NPR Music & Concerts

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

The Thistle & Shamrock: From Vinyl To MP3

Apr 25, 2018

Hear a handpicked classic collection of recordings with Fiona Ritchie this week. She presents a timeless hour of music spanning the decades, from vinyl masterpieces to pioneering MP3s with artists including Liz Carroll, Gordon Duncan and Alan Stivell.

Fifty years ago, Johnny Cash performed at Folsom State Prison in Folsom, Calif. The January 1968 concert and live album it produced, At Folsom Prison, helped revitalize Cash's career, inspiring him to testify for prison reform and cementing his reputation as a voice for the downtrodden.

The Thistle & Shamrock: The Road Of Tears

Apr 18, 2018

Although the scenes of immigration may change, the tragedies of displaced people are replayed with each passing year. Fiona Ritchie's selections this week include traditional broadsheet ballads and music hall choruses from artists like Dolores Keane, Mick Moloney, and Battlefield Band.

Since (at least) the release of good kid, m.A.A.d. city in 2012, the singularity of Kendrick Lamar has been plainly evident. But with the Pulitzer Prize in Music for 2018 being given to the Compton rapper for his 2017 album DAMN., his exceptionalism is now officially historic: It's the first time in the prize's history that it has been given to an artist outside of the classical or jazz community.

The Thistle & Shamrock: New Writing

Apr 12, 2018

Join Fiona Ritchie as she features a wealth of brand new music, including festival commissions and soundtracks. Artists include Gillian Frame, Michael Rooney and The Macalla Orchestra, John Doyle, John McCusker, and Mike McGoldrick.

Yvonne Staples, a member of the renowned soul, gospel and R&B group The Staple Singers, died Tuesday in Chicago at the age of 80, representatives for her sister and band mate Mavis Staples confirmed to NPR Music. No cause was given, and the Staples family has yet to issue a statement.

You're probably used to hearing artists who are eager to set their latest albums apart from their previous work speak of breaking free from formula, the idea being that they've grown dissatisfied with strictures imposed on their music-making. But not everyone shares that philosophy.

When Johnny Cash died almost 15 years ago, he left behind a treasure trove of unpublished poems and handwritten letters. The new album Johnny Cash: Forever Words, out now, immortalizes those words in music.

Memphis Blues

Apr 4, 2018

Reflecting on today's anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s murder, its 50th, pulls our minds toward images and sounds that surrounded that day in 1968: to the balcony of the Lorraine Motel; to Dr. King's speech in Memphis the day before his assassination. This anniversary has weighed on my mind more than usual, maybe because I've just recently arrived in Washington, D.C., where some of the worst rioting happened in his shooting's aftermath.

On this week's episode, we feature your favorite Celtic artists including Nightnoise, Ossian, Liz Carroll and Moving Hearts, as they create musical impressions and notions of springtime.

The world's most popular music streaming service, Spotify, went public today. Shares were expected to start trading around $130 each, but ranges for the opening price went as high as $169, and at the time of this writing its stocks were trading at $155, making the company worth about $27.4 billion. (You could safely expect these figures to fluctuate widely over the coming hours, days, weeks and months.)

Since Meek Mill returned to prison last fall over violations of his probation stemming from a 2007 firearm and drug arrest, members of the Philadelphia rapper's legal team have repeatedly impugned the credibility of Meek's presiding judge, Philadelphia Judge Genece Brinkley.

The Weeknd has (at least partially) returned to his dark side.

On My Dear Melancholy, the Toronto-hailing singer drudges up a heartbreak and attempts to drown it in modulated piano, muffled sirens and foggy synths. As its title implies — note that comma — the songs play out as maudlin 'memos to self' to keep track of all the things he'd wished he said before their downfall.

In person, folk musician Haley Heynderickx is shy and soft-spoken. She gets what she calls "sweaty impostor syndrome" when asked to talk about her music. But in performance, the Portland-based artist has the confidence to lay herself bare. Two years ago, she released a promising four-song collection called Fish Eyes that was so unguarded, it was almost uncomfortable to listen to.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Harlaw

Mar 28, 2018

Fiona Ritchie invites you to travel back across six centuries with music historian John Purser. Fiddler Bonnie Rideout and her musical guests perform the ancient music commemorating the legendary events of the Battle of Harlaw in 1411.

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As the #MeToo movement ricochets through Hollywood and into other industries, Nashville musicians and legislators alike appear to be coming to terms with the country music industry's role in dealing with sexual harassment.

Recently, I found myself flirting with the clerk at a clothing store. Discovering his interest in the outdoors, I remarked that I'd been reading about a great hike outside L.A., one that promised some spectacular vistas, including a waterfall. Without missing a beat, he responded "Oh, I don't go chasing waterfalls."

In the 1980s, as hip-hop was budding in the streets of New York City, a teenage girl from the Queens projects emerged as one of the genre's first female stars. At 14, Lolita Shanté Gooden, better known as Roxanne Shante, was a fierce, freestyling rap prodigy.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Singing The Land

Mar 21, 2018

In this program, Fiona Ritchie guides you to some very special landscapes. We feature music from Karine Polwart's award-winning theatrical event "Wind Resistance," originally presented in association with the Edinburgh International Festival. We'll also hear excerpts from fiddler Duncan Chisholm's "Sandwood," named for the finest and least accessible beach in Scotland.

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