Talia Schlanger

Talia Schlanger is a host and radio producer at World Cafe, produced by WXPN, the public radio service of the University of Pennsylvania. Schlanger joins the World Cafe team straight from CBC, Canada's public broadcaster, where she hosted a triple-A radio show on Saturday and Sunday mornings. She was the on-camera host for two seasons of the CBC television series CBC Music: Backstage Pass, which saw her interview some of Canada's best and brightest artists. Schlanger also hosted several prime-time music TV specials for CBC, including the Quietest Concert Ever: On Fundy's Ocean Floor featuring Serena Ryder, CBC Music SongCamp and the CBCMusic.ca Festival Special 2015. Schlanger served as the the interim host of CBC Radio 2's Canada Live and was a regular guest host on CBC Radio One's flagship artist and culture show q. She also filled in on Canadian current-affairs radio shows including As It Happens, Day 6 and Because News. Some of her favorite music interviews include St. Vincent, Tanya Tagaq, John Fogerty, Barenaked Ladies and Grimes.

Schlanger's first project at CBC was as a producer for CBC Music Presents: The Beetle Roadtrip Sessions, a cross-country rock 'n' roll road trip which won a Canadian Screen Award in 2014. She was also the digital producer for Hockey Night In Canada Song Quest, CBC Music's search for the next great hockey song.

Born and raised in Toronto, Schlanger is a proud alumna of Ryerson's Radio and Television Arts program. She's also a professional actress, singer and voiceover artist. Schlanger spent most of 2012 performing in the first national tour of Green Day's rock opera, American Idiot, at various theatres throughout the United States. (She thought she would be really cool when she met Billie Joe Armstrong after he watched American Idiot. She was not cool at all.) She has also performed on stage with Mirvish Productions' original Canadian company of We Will Rock You, as well as in the ensemble and understudying lead roles in Scaramouche, Oz (Canon Theatre, 2007/2008), and in Mamma Mia! (Royal Alexandra Theatre, 2003/2004).

Over the past year, we've had some unbelievable artists walk through our studio doors and melt our musical minds. Laura Marling nailed a live vocal performance so perfect you might swear you're hearing a studio mix she'd worked on for weeks rather than a live one-off.

Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn's new album is called Echo In The Valley. Both artists have built lives on squeezing more sound, story and emotion out of the banjo than you may have thought possible — she in the clawhammer style of her hero Doc Watson, and he from the three-finger school of Earl Scruggs.

We're in South Louisiana — somewhere between Arnaudville and Leonville — in the backyard of Louis Michot, looking out at his pond. In 1999, Louis and his brother Andre co-founded the band Lost Bayou Ramblers. And the sounds we hear in their backyard in the bayou actually appear on their latest album, Kalenda. So does music, of course; the band isn't here to play the cricket or the frog — more like Louis on the fiddle and vocals and Andre on accordion and lap steel guitar. But the music really does take you to a real place.

My guest David Rawlings has a new album. Well, a new old album. It's called Poor David's Almanack, and in writing it, Rawlings set out to craft new folk songs that evoke old folk traditions.

We get a lot of music in the mail here at World Cafe and sometimes a song and a story hits me right in the gut. Kyle Vanes, of the band The Dales, wrote to tell us the story behind "Still the Love," a song inspired by finding, and losing, the love of his life Heather Marie Allman. She had stage 4 breast cancer when they met. Kyle and Heather were friends for a while before they fell in love and stayed together until she died in January of 2015.

There's nothing quite like a compelling story song.

In this session, we welcome Deer Tick into our studio. This is a band that can go from in-your-face to introspective on a dime – and they do, on their new set of two full-length albums, Deer Tick Volume 1 and Volume 2. The former is folkier with just a little bit of a bite, while the band gets heavy and lets their punk influence rip on Volume 2. And although the music sounds different on both sides, the lyrics share the clever craft that's made Deer Tick beloved purveyors of both humor and heart.

As one half of Indigo Girls, Emily Saliers owns one of the most important voices of a generation. It should come as no surprise to those of us who have spent a lot of time with Saliers' voice that her debut solo album, Murmunation Nation, teems with warm sounds and winding words that oscillate between the urgent and the eternal.

It's always kind of a miracle when two people find each other and fall in love. And that's what happened to my guests, the duo known as Amadou & Mariam. But their story is even more miraculous. They're both from Mali; they both lost their eyesight as kids — Mariam was 5, and Amadou was 16. They met each other at the Bamako Institute for the Young Blind in the '70s, fell in love with each other's musicianship and went on to get married and become global Afropop sensations.

Portland, Ore.'s The Decemberists and British singer-songwriter Olivia Chaney have teamed up to cover traditional English (and Irish and Scottish) folk songs under the name Offa Rex.

