Stephen Kallao

What do you think of when you think of a Piano bar? Is it Billy Joel's "Piano Man?" There's always been something that made me slightly uncomfortable about the piano man, and don't even get me started on dueling pianos. But my guest, Robert Ellis, who dressed in an all-white tuxedo for the occasion, has an answer.

It's one thing to meet someone who's talented, but it's a trip to meet someone like Northern Ireland's Naomi Hamilton, who makes music (and art) as Jealous of the Birds. Naomi has a knack for slicing up genres and making music that sounds homemade and tiny, but also explosive and bombastic. She studied English and creative writing at Queens University Belfast and uses her love of language to great effect when crafting songs for the band.

If you've been on social media in the few months, you've come across the 10-Year Challenge. It first began on Twitter in January with one user posting two photos side by side, one from 10 years ago and their most recent upload. Within a week, the trend had moved to Facebook, to Instagram, to local news segments. Unless you're Paul Rudd, it was fun to look back on the passing of time and 2009's fashion on display.

We're being treated to a special kind performance from a tight-knit group of friends.

We first introduced listeners to Julia Jacklin when World Cafe's original host, David Dye, met up with her in Australia for our Sense of Place visit back in 2016. Now, Julia's returning the favor, joining us in the U.S. to share a sneak peek of her forthcoming record, Crushing, due out Feb. 22. The album is personal, intimate and beautiful.

Hope you brought your volume knob. J Mascis co-founded Dinosaur Jr. and over the past decade, the band sounded just as vital as when it debuted in 1984. Mascis has also been just as prolific when it comes to his own solo albums. He's recorded three records in the last seven years as a place to showcase some of the quieter (yet still loud) songs.

The band Lawrence is led by two siblings, Clyde and Gracie Lawrence. The New York City-raised pair started the band, now an eight-piece group, with a love of pop and soul music. They've had artistic talents for a while: Elder brother Clyde scored his first songwriting credit at the age of 6 for the movie Miss Congeniality and Gracie's pursuing an acting career.

Johnny Marr has a lot of accolades. From co-founding The Smiths to playing alongside folks like The Pretenders and Talking Heads, from invigorating Modest Mouse in the aughts to a successful solo career, Marr has earned himself a legion of devoted fans.

Explaining Christmas to someone who's never heard of it is a strange proposition. As our guest and old friend JD McPherson puts it, there's a tree in your living room, a strange man's walking around your house at midnight eating cookies, and then you get clothes.

I imagine it's an even stranger proposition to write an album of modern Christmas originals. Christmas means so many different things to so many people, and the differences matter: Is your audience children or adults, religious or not? Are they jaded? Feeling humorous? Maybe sentimental? You've got a lot of options.

The first thing I remarked after finishing my conversation with Marcus King: "This guy doesn't act or sound like a 22-year-old at all." He's incredibly perceptive, and thoughtful, and the music he's making sounds like it's coming from someone who's been working at it for decades. But I mean, he's been playing guitar for audiences since he was 11. I should have seen this coming.

Kurt Vile's song "Loading Zones" is in my head. It's a song about Kurt's adventures driving around Philadelphia. In particular, I've been thinking the last few minutes, wherein he repeats this line over and over: "I park for free."I parked for free. Until I didn't.

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Doyle Bramhall II is a musicians' musician.

In the 1990 book  Bound To Lead: The Changing Nature Of American Power, economist Joseph Nye introduces us to a term he coined; soft power. Soft power is the act of trying to change things through coercion and appeal rather than force and intimidation. In the book, Nye's talking about government and politics, but our guest today, Doe Paoro, writes intimately about the power dynamics of her personal relationships. And Soft Power is the name of her new album.

There's one obvious thing to get out of the way up front. Yes, The Nude Party actually played without clothes during the band's formative years at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. During their college years, the members hadn't picked a name for the band and because of their lack of wardrobe, the locals dubbed the group "The Naked Party Band."

Watching Joseph Arthur and Peter Buck of R.E.M. onstage together as Arthur Buck shows an obvious dynamic in energy. Arthur's a firecracker; a ball of energy. He sings with all his heart and his body. For three minutes and thirty seconds, Arthur explores the stage while shouting out to the heavens.

