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Public Radio Stations' Best Live Sessions of 2022

Across the country, public radio stations (thankfully) opened their doors again in 2022 and had a busy year producing some great live music sessions. Here are the best of the bunch, featuring studio performances, home recordings and socially-distanced outdoor sets.


Big Freedia with Tank & the Bangas, World Cafe At Home Session

Big Freedia has built an enduring body of work as a recording artist, stage performer and New Orleans bounce's worldwide ambassador. Over the past 20 years, Big Freedia's career has included wide-ranging collaborations, including artists such as Beyoncé, Drake and Sia. In this session, Freedia performed live with Tiny Desk Contest winners Tank and the Bangas for a World Cafe session with host Raina Douris. –Rich McKie, WXPN


Jamaaladeen Tacuma, "The Battle of Images"

Nearly four decades ago, Jamaaladeen Tacuma released an homage to icon Paul Robeson, titled Renaissance Man. Fueled by the disappointment and disbelief that he had only recently become aware of Robeson's story, Tacuma approached his record label with an idea for a project that would shine additional light on Robeson's extraordinary life. Earlier this year, we were thrilled to invite Jamaaladeen into our performance studio for a reloaded, extended movement treatment of "The Battle of Images." The session includes violinist Kathleen Thomas, the Ebony String Quartet, and Bob Zollman on timpani, all part of the original release in 1984. Jamaaladeen also enlisted the help of several area musicians, including the talented young drummer Nazir Ebo and saxophonist Marshall Allen, timeless leader of the Sun Ra Arkestra. The result is a beautiful and sometimes-intense celebration of Robeson's legacy. –J. Michael Harrison, WRTI


Adrian Quesada, Boleros Psicodélicos

As its title suggests, Boleros Psicodélicos turns the bolero, a traditional genre of love songs originating in Cuba, into a groovy, psychedelic-tinged collection of songs featuring some of Latin music's most powerful voices, including Gabby Moreno, Gabriel Garzón-Montano and iLe, among others. The bolero's unique history and widespread popularity made it the perfect vehicle for Adrian Quesada's latest project: Over the course of the album's 12 songs, Quesada weaves the past with the present, joining disparate musical styles into boleros that transport listeners to uncharted territory.

In June, Adrian Quesada brought Boleros Psicodélicos to KUTX Studio 1A; joining him person were Puerto Rican singer iLe, on "Mentiras Con Cariño," Los Angeleno Angelica Garcia reprising her otherworldly vocals on the organ-heavy "Ídolo," and Guatemala's Tita on "El Muchacho De Los Ojos Tristes." –Peter Babb, KUTX


Black Haus, "Window Music Session"

It was so much fun to team up with our friends at video agency Myriad to capture this performance from one of North Carolina's most exciting live acts, Black Haus. The band had just rolled in from a packed day-party performance at the Hopscotch Music Festival, but kept the energy going during this set. They're one of those bands that defies genre, and this three-song set really captures the spirit of what the band is about and what makes them so special. –Brian Burns, WUNC


Ebony Payne-English, "Kuongoza"

Though not widely known outside of Jacksonville, multi-disciplinary artist Ebony Payne-English is a cultural icon in north Florida. With no less than two large-scale murals bearing the rapper-poet-author's likeness, the renown of Payne-English grows with each conceptually ambitious project she releases. In February, Payne-English headlined a showcase of Jacksonville artists at the intimate Blue Jay Listening Room, capping off the night with a performance that initiated both tears and more than one standing ovation from the sell-out crowd. During soundcheck for the night's showcase, we caught Payne-English, joined by vocalist Sarafina Ethereal, performing the title track from her album Kuongoza. –Matthew Shaw, WJCT's Jacksonville Music Experience (JME)


Amyl and The Sniffers, "Balaclava Lover Boogie," "Security" and "Capital"

This band burst onto the scene with their 2016 debut EP Giddy Up and have quickly become one of the most exciting punk bands in the world. Their latest release, Comfort to Me, finds the Melbourne foursome at their rowdiest and most introspective. Backed by larger-than-life guitar riffs and a head-banging rhythm section, frontperson Amy Taylor sings of social constructs, capitalism and the refusal to conform to either one, embracing the "reject energy" of the punk legends before them. –Emily Young, WNXP


Daisy the Great

On tour in support of All You Need Is Time, Daisy The Great and her band traveled to Kansas City for an interview and performance in The Bridge studios. –Sarah Bradshaw, The Bridge 90.9FM


Thee Sacred Souls, "Can I Call You Rose?"

