NPR Music

Natalie Prass On Mountain Stage

Oct 18, 2018

While she was born in Cleveland, this Mountain Stage concert was Natalie Prass' first time performing her own music in her home state of Ohio.

Prass' new album, The Future And The Past, was recorded in her current hometown of Richmond with producer and collaborator Matthew E. White and released by ATO Records. Coincidentally, the recording console used at White's Spacebomb studio, came from Ohio where it had been used to record the Ohio Players, among others.

Art needs to be preserved, but music thrives when it is replanted. Traditional styles grow differently depending on who cultivates them and where. For two decades, Old Crow Medicine Show has helped make old-timey American music vital for a generation raised on Nirvana and hip-hop by abandoning the rules that sometimes stifle folk revivalism and growing in whatever way appealed to it.

Last month at the Americana Music Association's AmericanaFest in Nashville, public radio station WMOT, NPR Music and World Cafe presented five days of live performances at a tiny venue called The Local.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple playlists at the bottom of the page.


Folk music can offer its performers and listeners a sense of sturdiness, of grounding, of being tethered to an established, easily traceable lineage. Kaia Kater puts folk's connective potential to a more imaginative test on her wholly immersive new album, Grenades.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple playlists at the bottom of the page.

Singer-songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov's new album, Evening Machines, showcases his emotionally evocative songwriting style; rich in narrative detail and beautifully contemplative.

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.

I recently hosted a "pitch session" at the DIY Music Conference hosted by CD Baby in Nashville. It was an opportunity for independent artists to have their music heard and critiqued by a panel of music industry folks including a record producer, a music supervisor and music journalist.

Our list of the best new albums out this week includes the comical and moving synth pop of John Grant, enchanting harmonies from The Watson Twins, an audacious jazz album from trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, the first new music from Elvis Costello & The Imposers in a decade and more. Host Robin Hilton returns to breakdown this week's essential releases with NPR Music's Ann Powers and Stephen Thompson, and Nate Chinen from WBGO.

Featured Albums

  1. Elvis Costello & The Imposters: Look Now
    Featured Song: "Under Lime"

Some anniversaries are hard to celebrate. How should we greet the arrival of October, a year after the stories broke initiating the reckoning that soon became known as #MeToo? Since The New York Times and The New Yorker published their exposés — on Oct. 5 and Oct. 10 of last year, respectively — of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's long career as an alleged serial rapist, a new nationwide discussion has formed about sexual assault, abuse and harassment. Often, this ongoing reckoning feels like not a dialogue, but a war.

KCRW welcomed Cat Power for her first live radio session behind her latest album, Wanderer. "In Your Face" features Power's vocals front and center as she strips things back for a hushed performance.

Years before Taylor Swift's ascent, the Dixie Chicks were the turn of the century's country crossover success story.

Rosanne Cash is a highly distinguished singer and songwriter. Since she released her debut in 1978, she's built a fantastic body of work. She's released thirteen studio albums with highlights including Seven Year Ache (1981), The Wheel (1993), and 2009's The List, a collection of 12 essential country songs she recorded from a list of 100 country songs that her father, Johnny Cash, gave her.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple playlists at the bottom of the page.

Look: Big, dumb riffs are harder than you think. Palm-muted chugs and sidewinder pull-offs can rate on a scale of Honda Accord (safe, reliable, standard) to El Camino (muscular, mean, wild) depending on the driver who's stomping on the sonic gas pedal. Hair Puller was founded on this premise, and its 101 MPH sludge will pulverize your headbanging skull.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Live From Ireland

Oct 10, 2018

Host Fiona Ritchie is feeling a little nostalgic and a lot Irish this week, delving into her radio archive to relive some of the great sets of Irish music she's aired on Thistle through the years.

Four years ago, Jocie Adams of The Low Anthem, stepped aside from the Rhode Island band she was a member of to begin the next evolution in her musical career as lead singer for Arc Iris. This Friday, Arc Iris will release its third album, Icon Of Ego, via Ba Da Bing Records.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced its 2019 nominees on Tuesday, and in what has become an annual tradition, the list came with the Hall's usual heap of opacity and a dash of acrimony.

One nominee has already been inducted, two are receiving their fifth nominations, and one previously said it would decline the honor before changing its, ahem, tune on Tuesday morning.

My No. 1 album for 2017 was Big Thief's Capacity. In 2016 their album Masterpiece was in my top five. So when I heard that Adrianne Lenker, Big Thief's singer and songwriter, had a new solo record, I was all ears.

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