NPR Music & Concerts

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

This week it's a late summer, early harvest as Fiona Ritchie puts together an hour of new releases. Featured artists include Anadama, Skerryvore, The Black Brothers, and Luke Bloom.

More than 60 plucked and stringed West African instruments were the predecessors of the modern banjo. Join Fiona Ritchie to follow the migration of the banjo from its African roots to the heart of American music and hear how it crosses over to sit within the Celtic sound. Bela Fleck, Rhiannon Giddens, Mick Moloney and Our Native Daughters all contribute to the telling of this unique musical story.

Celtic music is ever-evolving, and Fiona Ritchie's music library is ever-growing. With new tracks being added to the award-winning ThistleRadio music channel, it's time to hear what's coming on stream. Delve into it all as Fiona Ritchie curates another hour of musical surprises.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Salm And Soul

Jul 29, 2020

This week, the performance style and traditions of both African American gospel and Hebridean psalm singing are explored and celebrated with the Gaelic psalm singers from the Isle of Lewis and the Mt. Zion CPCA Church Gospel Choir from Alabama. Also featured is Capercaillie with Hijas del Sol (formerly known as Sibeba).

The Thistle & Shamrock: New Summer Sounds

Jul 15, 2020

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. We'll hear new music from Maggie MacInnes, Joan Shelley and Caroline Keane.

Some artists count at least half a dozen instruments in their one-person bands. We'll enjoy the multi-instrumentalists this week with all their things stringed, as some cross over also into wind, reed, keys and song! Fiona Ritchie brings Brian McNeill, Ross Ainslie and Julie Fowlis on board for this week's playlist.

On Wednesday, two storied, sibling American music festivals — the Newport Folk Festival and the Newport Jazz Festival — announced that they are being canceled for 2020, due to coronavirus concerns. Each event is scheduled to return in the summer of 2021.

The Thistle & Shamrock: New Spring Sounds

Apr 29, 2020

The flow of music is never-ending, and a spring tide of new recordings always yields some great new music to lift the spirits. As we work through the challenges of our times, let the music carry you along, with Poor Man's Gambit, Brian McNeill and Séamus Egan.

The Thistle & Shamrock: ThistleRadio Now

Apr 15, 2020

Dip into the playlist of the music channel that won best music show in the country/folk/blues category of the 2017 Online Radio Awards: ThistleRadio. Fiona Ritchie gleans an hour's worth of music from there this week and shares new tracks to be added to the playlist. Artists include Altan, Eamon Friel and the Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

Join Fiona Ritchie at the Swannanoa Gathering's Traditional Song Week as she and her audience enjoy an hour in the company of country music recording artist Suzy Bogguss. The singer-songwriter chats about the roots of American song, how her music has evolved and shows the live audience why she was such a favorite in her many appearances through the years on A Prairie Home Companion.

The Thistle & Shamrock: New Releases

Mar 18, 2020

Navigate uncertain times with the uplifting sounds of 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 you'll know and new names you'll get to know. Artists include Mel Mercier, Ross Miller, and Jim & Susie Malcolm.

Join host Fiona Ritchie at the Swannanoa Gathering's Traditional Song Week as she and her audience enjoy an hour in the company of Scottish folk singer Ed Miller. Through songs and conversation, Fiona and Ed follow his journey from Edinburgh, Scotland to Austin, Texas, where he has been based for many years, hosting public radio shows, performing and leading folk music tours back to his Scottish homeland.

Fiona Ritchie explores the evolving sounds of traditional melodies and lyrics that contribute to a new Celtic music. Some of this is inspired by jazz and classical arrangements, while other new sounds are driven by contemporary and world rhythms.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Debuts

Feb 5, 2020

If you want to hear what's emerging from the worlds of Celtic music, this is the hour for you. Featured artists include Kíla, Haltadans, Barry Phillips and The Crannua Collective.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Songs Of The Bard

Jan 29, 2020

Fiona Ritchie is not alone in her belief that the songs of Scotland's National Bard are as relevant and popular today as they were when they were first written.

Enter the spirit of a traditional Celtic Christmastide with old carols, dance tunes and verses. Fiona Ritchie shares reflections on the season of joy, as we gather to share song, food, fellowship and hopes for the coming year. Artists include Emily Smith, Jennifer Cutting, Ashley Davis and John Doyle.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Gifts

Dec 18, 2019

With the pressure we put on ourselves around the holidays, it's a pity if we can't take some time to allow the spirit of the season to wash over us. Music is one helpful way of easing the tension and accessing that mysterious festive feeling.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Fall Compilation

Dec 11, 2019

Fiona Ritchie says there is so much great new music she feels as if it all goes by too fast. So, Fiona will loop back around to feature some more tracks from recent releases, featuring Bill Jones, Sara Grey, Lorraine Jordan and Lissa Schneckenburger.

Discover more of the jewels in Celtic roots-based music as we continue to sample the best from the Thistle mailbox. We feature new music from Karan Casey, Eamon Friel, Gerry O'Beirne and Karine Polwart.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Myth And Legend

Oct 30, 2019

Radio is your ticket and music your passport to a flight of the imagination. You're invited to embark on a musical journey through myth and mystery, featuring the Peatbog Faeries, Loreena McKennitt and Natalie MacMaster.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Fall Compilation 1

Oct 16, 2019

Fiona Ritchie features an assortment of artists from our New Releases shows whose music is well-deserving of more airtime. These creative artists include Garadice, Suzy Bogguss and Altan.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Hometown Song

Oct 9, 2019

This week, we feature artists singing about their homelands and hometowns, including Maura O'Connell, Liz Carroll and The Easy Club.

Recorded live at the Birnam Book Festival, American folk singer, songwriter and activist Peggy Seeger is joined by Scots singer and songwriter Alan Reid, with host Fiona Ritchie to explore the transatlantic travel of songs.

The Thistle & Shamrock: ThistleRadio New

Sep 25, 2019

Tune in to hear a sampling of Fiona Ritchie's award-winning 24-hour ThistleRadio stream, featuring Luka Bloom, Calan, and Irish group The Unwanted.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Debuts

Sep 6, 2019

Hear musicians from both sides of the Atlantic making their first appearances on our show. Artists include Beth Malcolm, a new duo for Tony McManus and a welcomed return from a band last aired in the days of vinyl.

Hear the haunting melodies from St. Kilda that offer a last link to the "island on the edge of the world," featuring arrangements by composers including Sir James MacMillan with singer Julie Fowlis and additional music from Barrule.

We remember Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, one of Ireland's most influential artists, with the music he recorded and produced over three decades.

When the Celtic rhythms go quiet on your radio, you can always stream great songs and tunes on ThistleRadio's 24-hour music channel. Span the decades with classic tracks that are the bedrock of the playlist, together with some of the newer artist who are helping redefine the sound of today's music from Celtic roots.