WUIS Xponential

WUIS Xponential

Will Butler On World Cafe

Apr 9, 2015

Will Butler, the keyboard player and jack-of-all-instruments for Arcade Fire, has been playing smaller stages lately and liking it. Arcade Fire plays sheds and festivals — led by his brother, singer Win Butler — but he's been playing 150-seat clubs as a solo artist who's just released his debut album, Policy.

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Every Thursday this year we're celebrating All Songs Considered's 15th birthday with personal memories and highlights from the show's decade and a half online and on the air. If you have a story about the show you'd like to share, drop us an email: allsongs@npr.org.

This week's Throwback Thursday is offered without comment, and just enough context to help us make our point:

Larkin Poe On Mountain Stage

Apr 9, 2015

The Atlanta duo Larkin Poe makes its first appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, W.Va.

Members Rebecca and Megan Lovell have appeared on the show once before, along with their sister Jessica, as bluegrass trio The Lovell Sisters. After taking a break from that project in 2009, the two took the name of their great-great-great-grandfather and adopted a raucous Southern rock sound that got them nicknamed "the little sisters of the Allman Brothers."

Before Toro Y Moi released its new album What For?, frontman Chaz Bundick and his band played it front to back for a small audience at Apogee Studio in Santa Monica. Bundick is a musical chameleon, and after a dance/electronic release under the name Les Sins, he's confidently planted his flag in the field of guitar-driven psych-pop. Here, Toro Y Moi performs a perfect springtime jam called "Empty Nesters."


  • "Empty Nesters"

Pianist Ralph Sharon, the longtime accompanist for Tony Bennett, died March 31 at age 91. In the audio link above, Tom Cole has a brief report for NPR's Morning Edition, and below, Walter Ray Watson filed this remembrance for NPR Music.

Simón Bolívar Big Band Jazz In Concert

Apr 9, 2015

The public youth music education program known as El Sistema has reached hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans, largely through participation in classical music ensembles. In 2007, drummer Andrés Briceño and head of the Simón Bolívar Conservatory of Music Valdemar Rodríguez introduced a jazz program to El Sistema, with the goal of promoting the music throughout Venezuela. The flagship ensemble, Simón Bolívar Big Band Jazz, presents the work of both American jazz masters and Venezuelan composers, and like its orchestral counterparts, has now toured the U.S.

Malcolm Holcombe On Mountain Stage

Apr 8, 2015

Malcolm Holcombe makes his second appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, W.Va. Born and raised in western North Carolina, the singer, songwriter and guitarist has been championed by heavyweights such as Emmylou Harris, Wilco and Steve Earle.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Julie Fowlis

Apr 8, 2015

Raised in the Outer Hebrides, Julie Fowlis is reaching international audiences with her Gaelic songs, and is one of a small group of singers bringing the music into the cultural mainstream. On this episode of The Thistle & Shamrock, we explore her music and examine her role in the soundtrack to the Oscar-winning 2012 Pixar film Brave.

Matthew E. White On World Cafe

Apr 8, 2015

A few years ago, Matthew E. White and his crew formed a production company and studio in Richmond, Va., and called the enterprise Spacebomb. White and Spacebomb's first album, 2012's Big Inner, was produced primarily as a demo to showcase the group's strengths.

Baby-faced and rail-thin, Lee Bozeman didn't look like the kind of guy who would ram a microphone stand into the floor. But in the '90s, when Luxury got to "Flaming Youth Flames On" in its set list, the guitar came off and the sweetly gut-punching crooner flailed his body into the ultra-sassy punk song that teased, "Make you gasp / Make your heart skip a beat." It was an eye-opener to any teenager who witnessed it, especially since Luxury's spectacle was most often seen in church youth halls.

It doesn't get much better than Loretta Lynn singing her life's story on the stage of Ryman Auditorium. That's the stuff of legends; the stuff on which country-music dreams have been built for more than a few decades.

