NPR Music & Concerts

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

The Thistle & Shamrock: Welsh Roots

Mar 13, 2019

Some of the acoustic roots sounds of Wales are well worth checking into. Fiona Ritchie features great singers like Cerys Matthews and Julie Murphy, along with enigmatic bands including Rag Foundation, Ffynnon, Ember and Crasdant.

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Fiona Ritchie talks with Chris Thile about his varied musical career and involvement in Carnegie Hall's Migrations: The Making of America festival, featuring many of his award-winning recordings.

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."

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The Thistle & Shamrock: Love Songs

Feb 20, 2019

This week, Fiona Ritchie shares not only some of Robert Burns' traditional love verses, but also music featuring the love of land, whisky, and homeland, with Maura O'Connell, Shooglenifty, and Moya Brennan.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Singer-Songwriters

Feb 13, 2019

Join Fiona Ritchie as she offers an abundance of songwriting talent for you to explore, with voices that command your attention and melodies that never fail to strike that chord deep within. Artists include Karan Casey, Karine Polwart and Solas.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Debuts

Feb 6, 2019

It's all new music as Fiona Ritchie introduces new releases from artists debuting on her show. You and your radio are on the brink of discovery with artists including Elizabeth and Ben Anderson, Garadice and The Crooked Jades.

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The Thistle & Shamrock: Songs Of The Bard

Jan 30, 2019

Discover the contemporary appeal of verses written by Robert Burns over 200 years ago. Fiona Ritchie features artists including the Paul McKenna Band, Corrina Hewat and Eddi Reader on this episode.

Hear insights on song and novel writing, and unique projects uncovering Scottish connections in North America and Europe as Fiona Ritchie chats with multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and singer Brian McNeill.

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John Prine was not even on the bill at Newport, but he stepped out on stage to introduce Margo Price. The set just got better from there.

The Thistle & Shamrock: New Year Sounds

Jan 16, 2019

Get the New Year off to a good musical start as Fiona Ritchie features some brilliant new sounds from Birichin, Kevin Burke and John McCutcheon.

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The sun, moon, stars and planets have fueled artists' imaginations by day and night. Drift through this hour of music with Fiona Ritchie and you'll hear why the heavens provide solace for lonely hearts and fuel the dreams of romantics. Featured artists include Carlos Núñez Muñoz, Carreg Lafar and Talitha MacKenzie.

Jen Cloher came to the Harbor Stage at Newport with a fervor matched only by her volume. Her band gets some of that credit, with Jen's wife, Courtney Barnett, on electric guitar and Bones Sloane from Courtney's band on bass.

At the start of Day 2 at this year's Newport Folk Festival, Curtis Harding lit up the Fort stage with what he calls "slop 'n' soul," a soul-rock hybrid that woke up the crowd. Based in Atlanta, Harding has deep experience as a singer, songwriter and guitarist who uses the conventions of soul to look forward, not back. His powerful set included tracks from his two albums: the great Face Your Fear (one of NPR Music's 10 Best R&B Albums of 2017) and Soul Power, his 2014 debut.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Here We Go 2019!

Dec 31, 2018

Celebrate the dawn of the New Year with host Fiona Ritchie and the music of Bachue, Altan, Cathie Ryan, and Eddi Reader.

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Fifty years after recording "Do the Reggay" in 1968, Toots Hibbert performed the most exuberant set I saw at this year's Newport Folk Festival. Toots and the Maytals helped create reggae in the '60s with some of the most creative and exciting records to come out of Jamaica. The legend's Newport set was packed with songs from throughout his career. The oldest, "I'll Never Grow Old," was originally released in 1963 — when Hibbert was only 21 — and captured the spirit he brought to the show. Hibbert played with joy and energy, keeping his terrific band on its toes.

