Cahalen Morrison and Eli West appear on Mountain Stage, recorded live on the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College. Innovative and subtle, Morrison and West's music sounds vibrant while drawing from near-ancient folk sources. Broad in scope and subject, Morrison's writing has been compared to novelist Cormac McCarthy. West brings jagged, angular arrangements based in bluegrass and old-time music, but informed by a 21st-century sensibility.
The Teetotallers appear on Mountain Stage, recorded live on the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College. Born of an impromptu performance at a California Celtic Festival in 2010, the band features three of traditional Irish music's most respected performers: fiddler and violist Martin Hayes; flute, whistle and bodhrán player Kevin Crawford; and singer, guitarist, and bouzouki and mandola player John Doyle.
Many of us at NPR Music fell hard for Arizona's Sergio Mendoza and his band La Orkesta this year. Together, they mix myriad Latin styles — what Mendoza calls "indie mambo," salted with generous handfuls of cumbia, merengue and ranchera — and then feed all that through a psychedelic prism. They perform their songs with charm and panache, set off by the fireworks of the group's resident showman, the multi-talented Salvador Duran.
An astonishing conversation has emerged in the weeks since Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught began her run as Octavian at the Glyndebourne Festival in England. Erraught was excoriated by a handful of male London critics for her weight — prompting a widespread backlash on her behalf in the aftermath of those reviews.
Esme Patterson is a founding member of the Denver folk septet Paper Bird. In 2012, she made her solo debut with All Princes, I, an album of personal songs that she felt didn't fit with the band. This year, Patterson released her second solo record, Woman to Woman. Each track corresponds to a famous song by a male musician about a female character — and is written from the woman's viewpoint instead.
Almost any pianist, from a budding beginner to a pro like Simone Dinnerstein, will tell you that one of the basic techniques of keyboard playing is also the toughest to master: making your hands to do separate things simultaneously.
John Fullbright's Songs is the most interestingly uneven album I've heard in a while. The work of a smart young man, it's also the work of a self-conscious young man who's prone to mistaking articulate melancholy for wisdom. Fullbright's debut album contained bold melodies and told stories about daydreamers and offbeat people. On Songs, Fullbright opts for pure mood-setting, sounding morose in an attempt to signal subtle passion, but that's not really how it plays out.