As witnessed by his incredible performance at the XPN All About The Music Festival in July, Rodney Crowell has returned with yet another amazing album of country influenced rock songs. The Outsider is the third of a trilogy of CD’s that he’s released (The Houston Kid and Fate’s Right Hand being the first two) that find him at yet another creative peak of his long outstanding career.
Vocalist Lizz Wright was introduced to XPN listeners in 2003 when she released her debut album, Salt. With an eclectic mix of traditional jazz, R&B and soul/folk, Wright’s sultry vocals and warm, organic songs quickly won fans around the world with Salt's release and Lizz’s dazzling live performances. Salt was an XPN Featured Album of the week in June of '03, and came in at no. 21 in the Top 50 Countdown that same year.
Ever since jazz guitarist John Scofield was a kid, the music of Ray Charles had a significant influence on him. So when Verve Records’ President Ron Goldstone approached Scofield with the idea of doing a tribute album to Charles, Scofield was game.
Lead vocalist Ben Gibbard sings like an angel and the songs on this CD make great use of jangly guitars and sinewy synthesizers. Bellingham, WA, indie pop quartet Death Cab for Cutie may remind you of a cross between REM and New Order, but they craft truly unique songs about relationships that draw you completely in.
Between the scruffy sweetness of Luke Reynolds’ rough, expressive tenor and the orchestral richness of the band’s intricate arrangements, Burning in the Sun is an album that is easy to get lost in.
Way back in the Winter of 2002, XPN mid-day host Helen Leicht began playing an independent release from a Philly based singer-songwriter named Amos Lee. Soulful and organic, Lee was making ends meet working at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia and honing his craft by playing open-mic nights and writing songs. After recording an EP, his music reached Helen - who directs XPN’s Philly Local program – and she began playing songs like “Colors” and “Arms Of A Woman.”
Guitarist, singer and songwriter Marc Broussard's new album Carenco (pronounced Karen-Crow) is named after his hometown in Louisiana. At a young 22, he sounds wise beyond his age mixing up soul and R&B with heavy doses of good old fashioned rock 'n' roll. Growing up in Lafayette, Louisiana, Broussard was exposed to music as a youngster as his dad was guitarist for the legendary South Louisiana swamp band The Boogie Kings. Marc debuted in 2002 with the album Momentary Setback, and on Carencro he continues to hone his incredible rocking soul stylings with his best songs and most soulful singing yet.
Like Maxwell, D’Angelo, Anthony Hamilton, Jill Scott, Musiq, and Macy Gray, Van Hunt is a member of the “neo-soul” generation - a new generation of young artists who draw on R&B’s rich past yet give it their own unique spin.
One of true architects and legends of reggae, Toots Hibbert & The Maytals are responsible for some of the reggae classics of our time, including “Pressure Drop,” ”Time Tough,” “Monkey Man,” “Funky Kingston,” and “54-46 Was My Number.”
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Toot’s musical legacy precedes this collection, True Love, a stunning, well executed star-studded affair. Taking a page out of Carlos Santana’s play book in his making of the Grammy award winning Supernatural, Toots gathered a wide range of guest stars for the making of True Love.
One of XPN’s Artists To Watch for 2004, singer-songwriter, Ray Lamontagne explains how Stephen Stills saved his life. One of six children raised by a single mom who worked hard to make ends meet, Lamontagne – who barely made it out of high school left his family for Lewiston, Maine. Bored, going nowhere in his life and doing some serious soul searching Ray was in Lewiston working long hard hours in a shoe factory when he experienced a musical epiphany.
For the uninitiated - and those unfamiliar with her music - Jonatha Brooke has been making solo records that bridge folk and pop since the mid-Nineties. Prior to her solo career, Jonatha was a member of The Story, a duo that also included Jennifer Kimball. Their 1989 debut, a collection called Grace In Gravity, was originally released on the folk-based Green Linett record label, and the band was promptly signed to Elektra Records.
Welcome to the shape of jazz to come. He is pianist and singer-songwriter Jamie Cullum, currently one of a handful of “twentysomething” “jazz” artists interpreting pop songs old and new, and writing originals on his own unique terms. Cullum’s album Twentysomething, and his charismatic, energetic shows land him in the States as a bonafide UK superstar. Superstardom in the UK rarely assures success in the States (ask the Smiths and Robbie Williams about that), however, early stateside reviews of Cullum’s new album and his sensational stage show are pointing towards something new and interesting coming our way.
July 14, 2001 approximately 11 months (count ‘em – 11) after Five For Fighting and John Ondrasik released America Town, John was on stage at XPN’s Singer-Songwriter Weekend and still on the brink of commercial success. John sat down at the piano and played the opening chords to “Superman,”
In early 2002 WXPN listeners and members got their first taste of the sounds and music of Citizen Cope on his self-titled debut record on the Dreamworks label. Fusing soulful, down-home grooves with pop sensibilities, Cope’s record quickly found a home on 88.5 and developed a nice following in our listening areas. Cope’s debut was smart, intelligent, high quality music for an integrated world. Not afraid to take on weighty, social, cultural and political issues in his lyrics, he’s both a realist and an optimist. Songs like “If There’s Love,” “Let The Drummer Kick It,” “Mistaken Identity,” and “Contact” quickly became staples on the radio dial at XPN, as did Cope’s collaboration with Santana on the song “Sideways” from Santana’s Shaman album.