Austin singer-songwriter Alejandro Rose-Garcia, aka Shakey Graves, began his Newport Folk Festival set by raising a little hell. Before beginning the incendiary "Word of Mouth," he explained: "I'm gonna kick this off with a waltz that I wrote years ago that has sadly become more and more relevant every year I play it. It's a song about not listening to people and listening to people at the same time."

Glen Hansard is passionate about connecting with a crowd. At the 2018 Newport Folk Festival, that crowd was hushed and he went deep. From the opening song, the Swell Season favorite "When Your Mind's Made Up," through more traditional Irish tunes with fiddler Rosie MacKenzie and Brendan Begley on accordion, Hansard's performance was enthralling.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Celtic Christmas

Dec 26, 2018

Join Fiona Ritchie as she shares reflections on the season of joy with old carols and dance tunes with Cherish the Ladies, Al Petteway and Amy White, Phil Cunningham and Chris Thile.

The finale of the 2018 Newport Folk Festival, A Change is Gonna Come, was a powerful and challenging take on how American music has framed the meaning of civil rights. Masterfully produced by Jon Batiste, the set brought together gospel, folk music, soul, and even the national anthem in captivating and startling arrangements (the Dap-Kings on "This Land is Your Land," to take just one example).

There's electricity in the atmosphere at Newport Folk Festival as evening begins, the summer sun sinking lower in the sky between cotton candy-colored clouds. As the penultimate performer on the main stage, Courtney Barnett's return to Newport — she also played the festival in 2015 — felt like a cause for celebration as daylight faded.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Gifts

Dec 19, 2018

Take some time over the holidays to allow the spirit of the season to wash over you with artists Cherish the Ladies, Ye Vagabonds and Pierre Bensusan.

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The Thistle & Shamrock: Roots And Branches

Dec 13, 2018

This week, Fiona Ritchie explores the evolving sounds that contribute to a new Celtic music, featuring Solas, Robin Bullock and Capercaillie. We hear Celtic music inspired by jazz, classical arrangements and world rhythms.

Settle into the season by tuning into some fresh new music recently arrived at The Thistle & Shamrock offices in the U.S. and Scotland. Fiona Ritchie features new releases from Cherish the Ladies, Keith Murphy and Brass Lassie.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Family Gathering

Nov 28, 2018

A treasure trove of music is the legacy some families pass along across the generations. Join Fiona Ritchie and Mary Ann Kennedy to hear one family's songs of work, worship, land, sea and love.

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The Thistle & Shamrock: Bass Rock

Nov 21, 2018

This week, hear some stunning acoustic and electric bass players, including Riccardo Del Fra and Alain Genty.

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The Thistle & Shamrock: Islanders

Nov 14, 2018

From far Northerly Shetland to the Hebrides of the West, you'll be immersed in the music of the islands this week. Fiona Ritchie is your guide for an hour of music as fresh as a salt sea breeze, as highly charged as waves tumbling upon deserted beaches and as majestic as mountain wilderness on rocky shorelines.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Belonging

Nov 8, 2018

In Mairi Campbell's "Pulse" and Kathryn Tickell's "Northumbrian Voices," each artist has created music that brings her home. Fiona Ritchie features excerpts from these two works and by other artists who travel homeward in songs and instrumentals, including Cathy Jordan and Battlefield Band.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Myth and Legend

Oct 31, 2018

You're invited to embark on a musical journey through myth, legend, and mystery, featuring Malinky, Old Blind Dogs, Nuala Kennedy and Jim Malcolm. Join Fiona Ritchie as she guides you through it all.

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Settle into the season by tuning into some fresh new music recently arrived at The Thistle & Shamrock offices in the U.S. and Scotland. Fiona Ritchie handpicks newly released and "new to me" recordings from artists including Jake James, We Banjo 3 and The Krüger Brothers.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Live From Ireland

Oct 10, 2018

Host Fiona Ritchie is feeling a little nostalgic and a lot Irish this week, delving into her radio archive to relive some of the great sets of Irish music she's aired on Thistle through the years.