Heavy Rotation

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Heavy Rotation: 5 Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing

Our November edition of "Heavy Rotation" includes new favorite songs from public-radio stations across the country. Starting out west, Colorado Public Radio's OpenAir channel highlights one of Denver's most promising young voices, Esme Patterson. Kansas Public Radio's "Trail Mix" show is obsessed with folksinger Rayna Gellert. WEMU in Ypsilanti, Mich., is feeling blues belter Mary Bridget Davies. WXPN in Philadelphia recently added the wonderfully named Foxygen. And Vermont Public Radio is getting ready for winter with bassist Marcus Miller.
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Rayna Gellert, 'Nothing'

Currently in rotation on: Kansas Public Radio

Rayna Gellert is best known as an old-time fiddler, notably with the band Uncle Earl, but there's nary a driving fiddle tune on her new album, Old Light: Songs From My Childhood & Other Gone Worlds. Gellert puts her vocals and songwriting front and center on a collection split evenly between traditional folk songs and originals. The album features guest vocal spots from Alice Gerrard, Scott Miller and Uncle Earl bandmate Abigail Washburn, but Gellert's own voice carries the day. There's a timeless quality to it that's perfectly suited to these songs: "Nothing" begins with "This is where I must begin, memory is full of sins" and ends with "Dust to dust, breath to wind, this is where I must begin." From beginning to end, it's an exquisite slice of Americana. --Bob McWilliams, Kansas Public Radio

Download "Nothing" (right-click and "Save Link As")

Marcus Miller, 'February'

Currently in rotation on: Vermont Public Radio

The phrase "national treasure" has been beaten to death, and then some. Still, I think Marcus Miller's compositional gifts (not to mention his skills as a multi-instrumentalist, producer and so on) make him one of our most arresting, accessible and probing musicians. Far too many jazz-influenced composers churn out well-intentioned but dull jazz-survey lectures for the ears, but Miller's "February" is replete with sublime lyricism. Its melodic and harmonic contours sound and feel like the month in question. The music makes me want to lean into the brisk air and appreciate the somber sky. Rather than stage a Thoreau-like retreat, I want to run down the streets of Manhattan (the piece makes me think of my beloved New York) and groove to the riffs of life. --Reuben Jackson, Vermont Public Radio

Download "February" (right-click and "Save Link As")

Esme Patterson, 'My Young Man'

Currently in rotation on: Colorado Public Radio's OpenAir

OpenAir's staff has long listed Esme Patterson — one of three singers in the Denver band Paper Bird — as one of our favorite local musicians. However, it wasn't until recently that we were shown what she can do when left to her own devices. With her first solo release All Princes, I, Patterson sounds more versatile and intimate than in any previous work. While the record sizzles throughout, "My Young Man" (featuring Denver folk-rock hero Nathaniel Rateliff) hits hard with playful femininity and captivating lyrics. All analysis aside, perhaps the greatest testament to this song's success is that it's the only one in recent memory that I truly relish having stuck in my head. --Jessi Whitten, Colorado Public Radio's OpenAir

Download "My Young Man" (right-click and "Save Link As")

Foxygen, 'Shuggie'

Currently in rotation on: WXPN in Philadelphia

Foxygen lives in a musical world where the sounds of 1968-72 still reign. The Los Angeles duo of Sam France and Jonathan Rado released its debut EP, Take the Kids off Broadway, last July. It's a wonderfully disorienting collection that brings to mind The Kinks, the soundtrack to Hair and the orchestrated pop whimsy of The Zombies. The funky, uber-melodic "Shuggie" — from Foxygen's forthcoming album, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic — updates the band's sense of history closer to Belle and Sebastian than to Ray Davies. "Shuggie" has a singalong ramshackle charm, with soulful glam and indie-pop influences thrown into the ring, where they fight nicely with each other in pursuit of supremacy. --Bruce Warren, music director

Download "Shuggie" (right-click and "Save Link As")

Mary Bridget Davies, 'Wanna Feel Somethin'

Currently in rotation on: WEMU in Ypsilanti, Mich.

Mary Bridget Davies mixes the sounds of Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin and Susan Tedeschi — remarkable company, to say the least. Her debut album, Wanna Feel Somethin', helps cement Davies' place among of today's best blues vocalists. It's not surprising that her vocals are strong; she exercises her powerful instrument nightly while playing Janis Joplin in a theater production. But she's got real-deal blues credentials in her own right, including a recent second-place finish at the International Blues Challenge. --Wendy Wright, host of WEMU's "From Memphis to Motown"

Download "Wanna Feel Somethin'" (right-click and "Save Link As")