NPR Music & Concerts

Music features, reviews and "first listens" from NPR.  Find more music at WUNC's  Back Porch Music.

Cattle raids, battles, betrayals and family loyalties are all commemorated in the ballads of the borderlands between Scotland and England, sometimes referred to as "the debatable lands." Join host Fiona Ritchie to explore this rich seam of music and song.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Nothing felt better — at noon, during the third day of Newport Folk Festival — than standing in the shade of the enormous tent covering the "Quad Stage" and grooving to the globally-influenced funk, jazz, surf and psychedelic stew that is Khruangbin.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Len Graham

Aug 8, 2018

Meet Len Graham, the legendary singer and songwriter from Northern Ireland who carries an equal number of songs and stories in his heart. Fiona Ritchie interviews Len during Traditional Song Week at the Swannanoa Gathering.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The family spirit of the Newport Folk Festival is solid in Brandi Carlile's hands. She formed her own musical family with Phil and Tim Hanseroth years ago, and now they all tour together with their wives and children (they even make an appearance on the Newport stage). Stemming out from there, Carlile has fostered a living, breathing collaborative network of artists, walking the walk by showing up early and staying late to perform with her friends.

The Lone Bellow's return to Newport Folk Festival (its third appearance in five years) was a thrilling set to behold. The Nashville-by-way-of-Brooklyn band has grown from its core three members — Zach Williams, Kanene Pipkin and Brian Elmquist — to a five piece, further showcasing their powerfully dynamic range.

For all of the bigger names at this year's Newport Folk Festival, it was this under-the-radar quartet from the Boston area that I was most eager to see. Darlingside kicked off the weekend with extraordinary harmonies and a dystopic vision embraced on Extralife, including mushroom clouds, acetylene burns and a future forever trapped in a video game.

In addition to the traditional music you hear on Thistle, there is also an abundance of contemporary songwriting talent. Join us this week to hear singer-songwriters Karine Polwart, Aine Furey, Bert Jansch and Emily Smith.

The Newport Folk Festival's nearly 60-year history is permeated with gospel music; though Moses Sumney uses loop pedals and an electric guitar to animate his work, his voice flows deeply in tune with a spirit and conviction that's recognizably tied to that tradition.

Newport Folk Festival's setting on Rhode Island's historic Fort Adams offers a panoramic view of the picturesque Narragansett Bay and the Claiborne Pell Bridge. Though a steamy summer fog hung over the Fort Stage hindering visibility as Tiny Desk Contest winner Fantastic Negrito, a.k.a.

Tuck and Patti need no more than each other and a guitar to make magic. Married and making music for nearly 40 years, Tuck Andress and Patti Cathcart perform as one with his masterful guitar playing and her fluid, free vocals.

This Newport Folk Festival set from Lucius, their fifth, is maybe most poignant yet.

Accompanied by members of yMusic, students from the Berklee College of Music on strings and J. Blynn, along with Lucius regulars Jess Wolfe, Holly Laessig, Dan Molad, and Peter Lalish. The group also incorporated choreography into the set, with the dancers known as The Seaweed Sisters.

This weekend, NPR Music will be on the ground at one of our favorite summer events: the Newport Folk Festival. We're looking forward to hearing the brilliant sounds of Courtney Barnett, gospel powerhouse The War and Treaty and the instrumental vibrations of Khruangbin.

Join Fiona Ritchie to uncover the deep roots that run through a family tree of songs from Scotland and Ireland to the Southern Appalachians. The music features Al Petteway, Dolores Keane, and T with the Maggies.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The Thistle & Shamrock: New Summer Sounds

Jul 19, 2018

New music is always in season on Thistle! This week it's all about the albums that have been gathering in our North Carolina and Scottish mailboxes just waiting for an hour of your time. Included in this week's show are Dylan Foley, 14-year-old Iona Ritchie, The Bevvy Sisters, and Dougie MacLean.

