Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 2:59 pm
The only aspect of Tinariwen more urgent and heartbreakingly human than its unique blend of electric rock and North African traditional music is its story. Tinariwen's members fought as rebels in Mali to protect their land and the Tuareg people, and out of the rebel camps formed a counterculture — and a rock band.
Shelby Lynne has been recording for more than two decades, but has never stopped evolving. Her music is powerful because it feels heartfelt and entirely hers; she's moved from label to label, style to style, but has always kept her individuality. The first decade of her career has been all about that movement, and now she's in a great rhythm.
In "Poor Moon," his recent release under the moniker Hiss Golden Messenger, MC Taylor revels in the classic simplicity of old-school folk. His waltz-y ballad "Blue Country Mystic" is a prime example of how Taylor blends the tried-and-true methods of home-grown bluegrass with the catchiness of contemporary indie folk. "Super Blue (Two Days Clean)" is a country-infused dance number that showcases his understanding of the folk tradition as history that lives, grows and moves its audience in deep, unpredictable ways.
"None of us knew each other beforehand," recalls singer Josiah Johnson. "I just happened to go to the same open mic. [Jonathan Russell] played some songs and I played some songs, then we started talking and hanging out."
Looking at Andrew Mayer Cohen in his Buddy Holly glasses, styled like Michael Buble's little brother, he could easily be construed as another poppy heart-breaker. But this young soul man from Detroit is actually a rising hip-hop and R&B artist. Known as Mayer Hawthorne in the music world, he's built an impressive reputation for himself.
Friends since college, guitarist and vocalist Israel Nebeker and drummer Ryan Dobrowski are the essence of Portland's Blind Pilot. From the beginning, their minimalist folk-rock sound has revolved around simple melodies, sparse drumming and warm vocals.
Blitzen Trapper's rise to fame has been nontraditional, to say the least. According to frontman Eric Earley, who writes most of its music, the band was homeless up through the 2008 tour for its breakout fourth album, Furr. This was a year after the "reluctant success," as Earley called it, of Wild Mountain Nation.
Originally published on Tue December 6, 2011 3:25 pm
With more than 70 albums and 15 Grammys to his name, Tony Bennett is not just a staple of contemporary jazz music — he's a legend. His signature sound has evolved into just the right mix of jazz and pop, influenced by greats such as Al Jolson and Louis Armstrong.
In the 1960s, the Zombies enjoyed success as one of the most popular bands of the British Invasion, releasing the enduring and beloved hits "Time of the Season," "Tell Her No" and "She's Not There." Although the group initially split amicably in 1968, the Zombies returned to making music in various incarnations in the early '90s. This year, two of its founding members, Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent, released Breathe Out, Breathe In, which the veteran musicians say is the first album that makes them feel truly together again as a band.
Celebrated Canadian singer-songwriter Leslie Feist released her fourth studio album, Metals, earlier this year. Metals is a bit more chaotic, and a bit more liberating, than her 2007 commercial breakthrough, The Reminder. Feist describes the new record as being "about un-simplifying things and leaning on these masterful minds I have so much respect for." The record is about people — and, she explains, was created by "the movement of a lot of humans."