In the French Quarter of New Orleans, there's a tiny venue with old wooden floors where on a good night you can cram in around a hundred people. The audience sits right up in front of the band and it's so intimate that the musicians don't need microphones. It's a truly magical place, where the spirit of New Orleans jazz is not only alive but evolving. It's called Preservation Hall. And it's home to our guests – the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Picture what would happen if Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin met Ali Farka Touré in a garage in West Africa, and you've got an idea of what my guests today sound like. The band is Songhoy Blues. They're from Mali, and their new album is titled Résistance.

I talked with the band's lead singer, Aliou Touré. He is originally from the northern Mali city of Gao, but fled south after Islamist militants and rebels took over parts of northern Mali in 2012, causing a massive political crisis and banning music.

Trumpet virtuoso Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah is stretching modern jazz music to include the flavors of hip-hop, trap and West African percussion. His latest release, Ruler Rebel, is his first in series of three albums marking the 100th anniversary of the first commercially recorded jazz music. As Adjuah tells it, that recording, made by the Original Dixieland Jass Band in New Orleans in 1917, was originally conceived as satire with a racially-charged subtext.

Pokey LaFarge joins World Cafe to perform new songs from his latest album, Manic Revelations. LaFarge lives in St. Louis, right near Ferguson, Mo., which he says inspired his song "Riot In The Streets." He puts it this way:

As the old adage goes, "you never get a second chance to make a first impression." Fifty years ago — May 12, 1967 — the Jimi Hendrix Experience made about as tremendous a first impression as it gets. The band's first full-length record, Are You Experienced?, is widely considered one of the greatest debuts in rock and roll. It introduced audiences to pyrotechnic psychedelia, amps that were at once incendiary and melodic and an artist that would define the dreams of nearly anyone who picked up a guitar for years to come.

In this session, we're shining a spotlight on two elements that never seem to take center stage: backing musicians and music without words. But trust me, they deserve the limelight. Steelism is a Nashville duo made up of ace guitarist Jeremy Fetzer and pedal-steel player Spencer Cullum Jr.

Rose Cousins has an arresting voice that gets right under your skin. She hails from Canada's eastern coast, near the Atlantic Ocean. Just like that body of water, her music is spacious, expansive and liquid. Her last full-length album, We Have Made A Spark, came out to rave reviews in 2012 and propelled her into a couple years of constant touring. When that period was over, Cousins was burned out.

Last time Laura Marling visited World Cafe, the city sounds of Los Angeles had begun to drone their way into her English folk-based music. Almost two years later, her new album, Semper Femina, features winding vines of sound that are darker, smokier and utterly tantalizing. It's the sixth full-length studio record she's released in nine years.

If you're not up on your avian anatomy, it may come as a surprise that in many species of birds, the feathers outweigh the skeleton. How can feathers, a symbol of lightness and beauty, be so heavy? How can a skeleton, a symbol of strength and support, be hollow and fragile? And how can love, which gives a heart its wings, be both freedom and cage?

'Tis right around Christmas and wherever you go
It's "Run Rudolph Run," "Jingle Bells," "Let It Snow"

And while classics are great, and you love them no doubt
You may feel a little bit jingle belled out

But don't fret, for musical Santa is here!
With a playlist that brings you hip holiday cheer!

Hey Rosetta! delights with a sweet, heartfelt jam
Plus Sufjan Stevens with some holiday Ham...mond

Prolific guitarist Ryley Walker says his musical aim is "to freak [his] audience out ... in a nice way". He was schooled in what he calls the "weirdo scene" — in Chicago's experimental independent clubs, where the name of the game is improvisation and every song is simply a jumping-off point for endless exploration. Walker's latest record, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, is his third in three years and a stunning follow-up to his 2015 instrumental release, Primrose Green.

Amanda Shires first hit the road when she was 15 years old, as a fiddler with the Texas Playboys. Between releasing four of her own solo records and playing with the Thrift Store Cowboys or with her husband Jason Isbell's ensemble, The 400 Unit, she's been on the road ever since. Until recently, when — at 34 weeks pregnant — she decided it was time to take a break from the road, waddle home and sit down for a minute.

In 2013, the Grammy-winning producer Ian Brennan and his wife, filmmaker Marilena Delli, traveled to the African country Malawi to record the music of inmates at the maximum-security Zomba Central Prison. They came back with a stunning collection of song-stories that made up the Grammy-nominated record I Have No Everything Here.

Hi, World Cafe fans! I just moved to the U.S. from Toronto, Canada, to become World Cafe's new contributing host and producer. Yes, I'm from Drake's hometown. And yes, that's the most frequently asked question since I've been here. But if your musical knowledge north of the 49th parallel doesn't extend past Drizzy and The Six, you're in luck. I brought a pile of musical gifts across the border with me.