Stephen Thompson

Sara Watkins isn't the flashiest of singing stars, but she's already carved out a remarkable career: She got her start as a kid with Chris Thile and her brother Sean in the heavily decorated, platinum-selling Nickel Creek, and has since gone on to perform with The Decemberists,

The last band to open for Levon Helm before his death earlier this year, Brooklyn's Spirit Family Reunion crafts a sweetly ramshackle Americana sound that's part secular gospel revival, part folk ramble.

The young Swedish sisters in First Aid Kit got their break when their cover of Fleet Foxes' "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" became a gigantic hit on YouTube, attracting three million views and many comparisons to, well, Fleet Foxes.

The history of folk and pop music is littered with gorgeous intertwined voices: Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, The Jayhawks' Mark Olson and

When Tom Jones performed at the NPR Music offices in 2009, it felt like an exercise in cruelty: His Tiny Desk Concert took a larger-than-life icon, a superstar for whom intimacy is implied but impossible on a huge stage, and shrunk him to where every bead of sweat could be seen. Young English folksinger Laura Marling, on the other hand, lives for that sort of intimacy.

It's possible to place countless movies and TV shows within a very specific time frame based on whether they feature certain songs: Baja Men's "Who Let the Dogs Out," Smash Mouth's "All Star" and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' "Home" all provide a form of pop-cultural carbon dating, as well as signifiers of a tone that's both specific and universal.

The reliable backup singer who seizes the spotlight is the stuff of entertainment-industry fairy tales, but Kelly Hogan hasn't actually had to labor in obscurity.

Today in "They Pay Us To Do This": a performance by South Africa's Soweto Gospel Choir, which managed to tie the all-time record for most musicians squashed behind Bob Boilen's desk for a single performance in the NPR Music offices.

Kathleen Edwards isn't a flashy singer-songwriter, but her music sticks: Easygoing and accessible, her songs burrow in deep and then stay put. Edwards' new album, Voyageur, wears a lot of sonic flourishes well — it was co-produced by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, who lends it a lot of his distinct shadings — but at its heart lies a sort of unshakable sturdiness.

This Sunday will mark the 16th annual installment of "Chicken Bowl," my Super Bowl party, which doubles as a grand fried-chicken-eating contest. As many as 80 friends, coworkers, enablers and hangers-on will cram into my long-suffering house for this noble occasion.

But even with all the extravagances I've cobbled together to keep them happy — large TVs, vintage arcade machines, working toilets — there has never been a shred of doubt that chicken is king.

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