Great songs and tunes are always available to stream on ThistleRadio's 24-hour music channel. Span the decades on ThistleRadio with classic tracks from Battlefield Band and the Bothy Band, as well as Mary Jane Lamond, Session A9, Kris Drever, and Calan.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Dear Jean

Jul 4, 2018

Artists celebrate Jean Ritchie (1922-2015) by singing the songs she taught them and by passing along their wisdom. Host Fiona Ritchie explores the reach of Jean's songs and presents music from a commemorative CD featuring Robin and Linda Williams, Peggy Seeger, Kathy Mattea, John McCutcheon and many more artists who were proud to call "The Mother of Folk" their friend.

At the end of 2017's More Life, Drake mulled over the idea of staying mum in order to protect his creative process. "Maybe gettin' back to regular life will humble me / I'll be back in 2018 with the summary," he calmly mused on "Do Not Disturb." Now, music fans have once again found themselves amidst the summer Nor'easter of a Drake album rollout. After dropping No.

Hear the music and learn about the short life of an 18th century poet who wrote in the style of Robert Burns and composed well-loved songs that are still widely sung today. Artists featured include Dougie MacLean, The Tannahill Weavers, and Emily Smith.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Friends, a lot happened over the weekend. On Friday, Luis Fonsi proved once again that he can get millions of views with a well-drawled ayyyyy on any given beach in Puerto Rico; this time, he got an unexpected assist from U.K. grime star Stefflon Don. On Saturday, Daddy Yankee recruited the recently reunited old-school duo R.K.M. and Ken-Y for another go at it, now that reggaeton seems to (finally) be having its mainstream moment.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Combos

Jun 20, 2018

What goes with what? When it comes to Celtic music combos, almost anything goes, as long as it sounds good. So you be the judge when host Fiona Ritchie revels in the joyous sounds of multi-instrumental line-ups this week.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

On Saturday, one of the highest-profile and most scrutinized marriages in pop music became an official collaboration with the surprise release of Jay-Z and Beyoncé's album Everything Is Love, credited to The Carters, alongside a video for the album's first single, shot in the Louvre. The album had been rumored since the release of Beyoncé's 2016 album Lemonade and Jay-Z's 4:44, both of which addressed fault lines in the artists' marriage, and in a summer of major hip-hop albums, this instantly marked a new high-water mark.

Danny Kirwan, the guitarist who joined Fleetwood Mac at age 18 and played on five of the band's albums, died Friday in London at age 68. His death was announced by Mick Fleetwood on the group's Facebook page; no cause was given.

Hear music from the acclaimed National Theatre of Scotland production The Strange Undoing Of Prudencia Hart, that celebrates traditional poetry, storytelling and music woven through a supernatural tale. Fiona Ritchie gets to the heart of the tale and explores the music that moves it along, inspired by Border Ballads and Robert Burns.

On Friday, June 1, Kanye West released his eighth studio album, titled ye, after revealing it during a live-streamed event held at a ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Later that day, two of NPR Music's critics, Rodney Carmichael and Ann Powers, discussed what they heard in the album's seven songs, and whether they could separate the music from the mania that surrounds it.


Rodney Carmichael: This is going to be the most polarizing album of the year. That's my one-sentence review. Of course, we already knew that, right?

Pianist, composer and bandleader Arturo O'Farrill was born into Afro-Cuban jazz royalty but growing up he rejected his famous musical heritage. Now, he travels the world sharing his late father Chico O'Farrill's legacy as a principal architect of the mash up of jazz and Afro-Cuban music in the late 1940s.

Few periods of country music history have received more popular attention (or rock press) than the outlaw movement. Decades later, its towering personas — Willie and Waylon chief among them — remain a subject of fascination, immortalized as leathery, long-haired stoners and speed freaks who operated entirely outside the law of the country music establishment. By the time the movement had run its course, it had become a marketing tool for the industry.

Whether it's your first or 50th time on the road, being on tour is a roller coaster. Phoebe Bridgers, a 2018 Slingshot artist, is not new to this wild ride — nor will she be hanging up her guitar any time soon. Her headlining tour, playfully named "The Farewell Tour" in support of her debut album Stranger In the Alps, has continued non-stop since its release in 2017.

Colombian band Bomba Estéreo has a hit on its hands, and the story behind its success is a testament to fan demand and the power of a great song.

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