What sparked a blind man to tour the country and play his mountain music?
How did Justin Vernon convince his former guitar student to drop out of school and start a band?
How did an African lawyer become a legendary guitarist?
Was Randy Newman's love for music and film the result of nature or nurture?
Which artist loves both Scritti Politti and folksinger Anne Briggs?
What inspires Thom Yorke's musical ideas?
Those are some of my favorite interviews of 2008. And here are a few concerts that are worth the time:
Jim James in a church at the SXSW music festival was magic.
Lightspeed Champion on a lawn in Austin, which was absolutely charming (scroll down this page to watch the video).
Dr. Dog, a six-piece band, playing at my tiny desk.
Sam Phillips, also at my desk.
Nellie McKay, creating a song before our eyes.
Tom Waits, on stage in Atlanta.
And, of course, Radiohead at the Santa Barbara Bowl, the absolute musical highlight of the year and one of the best in my life.
But what gets me smiling every day are your email messages, the blog posts, Facebook messages and tweets.
From the hell and praise you tossed our way for our '80s show to the list you compiled for the year's best music, you are the best audience.
This week, we start our 10th year. When I started this show in 2000, it was a miracle for a small team of us to put out one show every three weeks. The original shows were multimedia; every song was accompanied by a slide show with a story about the artist that included pictures. Often, our overly enthused ideas choked the bandwidth of a mostly 28k audience, but the notes of encouragement kept us going.
This year, Robin Hilton and I put together roughly 50 All Songs Considered regular shows; about 50 concerts for streaming and/or podcast, including the launch of video with theTiny Desk Concerts series; and about 40 interviews, including DJ shows by Randy Newman, Thom Yorke and Portishead. There is also Second Stage, our show for great unknown, often times unsigned musicians and there were more than 200 new songs from on Second Stage.
We also launched a new series aimed at letting you hear entire new albums before their release. We started with Bob Dylan, then Neil Young and then Paul McCartney; early in 2009, we'll preview new albums from Andrew Bird, M. Ward, Animal Collective and Bruce Springsteen.
For each, we're going to try having a Listening Party with a chat room, and maybe even get some of the artists to join us for those discussions. It's all a work in progress, and it'll take shape with ideas that come from all of us; it'll get better with your feedback. If you've never written to us before, join the community. It's a pretty great bunch of music lovers.
Thank you, and happy new year.