So much of the music of the last few years has been influenced by the sounds of the 1980's. The revolutionary (and affordable) gear made it's way into musicians hands and people continue to go back to those sounds and textures. However, for this generation of young adults making music, there's another decade to explore ripe with it's own stylistic quirks — the 1990's. Hatchie is one of those artists.

Ten years ago, my guest introduced himself to me as a lanky, biracial kid from suburban Chicago who graduated from Harvard with a Kenyan diplomat for a dad. Nope, I wasn't interviewing Barack Obama. It was Tom Morello. If he had dropped Neo-Marxist into his introduction, the jig would have been up.

If you've been to New Orleans, you know how easy it is to strike up a conversation with a stranger on the street. It just happens! It's also how the band The Revivalists was founded.

My introduction to Dave Wakeling was a little unusual. Sure, I'd heard The English Beat as a kid growing up, (shout out to my Dad who had ALL of their vinyl), but the first time I saw the ska crooner pogoing around the stage was at a club show in a tiny college town in Illinois back in 2001. And that was 19 years after the last Beat record at the time, 1982's Special Beat Service.

When you work at World Cafe, you quickly realize you are not making an episode entirely on your own schedule. The biggest moving pieces are, of course, the guests. We hope to catch them for a few hours as they criss-cross the country in search of sharing their craft and art with an audience, and hopefully some merch sales. It's part of our job to be ready then, for the tiniest of windows.

Here's a story for you about two teenage boys named Salvo and Diego. One is Mexican, one is Italian, and both are immigrants living in America. They're into punk rock like MC5 and The Stooges. And beat poetry — Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac — is their jam. The new album The Crossing tells their story of lives in America and all the thrills, adventures and realities that come with them.

Aaron Lee Tasjan has a way with words and on his latest album, Karma For Cheap, he walks a fine line between timelessness and a record very much of this moment. For instance, one of his new songs is called "The Truth Is So Hard To Believe." It's easy to think about post-truths and fake news with a title like that as a chorus, but to Tasjan, the song is about something a little more personal.

Wayne Kramer has seen some things. He saw the Detroit Riots of 1967 firsthand when a tank rolled up to the house he was staying at. He oversaw a career in crime and therefore got a good, long look at the inside of prison cell. And, most notably, he survived decades of addiction.

Meg Myers makes explosive, aggressive rock coupled with synthesizers, strings and plenty of distortion. Her music is a bit like Nine Inch Nails got into a fight with Pixies — the latter of whom she's toured with — and threw some incredibly dynamic vocals into the mix.

Gorillaz' Damon Albarn drew me a portrait. Imagine my surprise to learn this. After all, this is an audio medium and he's half a world away in London while I'm chilling at the World Cafe studios in Philadelphia.

The first single off Rayland Baxter's latest album Wide Awake is about a dysfunctional relationship. That's a near-universal truth we can appreciate. However, when you learn the woman's name is Sallie Mae, you realize he's not singing about a human being, but instead, the giant student loan corporation. That's how you get closer to the heart of Rayland Baxter.

Today, we're featuring a mini-concert from an artist you might first know as an actor. Lera Lynn's turn on the second season of True Detective introduced her to a lot of America, including myself. But those in the know have recognized her voice, style and songwriting ability, shown on albums like Resistor or The Avenues.

Jukebox the Ghost is the type of band you want to play your party. Why? For one, Because they're talented, but that's just table stakes. The second reason gets us a little closer. The band members are excellent entertainers, but even that doesn't really capture it. What I think is that singer/piano player Ben Thornewill, guitarist Tommy Siegel, drummer Jesse Kristin, enjoy each other's company. And when three friends are good at what they do, and having a lot of fun with each other doing it, we're in for a good time.

If you don't know who Nick Lowe is, there's a very good chance you know at least one of his songs — perhaps "Cruel to Be Kind" or "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass," or his song that longtime friend and collaborator Elvis Costello made famous, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding."

Jim Lauderdale is rightfully considered one of the kings of Americana music. He's a songwriter's songwriter, having written for George Strait, Patti Loveless, Vince Gill, George Jones and countless others.

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