Sat October 12, 2013
Tiny Desk Concerts

Valerie June: Tiny Desk Concert

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:06 pm

Valerie June performs a Tiny Desk Concert.

Short of seeing her live and in person, this is the best way to encounter Valerie June's heartfelt sound. Her new album Pushin' Against a Stone is terrific, but when I first heard that voice unadorned, I was hooked. The same may happen to you.

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Fri October 4, 2013
World Cafe

Shuggie Otis On World Cafe

Shuggie Otis.
Courtesy of the artist

Blues and R&B musician Shuggie Otis is back with a new album for the first time in almost 40 years. For the reclusive Otis, the release of Wings of Love is major news. Its release is paired with his 1974 masterpiece Inspiration Information, which drew attention to Otis when it was first reissued by the Luaka Bop label in 2001.

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Wed September 18, 2013
Ecstatic Voices

Sacred Strings Guide Gospel Through Thunder And Steel

Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 8:01 pm

The Sacred Steel tradition is an integral part of worship. From the House of God Keith Dominion Church, Aubrey Ghent (pictured) helped revive the style in 1990s.
Brad Gregory Courtesy of the artist

Some say the purpose of church is to deliver the word of God. If so, what's the role of music in the service?

"The music has always been a part of God's way of getting people's attention," says Bishop Calvin Worthem, pastor at the Church of the Living God in Toccopola, Miss. "Sometimes he speaks through the thunder, the lightning, and sometimes he speaks in the music."

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Fri September 6, 2013
Music Reviews

The Dawn Of Sun Records: 15 Hours Of Blues

The Prisonaires, a band formed in a Memphis-area prison, created one of Sun Records' early hits.
Courtesy of Bear Family Records

Sam Phillips is famous for saying that if he could find a white boy with the authentic Negro sound and feel, he'd make a billion dollars. Seeing Phillips in his striped sport coat and tie in 1950, you might well wonder if he'd know that sound and feel if it came up and bit him. But he'd been a fan of blues and country music since childhood, and he bet that his technical knowledge and feeling for this music could make him money.

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Thu September 5, 2013
World Cafe

James Cotton On World Cafe

Originally published on Thu September 26, 2013 2:30 pm

James Cotton
Christopher Durst Courtesy of the artist

Harmonica master James Cotton is a giant of the blues. Born in 1935 on a cotton plantation in Tunica, Miss., he learned the instrument from Sonny Boy Williamson, who had a radio program right across the river in West Helena, Ark. After listening to the show and imitating him on a harmonica, Cotton met Williamson, who took him under his wing.

At 15, Cotton met and played with Howlin' Wolf, who took him to record at Sun Studios in Memphis. Later, while on tour, Muddy Waters asked Cotton to replace Junior Wells in his band; Cotton stayed on the road with Waters for a dozen years.

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Sun August 25, 2013
Music Interviews

Black Joe Lewis And His Band Stay The Course, Lose The Name

Originally published on Sun August 25, 2013 11:22 am

Black Joe Lewis' new album is Electric Slave.
Courtesy of the artist


Fri August 23, 2013
World Cafe

Buddy Guy On World Cafe

Originally published on Fri September 27, 2013 5:17 pm

Buddy Guy's new double album is titled Rhythm & Blues.
Courtesy of the artist

We recorded this interview with blues guitarist and singer Buddy Guy the day after he turned 77 — and he turned up early for our 9 a.m. start.

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Mon August 19, 2013
The Record

Albert Murray, Writer And Co-Founder Of Jazz At Lincoln Center, Dies

Writer, historian and critic Albert Murray in New York City in 2000.
Chris Felver Getty Images

Albert Murray, the influential writer and critic who helped found Jazz at Lincoln Center, died Sunday at home in Harlem. He was 97 years old. Duke Ellington once described him as the "unsquarest person I know."

For Murray, jazz and blues were more than just musical forms. They were a survival technique — an improvisatory response to hardship and uncertainty, as he told NPR in 1997: "You don't know how many bars you have, but however many of them you can make swing, the better off you are. That's about it."

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Sun August 18, 2013
Music Interviews

A Musical Power Couple With A Dozen-Strong Entourage

Originally published on Sun August 18, 2013 4:07 pm

Mark Seliger Courtesy of the artist


Tue August 6, 2013
Music Reviews

Buddy Guy: 'Rhythm And Blues' Titan Channels Guitar Wisdom

Originally published on Tue August 6, 2013 7:25 pm

Buddy Guy's new two-disc set is titled Rhythm & Blues.
Courtesy of the artist