One of XPN’s Artists To Watch for 2004, Charlotte Martin is a remarkable new talent. In 2003 Ms. Martin released an EP called In Parentheses that signaled her engaging arrival. An intense piano-laden collection of confessional songs in which she demonstrated her amazing vocals, it was but a hint of the magic she would ultimately release on her full debut album, On Your Shore.
A fantastic new artist is emerging from the acoustic music world and she’s one of our Artists To Watch for 2004. Nashville singer-songwriter Adrienne Young’s debut album is a beautiful, well-crafted and passionate collection of songs that brings to mind the work of artists like Gillian Welch, Mindy Smith and Nickel Creek in their musical context and breadth. Like each of those artists Ms. Young is a unique artist with a compelling vision and message. She’s a neo-traditionalist comfortable with old-timey music who spins it out in a modern, contemporary world.
An understated gem, Josh Ritter’s second album Hello Starling is an album not to be missed this year.First listens to this Idaho-born singer-songwriter will reveal touchstones as familiar as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, even Tim Hardin.
There are some artists that just don’t act their age. And in the case of XPN Aritst To Watch Michael Kiwanuka, that's a good thing! The fact that this singer-songwriter is in his early 20’s will be the last thing to come to mind (if at all) when you make your way through his debut album Home Again. Kiwanuka is the latest in a wave of British soul and R&B singers to captivate audiences. And while connections to his peers like Adele exist, he paves his own path to our ears with the songs of Home Again.
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals have come a long way from their blues-rock beginnings in Waitsfield, Vermont. For Grace, she's finally emerging as the superstar frontwoman that so many of us knew she had the potential to be. And on the latest album, The Lion The Beast The Beat she grabs hold of the spotlight and seems unwilling to let it go. We know what a commanding presence this band, and Grace in particular, can be on stage, yet until now capturing that on record has been a challenge. The Lion The Beast The Beat may be the step in the right direction.
Following her impressive debut in 2005, there were big names lined up to work with Seattle songwriter Brandi Carlile. On The Story Carlile enlisted Grammy winning producer T-Bone Burnett, and on Give Up the Ghost the band bunkered down in Los Angeles with famed studio wizard Rick Rubin. For her latest, Brandi decided to settle in a little closer to home. The album Bear Creek takes its name from the studio in which it was recorded just outside of Seattle. As usual, Carlile is flanked by “the twins” Tim and Phil Hanseroth. And along with producer Trina Shoemaker (Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris), Brandi and the band set out to make an album that captures the heart of their sound.
Joan Osborne calls this new album - Pretty Little Stranger - her version of a country record, and that seems pretty fair after a few listens. The pace is moderate, the songs nicely arranged, and the whole package is tied together by her most important attribute - that remarkable voice.
It’s interesting to think back to over twelve years ago when many of us first heard the music of John Mayer. Fresh-faced and innocent he would become yet another staple in the emergence of acoustic rock joining the likes of Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson. Unlike the aforementioned songwriters, Mayer grabbed as many headlines for his off-stage activities as he did for his music. Controversial interviews and high-profile arm candy may have acted as distractions for critics and fans. But on his fifth studio album Born and Raised, Mayer aims to strike those public perceptions and regain focus on his music. If you’re ready to listen, you’ll find that these songs are some of his best yet.
.Rarely, over the course of a year, is there a lack of music that we would categorize as ‘retro’ or ‘old school’. It’s easy to become enchanted by the familiar sounds of years gone by that are injected with a breath of youthful charisma. But there is that dilemma of separating the purely redundant with a talent that acknowledges his or her influences and is forward-thinking enough to still engage; cue Nick Waterhouse. A young soulful hipster from San Francisco, he surely takes a page out of the book that preceded him, but fits quite nicely into the current musical landscape as well.
It’s been almost four years since their last studio album. Shy Pursuit is a welcomed return and as mentioned above, reconnects listeners to their knack for writing quick and catchy indie-pop gems. But on the new album their sound branches out a little more than we’ve heard previously. They approach some of these songs with a more worldly musical vision. Think along the lines of bands like Fools Gold or Vampire Weekend. Songs like “Jackhammer” soar over funky rhythms, as does the strummy album closer “The Living Things.” Overall, an adventurous musical ride.
While The Spinto Band has been making music for over 15 years, Cheers Elephant will have to play the role of new-comer this week. With that said the band’s third album Like Wind Blows Fire does a lot to impress. In many ways the new album does much to prove the band’s identity. Bright, summery tunes showered with melodic guitar riffs and catchy sing-a-long harmonies. The album starts with the tempting falsetto driven “Peoples” and follows with the album stand-out “Doin’ It, Right.” And as you work your way through these songs, more and more it’s clear that this is a band that’s realizing their potential with each note.