NPR Music

Meg Baird and Mary Lattimore both operate at the frayed edges of psychedelic music, sounding at once elegant and fuzzed-out. Baird was in the folk group Espers, sings and drums in the sprawling rock band Heron Oblivion and has a few lovely solo albums of her own.

Stella Donnelly may win the World Cafe award for least high maintenance and largest musical impact. She came in with her guitar, a big warm smile and a totally unassuming personality, and asked if we had a room she could use for a quick vocal warm-up. OK, sure. Ten minutes later, she emerged, plugged in her guitar and delivered a flawless one-take performance with the kind of vocal control they could write singing textbooks about, and the kind of clever and poignant words that make you want to read the lyric sheet after.

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.


Whether hearing The Glands for the first time or singing along again to tunes that soundtracked turn-of-the-millennium summers in the band's Athens, Ga., hometown, there's one question that everyone within earshot seems to echo: Why wasn't this band famous?

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.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Myth and Legend

Oct 31, 2018

You're invited to embark on a musical journey through myth, legend, and mystery, featuring Malinky, Old Blind Dogs, Nuala Kennedy and Jim Malcolm. Join Fiona Ritchie as she guides you through it all.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Irish singer Hozier became a global superstar, thanks to his powerful self-titled debut album. He released a new EP this past September — Nina Cried Power — and visited KCRW to perform new work, including this version of the title track replete with a soaring choir.

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.

A single voice can send a powerful message - and that's just what Jim James did at the Tiny Desk, with just his voice and an acoustic guitar. His lead-off song, "I'm Amazed," comes from My Morning Jacket's 2008 album Evil Urges. It's a prophetic song in many ways - it speaks not only of a divided nation and the need for justice but also to the beauty in the life and plight of others.

Leo Kottke On Mountain Stage

Oct 25, 2018

In his nearly four decades of recording and performing, Leo Kottke has set the highest standard for acoustic finger-picked guitar. In his 10th appearance on Mountain Stage since 1990, Kottke still wows with his dexterity and musicianship, which are just as sharp as his well-maintained sense of humor.

Something truly magical happens when Amelia Meath (from Sylvan Esso), Molly Erin Sarlé and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig are in the same room, huddled around the same mic, breathing and harmonizing together.

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.


When can a song be considered "finished"? When, if ever, can a song written by Bob Dylan be considered finished? And what to make of tracks that were greenlit for release and then discarded – after the auteur decided they somehow didn't quite capture the totality of what he was trying to express?

The Marked Men will never make another album (or so the band says).

Settle into the season by tuning into some fresh new music recently arrived at The Thistle & Shamrock offices in the U.S. and Scotland. Fiona Ritchie handpicks newly released and "new to me" recordings from artists including Jake James, We Banjo 3 and The Krüger Brothers.

Back in July, Elvis Costello announced to fans on social media that he would be cancelling a handful of tour dates to recover from surgery for a a small but very aggressive cancerous malignancy. In the same post, he announced a bright side. He and his band, the Imposters, would release a new album in the fall.

For more than 50 years, guitar and songwriting giant Richard Thompson has twisted the traditions of British folk, shattered the boundaries of genre and stretched the limitations of human hands.

On this week's sprint through the best new releases we've got irresistible earworms from Peter Bjorn & John, the deep soul of PHONY PPL, Esperanza Spalding's mind-bending songcraft and more. All Songs Considered's Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Ann Powers, Lars Gotrich, Nate Chinen of WBGO, Sidney Madden and Stephen Thompson as they breakdown the best albums out on Oct. 19.

Featured Albums:

  1. Elle King: Shake the Spirit
    Featured Song: "Shame"

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.

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