The 2016 Americana Honors & Awards Ceremony

Sep 19, 2016

For the last 15 years, the Americana Music Association Honors & Awards has recognized instrumentalists and songwriters across the roots-music spectrum. But, really, it's a big party with loads of performances at the legendary Ryman Auditorium. On Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m.

Margo Price has had an incredible year, but there's a long story to be told leading up to Midwest Farmer's Daughter. The country singer-songwriter will join NPR Music's Ann Powers during AmericanaFest, along with friends and collaborators who have made East Nashville such a thriving hub of roots music. Everyone will share songs and stories in-the-round, with a live webcast on this page on Sept. 21, starting at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Don Buchla believed in the humanity of wires. The modular synth pioneer created an instrument like none other, one that relied on intuition, learning and, most importantly, human touch. He died September 14 after a long battle with cancer at the age of 79.

Lisa Hannigan's song "Funeral Suit," from her latest album, At Swim, displays her knack for showcasing beauty in the ordinary. The Irish singer-songwriter says the song is autobiographical, and it's all about drawing out the complexity and significance of a moment in time.

Dwight Yoakam definitely doesn't need to pad his resume. He's recorded more than 22 albums — and sold over 25 million. He's received 21 Grammy nominations. He's worked with everyone from Johnny Cash and Buck Owens to Kid Rock and Jack White.

Since the music video dropped last week for Bomba Estéreo's 2015 hit, "Soy Yo," the video has drawn attention — and plaudits — across the world. It's been called an ode to little brown girls everywhere. A swaggier Little Miss Sunshine. An empowerment anthem.

One half of the Colombian electro-cumbia group, instrumentalist Simon Mejia, talked with NPR's Rachel Martin about the song. Mejia, who records with vocalist Liliana Saumet, tells Martin about how the video came about, how they found their charismatic young actress — and how she came by those bomb dance moves.

Dawes On World Cafe

Sep 16, 2016

The California band Dawes has released several albums of breezy Golden State guitar rock centered on Taylor Goldsmith's emotionally loaded songs. Those songs are filled with statements that are irresistibly uplifting when heard in a crowd. (Think "anyone that's making anything new only breaks something else" from "When My Time Comes.")

Not too long ago, Will Sheff found himself in a difficult place. His bandmates in Okkervil River were moving on from the beloved indie-rock group to other projects. Sheff, too, was restless — the rock 'n' roll lifestyle was wearing on him, and his grandfather, with whom he was close, had passed away.

On one of those late summer New York City evenings when a thunderstorm left a double rainbow hanging over Manhattan, the downtown club City Winery provided the perfect setting for a lucky crowd of a few hundred to experience a performance by The Head and the Heart.

In terms of sheer intensity, Saul Williams' Tiny Desk concert may be the most potent in our eight-year history. Only Kate Tempest comes to mind as its equal, which makes sense given that both mix music with bracing, truthful poetry. In Williams' opening song — "Burundi," from his album MartyrLoserKing — the main character is a computer hacker who lives in Burundi and fights for democracy:

Classic Dose: Larry Heard

Sep 16, 2016

It's been 30 years since a handful of singles from the Southside of Chicago — handed out to and played by Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy, two local DJs then helping define the sound that came to be known as "house" — transformed dance music all around the world. The tracks came from Larry Heard, a twenty-something musician who worked at the Social Security Administration by day, and drummed in cover bands (art-rock, reggae, jazz fusion) by night; but it was only when Heard decided to invest in a synthesizer and drum machine that he unwittingly changed the nature of club music forever.

"Everything's cyclical" has become a common refrain in the country music industry of late, a way of acknowledging that country radio's domination by R&B-juiced, summery jams this decade is neither the format's first swing toward popular sounds and sensibilities nor a permanent state. What would follow, some predicted, was a race to the opposite extreme: a hardcore country resurgence.

The Chicago band Wilco's 10th studio album, Schmilco, is KSUT's feature CD of the week, 9/15 at noon. We're fundraising this week, and will be offering a limited number of the CD for your pledge of support, while it's playing.

