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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Music has been a hallmark of our programs since the beginning. WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY was the first NPR News magazine to broadcast in stereo. And over the past 20 years I've had the pleasure of interviewing hundreds and hundreds of musicians, and I've welcomed many to play in Studio 4A.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. JONI MITCHELL (Musician): (Singing) It was a dark and a stormy night in�

HANSEN: Whatever happened to Ginger Baker?

Mr. GINGER BAKER (Drummer): A lot of people thought I was dead.

HANSEN: John Zorn has a new album.

Mr. JOHN ZORN (Composer/Saxophonist): I'm not really, like, a melodist; I don't really write melodies. What I do is I manipulate blocks of sounds.

Ms. RITA MORENO (Singer): (Singing) I had a dream, a dream about you, baby. It's gonna come true, baby. They say that we're through but�

HANSEN: Yusuf Islam, thank you very much. I suppose I should say peace.

Mr. YUSUF ISLAM (Singer): Thank you, Liane.

(Singing) Now, I've been happy lately�

HANSEN: Joni Mitchell, Ginger Baker, John Zorn, Rita Moreno and Yusuf Islam are just a handful of names we've presented on this program. On my first show as host, I spoke to the Raelettes to find out what it was like to sing backup for the great Ray Charles. Coming up in a few minutes, we check in with one of those ladies to hear what she's doing now.

That radio feature from 1989 was produced by our music director Ned Wharton, who's also celebrating 20 years with WEEKEND EDITION. He's crafted countless artist profiles over the years for our show, and for over a decade he shared his director's cuts music reviews with us. And today he has an update on three of his favorite director's cuts alumni.

(Soundbite of music)

NED WHARTON: After the group Big Lazy came to play in 1999 for Liane Hansen in NPR's Studio 4A, we got mail literally for years as people asked about the group with the dark Telecaster twang. I had a chance to review their CD "Big Everything" in 2002, and I'm happy to say the band members are all busy with interesting projects.

Drummer Tamir Muskat is now living in Tel Aviv, produced the band Firewater's latest CD, and plays with Balkan Beat Box. Bass player Paul Dugan is freelancing in New York with chamber ensembles, jazz groups and cabaret singers. Guitarist Stephen Ulrich was in the pit orchestra on Broadway for a while with "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," but most of his work lately is for film and TV.

(Soundbite of music)

WHARTON: Steve Ulrich is scoring the HBO series "Bored to Death." Here's a music cue from the show he kindly sent our way called "Spy."

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. CAROL NOONAN (Singer): (Singing) What's done is done...

WHARTON: I first heard Carol Noonan's voice on this compilation from her '90s band Knots and Crosses. It was a set of songs from out-of-print discs by her band that had broken up, but they recorded a couple of new tracks together for the release of "There Was a Time."

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. NOONAN: (Singing) Why do you weep...

WHARTON: Carol Noonan has recorded four solo albums since then. In 2004, she read an essay about her father on this program. It was featured on an NPR driveway moment compilation.

But the big news is that she and her husband Jeff Flagg have opened The Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, Maine. It's an old barn where Jeff used to make fishing nets. The couple converted it into a space that's hosted everyone from Bela Fleck to the Neville Brothers to Mary Chapin Carpenter and Carol Noonan herself.

(Soundbite of song "Walk Away Renee")

Ms. NOONAN: (Singing) Just walk away again, you won't see me follow you back home.

WHARTON: Carol Noonan says her CD "As Tears Go By" was recorded at Stone Mountain as a kind of experiment to test the sound of the space. And if the CD's any indication, the acoustics are wonderful, and Noonan's voice is as clear and pure as ever.

(Soundbite of music)

WHARTON: Finally, an update from singer/songwriter Tom Freund. The first recording of his to come my way was in 1998, a seven-inch 45 of his song called "Digs."

(Soundbite of song, "Digs")

Mr. TOM FREUND (Singer): (Singing) I ain't gonna tell you where I hold my sanctuary...

WHARTON: Maybe the vinyl was just a publicity trick, but it was enough to prompt me to fire up the turntable to hear more. And ever since, I've been following his music, which he describes as everything from buoyant pop to boho jazz to heartfelt folk.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. FREUND: (Singing) We had to calm down and run back to our sheltered homes and pretend there was no one...

WHARTON: Ben Harper produced and sings backup on Tom Freund's latest CD, "Collapsible Plans." They've known each other for nearly two decades, and Harper's a big fan of Freund's songs. I just walk away singing them constantly, Harper says. And sure enough, these are great melodies that stay comfortably with you and keep on humming.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. FREUND: (Singing) In through one door, out the other.

HANSEN: You can hear full music cuts and browse over a decade's worth of Ned Wharton's director's cuts at our Web site, NPRMusic.org. And next month, Ned will be back with his annual music gift guide.

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