Backed only by Ry Cooder and his magnificent riffs, Rodney Crowell offered up a tender take on "God I'm Missing You" as part of his Americana Music Awards performance. The song of longing was composed as a collaboration between Crowell and a poet friend of his, Mary Karr, and was originally voiced by Lucinda Williams on Crowell and Karr's 2012 album Kin.

Look no further than this performance to understand and appreciate the current state of American roots music: It's alive and very, very well. Rosanne Cash, along with a band led by her husband and producer John Leventhal, worked through "A Feather's Not A Bird" from 2014's The River & The Thread, perhaps the finest record of her exceedingly fine career.

Young Oklahoma upstart Parker Millsap took the Americana world by storm in 2014, thanks in part to fiery live performances like this one. Here, Millsap (accompanied by Michael Rose on upright bass and Daniel Foulks on fiddle) preaches his "Truck Stop Gospel" in Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, known as the Mother Church of Country Music.

One of the most captivating voices in Americana music, Hurray For The Riff Raff's Alynda Lee Segarra turns the personal into the political in "The Body Electric," from 2014's Small Town Heroes. The song and album wowed fans and critics with its understated urgency, and this performance is just as impassioned and unflinching as the narrative it conveys.


  • "The Body Electric"

Last year was a great one for Americana music, from both the longtime pillars of the form and its emerging young vanguard. Robert Ellis falls squarely into the latter group, as evidenced by this performance of "Only Lies" from 2014's The Lights From The Chemical Plant.

Putting her glorious pipes to work on Willie Dixon's "I Want To Be Loved," Cassandra Wilson offered a master class in vocal restraint at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. Where she could have easily reached for the rafters, Wilson chose to follow the song's lead and, instead, slide down into more sultry terrain.

Introduced at the Americana Music Awards as "the hero of outlaw country" by Elizabeth Cook (who surely knows of what she speaks), Sturgill Simpson did his darnedest not to disappoint as he ripped and roared through "Life Of Sin" from his breakthrough album, Metamodern Sounds In Country Music.

Winner of the 2014 Spirit of Americana Free Speech Award, singer-songwriter Jackson Browne demonstrated exactly why the honor was bestowed upon him with a rendering of "The Long Way Around," a cut from his album Standing In The Breach.

The song wraps a melody around a look back at his life and times, touching on gun violence, environmental destruction, income inequality and other issues. But, as he always does, Browne burnishes the politics with poetry.


For his second song in a performance at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, Jackson Browne reached back 40 years to play "Fountain Of Sorrow," from 1974's classic Late For The Sky.

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On any given week there's usually a new (or fairly recent) song I can't stop listening to. And sometimes, if it's a really, really good cut, I'm still listening to it, nonstop, weeks later. We assume you're in the same boat, whether it's the latest Rihanna ear worm or some heartbreaking acoustic ballad by a singer hardly anyone has heard of.

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DON MCLEAN: (Singing) Bye, bye, Miss American Pie.


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Musicians Molly Ledford and Billy Kelly met accidentally. What started as an unusual friendship grew into a musical collaboration. Their debut album together is simply called "Trees." Kids music reviewer Stefan Shepherd has their story.

Dale Watson On Mountain Stage

Apr 7, 2015

Dale Watson makes his first visit to Mountain Stage, recorded live on West Virginia's State Capitol grounds in Charleston. A fearless practitioner of country's Bakersfield sound, which was first championed by Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, Watson has spent more than two decades touring the world one bar, club and honky tonk at a time.

On this week's All Songs Considered we talk about the secrets to being happy and how they relate to a euphoric new track from the electro-pop group Passion Pit. We'll hear the first song from Franz Ferdinand's collaboration with one of Bob Boilen's favorite bands from the early '70s — the wild, strange and playful duo Sparks. Together, as FFS, they cordially invite everyone to "piss off!"

Ibeyi On World Cafe

Apr 7, 2015

Ibeyi is made up of twins Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz, who grew up in France but went home to Cuba every summer. Their father, Anga Diaz, was a percussionist who played with the Buena Vista Social Club.