from Night Beds, Country Sleep, were written and partially recorded in Tennessee at the former Sycamore Homestead in Tennessee of Johnny Cash.