I rarely feel nervous before in-studio performances, but the June visit to KEXP by Will Oldham, a.k.a. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, was an exception. Since emerging in his various "Palace" incarnations in the early 1990s, Oldham has been responsible for a dauntingly huge, rich, influential catalog of music. Yet Oldham acted so utterly at-home in our studio that I immediately relaxed and got lost in his playing.
Originally published on Thu August 16, 2012 11:53 am
Chicago-based music journalist Catalina Maria Johnson curates this 14th installment of World Cafe's "Latin Roots" music series. The bilingual and bicultural journalist is of half-Swedish and half-Mexican descent, and grew up in two different cities with the name St. Louis — one in Missouri, and the other, in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. She writes in Spanish and English for publications such as HOY, RevistaContratiempo, Gozamos and Nat Geo Music.
Los Angeles-based Mariachi El Bronx started out as a punk band called The Bronx, but that was before its members discovered a collective love for Mexican folk music. The group fell hard for mariachi, and when faced with playing an acoustic punk rock set for a TV show, they decided to fully embrace that new direction and start a Mexican-flavored side project.
Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 4:15 pm
A week ago, Oliver Jones — the greatest living jazz musician in Canada — played his hometown Montreal International Jazz Festival, one of the world's largest. "Oliver Jones Plays Oliver Jones," read the bill. It was the first time, he said in a conversation earlier last week, that the pianist, now 77, would be playing strictly his own tunes for an entire set.
With the July Fourth holiday behind us, now is the time to map out a musical adventure. Below is a sampling of just a few of the dozens of summer classical music festivals around the country, grouped by region. From outdoor extravaganzas and picturesque locales to intimate indoor settings, live music thrives in the summertime. Been to a good summer fest not listed here? Tell us all about it.
When Tom Jones performed at the NPR Music offices in 2009, it felt like an exercise in cruelty: His Tiny Desk Concert took a larger-than-life icon, a superstar for whom intimacy is implied but impossible on a huge stage, and shrunk him to where every bead of sweat could be seen. Young English folksinger Laura Marling, on the other hand, lives for that sort of intimacy.
Lots of people know Woody Guthrie's classic 1940 ballad "This Land Is Your Land," but the story behind the tune may not be as familiar.
Guthrie, who would have turned 100 this week, wrote "This Land" as a response to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," a song he felt was overly patriotic and not directed at ordinary Americans like himself.
Sory Kandia Kouyaté was one of the most celebrated singers in West Africa when he died suddenly in 1977. He was just 44, and given his spectacular voice, it's a safe bet that Kouyaté would have been an international star had he lived just a few years longer. Now, some of his finest recordings have been collected on a two-disc retrospective called La Voix de la Révolution.