With a core trio featuring singer Josh Lane, drummer Alex Garcia and bassist Sal Samano, Thee Sacred Souls describe themselves as exploring the history of Chicano, Philly, Detroit and Panama soul, but their music still feels contemporary.

Josh, Alex, and Sal spoke with me about forming the band, their songwriting process and their music community, an extended family that includes some very talented people like backup singers Jensine Benitez and Tatiana Sandate, who joined them in Studio A for a performance of three songs, including "Can I Call You Rose?" –Alisa Ali, WFUV


Calexico, "Harness The Wind"

Calexico did not disappoint with their 2022 release, El Mirador. Joey Burns brought a scaled-down version of the band to KXT. The performance of "Harness The Wind" demonstrates what a great band Calexico is. –Benji McPhail, KXT


Bonny Light Horseman, "California"

Performing under the moniker Bonny Light Horseman, Anaïs Mitchell, Josh Kaufman and Eric D. Johnson garnered a Grammy nomination for best folk album in 2020 for the group's self-titled debut, which reframed the pillars of the British folk tradition. On this year's follow-up, Rolling Golden Holy, the trio expands this sonic bent by drawing on the framework of American folk and old-time music to craft another batch of modern tales. Leading up to the album's release, the group visited In Your Ear Studios in Richmond for a WNRN in-studio session just days after announcing the single "California." –Desiré Moses, WNRN


Efe Baltacigil and Mari Yoshinaga, "Improvisation"

"We needed to fill three minutes! Seattle Symphony cellist Efe Baltacigil and percussionist Mari Yoshinaga had graced our weekly live show and, for the first time since I can remember, we needed an extra three minutes of performance to make it until the end of the hour. Efe and Mari had performed all of their planned material, so they did what they enjoy doing the most: they improvised on the spot. What you are seeing in this video was unrehearsed and unplanned. It ended up being our favorite thing that happened on the live show in 2022." –Nikhil Sarma, KING


Steve Rodgers, "I Will Grow"

Although Steve Rodgers comes from rock and roll royalty (Paul Rodgers of Bad Company is his father), his songwriting, vocals and performances stand on their own. His songs reflect a passion for life's depth, mystery and wonder, written from experience and from the heart.

KAFM was honored to have Rodgers share two of the tracks from Head Up High, "I Will Grow" and "Something About You" for our listeners. –Cyrene Jagger, KAFM


Kalyn Fay, "Spotted Bird"

Musician and Cherokee Nation citizen Kalyn Fay performs "Judadatla Tsisqwa, "or "Spotted Bird" – from her album ᎠᏅᏛᏁᎵᏍᎩ (Anvdvnelisgi, pronounced "ah nuh duh nay lees gi") or "Performers," a groundbreaking album of original music across diverse genres, performed entirely in the Cherokee language. The album, released in October on Horton Records, was produced by Cherokee filmmaker and creator Jeremy Charles and guided by Cherokee citizens, as part of a wide-ranging commitment to preserve and expand usage of the Cherokee language. –Julie Watson, Executive Producer of Live From Cain's


SistaStrings, "Her Name Was"

Milwaukee-based duo SistaStrings have been making waves backing up folks like Peter Mulvey, Allison Russell and most recently with Brandi Carlile on Saturday Night Live. These aren't your typical, blend-into the scenery style accompanists — they are accomplished singer-songwriters, performers and solo artists in their own right. We were fortunate enough to host Chauntee and Monique Ross on Mountain Stage this past spring, and it was immediately obvious that there was something special in our midst. As expected, 2022 proved to be a big year for SistaStrings and we can't wait to see what musical adventures await them in the coming year. —John Ingram, Mountain Stage


Finally Friday with Calling Cadence

Ah, the joy of music discovery. During quarantine we instituted a policy of home performances at WMOT as a substitute for our weekly live lunch series, Finally Friday. Calling Cadence supplied a joyful set, mixing folk, pop and soul with hooky harmonies, so much so, that we invited them from Los Angeles to Nashville for our Wired In monthly concert series in November of 2022. The audience loved the group's exuberant energy, and I can't wait to post the longer form session here. The Finally Friday from home set with Oscar Bugarin and Rae Cole wound up being released as Acoustic Session Vol. 1 EP. —Jessie Scott, WMOT

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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