Schmilco features 12 new songs written by Jeff Tweedy and is the band’s third release on their own dBpm Records. It follows Star Wars, which was released for free and as a surprise in July 2015.

Just this afternoon, it looked like David Bowie was a shoo-in for this year's Mercury Prize. Even though the prestigious U.K. award had never before been given to an artist posthumously, Blackstar was the final and widely adored album from a British rock god. Even bookies were betting on Bowie as a 4/7 favorite.

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Blind Pilot's new album is proof that profound loss can result in profoundly beautiful music. After a five-year hiatus, during which frontman Israel Nebeker lost his father, the Portland, Ore., band has returned with And Then Like Lions. The band's live set for KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic was gorgeous, particularly the anthemic "Packed Powder."


  • "Packed Powder"
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It would be reductive to describe P.S. Eliot as a footnote in the careers of Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield and her sister Allison (Swearin', The Fizz). Instead, the group should be seen as a springboard that offered the twins a head-first leap into the life of professional musicianship. Five years after P.S.

Tim Page is no longer afraid of death. That's the one positive takeaway for him after surviving a traumatic brain injury.

Last year, the University of Southern California music and journalism professor — who was also a child prodigy filmmaker, Pulitzer-winning critic, person with Asperger's and father of three — collapsed at a train station. He woke up in an ambulance speeding to the hospital. He's still recovering, still fumbling a bit with the jigsaw pieces of a life a now a little more puzzling, a little more amazing.

Advisory: This interview contains profanity.

On this week's All Songs +1 podcast, I'm taking the host chair usually occupied by Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton for a conversation with Danny Brown about the Detroit rapper's upcoming album, Atrocity Exhibition, his admiration for contemporaries like ScHoolBoy Q and what Brown calls his all-time favorite rap song, Nas' "The World Is Yours." In our talk, Brown also explains how he hooked up with South African singer/producer Petite Noir for the new song we're premiering in the podcast, "Rolling Stone."

Talk to nearly any classical music critic about heroes of the trade and one name usually comes up: Virgil Thomson. Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times advises: "Every practicing and aspiring critic today should read Thomson's exhilarating writings."

The songs Jillian Banks writes for her alt-pop alter-ego, BANKS, are spare, danceable and sometimes harrowing, as if the singer had decided to throw a party and invited only her darkest and most powerful thoughts. As she reveals to Jason King in the latest episode of NPR Music's series Noteworthy, she began writing music at 15 when she discovered a keyboard in her closet, and had the first of many artistic breakthroughs. "What the f***?" she says she remembers thinking. "Why didn't anyone tell me about this?"

There is life in the modular synth, which ripples and gurgles in ways that can feel human or otherwise. Sunergy brings together two synthesists of different generations for a stunning album that feels deeply conversational. Suzanne Ciani was a classically trained pianist before meeting musical inventor Don Buchla in the early '70s, radically altering her creative path.

Sometimes album titles really do say it all: A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings, the second full-length album by the Philly rock band Beach Slang, pulls off exactly what it promises.

There's not resting on your laurels, and then there's trying on new creative identities as soon as the old ones have begun to pay dividends. Jenn Wasner, best known as the singer and lead guitarist for Wye Oak, could have simply coasted through a long and fruitful career as one of rock's most gripping bandleaders, a shredder whose slurred and alluring vocals articulate a world of worry and self-discovery.

"I use the same voice I always have," Hamilton Leithauser sings in the chorus of "Sick As A Dog," and he's got a point: The former Walkmen frontman is instantly identifiable, whether he's singing with his old band, working as a solo artist or, in this case, recording with Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij under the name Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam.

Has any country artist made a more convincing case for the hipness of hillbilly sensibilities than Dwight Yoakam? He's built a singular career out of challenging the opposition between what's perceived as artless and rustic and what's seen as cultivated and citified.

In the mid-1960s, Larry Kane was a young, straight-arrow radio news guy who lucked into what had to be the greatest assignment in the history of rock: flying from show to show with The Beatles. Ron Howard's new documentary, Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years, follows the band through their early years on tour. It also features Kane, the reporter who got to ride along when The Beatles traveled through the U.S. in 1964.