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A lot of talented artists pass by Bob Boilen's desk. But this was the first time that NPR Music was serenaded by a trumpet, trombone, French horn, tuba and truncated drum kit playing a Rufus Wainwright cover (and several clever originals) in rich, soulful polyphony.
During this week of learning to love Phish, I wanted some curatorial help from the people who know their music the best. A handful of kind people showed up, bringing with them CDs, books, and stories. I extend to them my thanks and gratitude.
It's a high compliment to suggest that these three Bill Callahan songs may well implant themselves in your brain, lay eggs and sprout horrifically disturbing dreams at that point when you're banging on the snooze alarm in a state of anguished early-morning half-sleep. Hear and watch Callahan perform at the NPR Music offices.
With roots coming from everywhere, it was refreshing to find the same Southern charm and friendliness effused through every member of The Dixie Bee-Liners at Folk Alley's studios. The band performed its sweet mix of bluegrass and roots music in a session.
With all due respect to its terrific albums and kinetic, frenetic live shows, if The Avett Brothers could put on a three-song acoustic concert at every workplace in America, the band would be a world-beating colossus. For proof, listen to this performance in the NPR Music offices.
He's been wowing audiences since he was barely able to walk. But, fed up with the standard jazz career path, Lewis -- or ELEW, as he calls his latest musical identity -- has embraced a new repertoire: rock songs. He performs live at NPR.
Gorka passes along musical traditions while also showcasing his own modern voice. In his songs, he tells real stories about real people — you, me, your family and friends. Gorka pays tribute to Pete Seeger's 90th birthday with "Water Is Wide" in a session from Folk Alley.
Montreal-based singer-songwriter Patrick Watson has a stunning, romantic voice that soars above precise piano work and clattering percussion played on marimbas and household pots turned upside-down. Watson and his brilliant band recently performed songs from their new album Wooden Arms at the studios of WNYC in New York.
Nigerian singer-songwriter Asa makes soulful, heartfelt music that mixes weighty themes (spirituality, the environment, race) with lilting pop melodies. While attending the 2009 South by Southwest festival and conference in Austin, Texas, she met with NPR Music for a short acoustic set with her guitarist, Nicolas Mollard.
Mica Levi fronts the wildly playful and inventive British rock band Micachu and the Shapes. Normally, the group plugs in, turns up the volume and plays as a trio. But for this video performance at the South by Southwest music festival and conference, Levi plays by herself, with just a child-sized acoustic guitar. Watch how she stretches the limits of six nylon strings and a magic marker.