Iris DeMent is as credible as folksingers come: The 52-year-old singer-songwriter grew up singing traditional gospel and country music alongside 14 siblings in rural Arkansas. Once endorsed as "the best singer I ever heard" by no greater an authority than Merle Haggard, DeMent seems to emerge from another era entirely.
Major jazz gatherings such as the Newport Jazz Festival — which dates back to 1954 — have always relied on big names to attract visitors. The 2013 edition is no different, with headliners such as Wayne Shorter (with Herbie Hancock), Marcus Miller, Chick Corea, Eddie Palmieri and Esperanza Spalding.
A young, Niger-born Tuareg guitarist inspired by the wizardry of Saharan rock bands like Tinariwen, Omar Moctar (a.k.a. Bombino) has helped make African music more relatable to U.S. fans, thanks to both his own instrumental gifts and to collaborators like The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, who produced Bombino's new album, Nomad.
Originally published on Sun August 4, 2013 7:48 am
To say that you're writing a symphony today is a statement, especially for a young composer like me. The challenge is to find just the right way to commandeer the age-old form, to render it fresh and vital once again within an American context.
In jazz, the clarinet went into eclipse for awhile, drowned out by louder trumpets and saxes. The instrument has long since made a comeback, and the modern clarinet thrives in settings where it doesn't have to shout to be heard.
Take "Spindleshanks," a little out-of-sync boogie-woogie for Darryl Harper's clarinet and Kevin Harris' piano. It's from Harper's The Edenfred Files. In his long-running Onus Trio, the spare unit Darryl Harper features on most of his new album, he can sing softly as an owl in the night.
Tift Merritt was first known as a decorated country singer — her 2004 album Tambourine was even nominated for a Best Country Album Grammy — but the North Carolina native has spent the years since wandering down far-flung side roads. Merritt keeps finding ways to place literal and figurative distance between herself and Nashville: She's lived in New York City and France, while exploring the sounds of folk, cosmopolitan pop and even classical music.
It is not easy to play both jazz drum set and Afro-Caribbean percussion. Lots of drummers do it, but few have mastered it in a way that makes their sound in either style unmistakable from the first beat.
The music community lost one of those true innovators Wednesday with the death of percussionist Steve Berrios in New York at age 68. Berrios could move seamlessly from jazz to Afro-Cuban rhythms in a way that perfectly reflected his bicultural roots.
Originally published on Sun August 4, 2013 9:02 am
The Newport Folk Festival is a little like summer camp — crowded, loud, fun, full of a lot of your favorite people — and you never want to leave. On this year's last day artists said goodbye by coming together.
When Colin Meloy put The Decemberists on long-term hiatus to focus on other projects — including his own set at this year's Newport Folk Festival — the remaining members needed their own fresh musical outlet.
Dana Falconberry's songs are gentle, almost invariably delicate, sometimes mysterious and frequently feather-light. But her music's sweet, intricate softness never stands in for strength: This is a confident songwriter, whether she's ambling through six- and seven-minute epics ("Leelanau," "Dolomite") or chirping sweetly in the bouncy "Crooked River."