Segments and Articles
- Listen Listeners' Favorite Movie Bands; Elijah Wald Remembers Dave Van Ronk
- Listen Is Insane Clown Posse Losing Its Insanity?
- Listen San Fermin: Dreamed-Up Chamber Pop
Gary Clark Jr. is one of those people who oozes with musical talent, yet manages to make their incredible feats look easy. Not yet 30, Clark has already carved out a huge reputation for himself in the blues community: Playing at the White House, performing at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival and jamming (more than once) with The Rolling Stones.
"It's just crazy that [the Stones] invite me," he said recently on Soundcheck. "It's like the biggest band in the world, and to think they want me to get up there and play guitar -- I haven't really soaked that up yet."
When he came to the Soundcheck studio, Clark had planned on playing with his full band, but after a late night gig, he ended up coming alone. But the resulting solo set fully demonstrated his skills, both on the guitar and vocally --- and left us wanting more.
Download our live recording of Gary Clark Jr. performing "When My Train Comes In" in the Soundcheck studio on Thursday, Dec. 12.
Hear more from Gary Clark Jr.'s session here -- and watch a video of the performance below.
Coming up on Friday: A free download from Brooklyn-based country band The Lone Bellow.
You might recognize MiWi La Lupa from his stellar work with the genre-colliding “Brooklyn Banghra” band Red Baraat. Or perhaps you’ve seen him playing trombone and bass trumpet alongside David Byrne, Bill Frisell, Femi Kuti or El-P. But with his debut record, New Way Home (out Jan. 21), La Lupa is now stepping to the front of the stage, in a decidedly different way: as a singer-songwriter.
Unlike the musically diverse bands he’s played in, La Lupa’s New Way Home is an album of singular focus -- in the best way possible. Through a concise eight songs, he mostly hews to a mellow folk and country rock that highlights an adept ear for songcraft, evocative moods, and scene setting -- like one of the album’s loveliest songs, “Here I Am.”
In this episode: We talk about who got some love -- and who got snubbed -- in this year's Grammy nominee pool.
Plus, we run down a list of bands and artists to keep an eye out for in 2014, like Diane Birch and Chance the Rapper, with Time's
And, operatic performance artist
Bobby McFerrin is a masterful vocal improviser -- you never know what will come out of his mouth next. But as he described on Soundcheck earlier this year, he finds improvisation to be as simple as forward motion.
"You start something and you just keep going," he said. "The first part is just getting enough courage to forward ho -- start, and don’t stop."
Best known for his solo performances, the vocalist and conductor returns to his musical roots on his latest album, Spirityouall. The record features an all-star jazz ensemble and McFerrin's famously joyous interpretations of the Americana songs he grew up with, like "Swing Low" and "Whole World." On the song "Joshua," he transforms a 19th century slave spiritual into a swinging, jazzy number that you can't help but tap your toe to.
Download our live recording of Bobby McFerrin performing "Joshua" in the Soundcheck studio on Tuesday, Dec. 10.
Hear more from Bobby McFerrin's session here -- and watch a video of Bobby McFerrin performing the song in the Soundcheck studio below.
Coming up on Wednesday: A free download from The Julie Ruin.
It’s always illuminating to discover the music of a longtime sideman when left to their own devices. At best, it’s an opportunity to hear what songwriting choices they make, what style and voice they inhabit, and hear a musician often relegated to an accompaniment role come into their own.
Such is the case with Douglas Keith, an accomplished New York-based songwriter and solo artist in his own right, but one many people -- including myself -- first came to know as the guitarist and bassist behind singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten. Keith's collaborated and toured alongside Van Etten since 2009, and his fantastically versatile playing added new textural depth and a more epic scope to her intimate songs in concert; on stage, there’s a true musical kinship.
But with his upcoming album, Pony, Douglas Keith not only reintroduces himself as a frontman, but delivers his best work yet. A few weeks back, we got our first preview of Pony (out Feb. 11, on his own The Village Label) with "Pure Gold In The '70s" -- a brooding synth-driven song that builds to a scorching guitar solo courtesy of one J. Mascis. Now, we've got another taste, in the form of the rustic folk-rock lead-off track, "Harvest Home."
Then, illustrator and musician Marcellus Hall performs live in the Soundcheck studio.
And in the latest installment of our series That Was A Hit?!?: how a song called "Disco Duck" reached the top of the charts in 1976.
"Well it's cold, and you're bored / From counting the smart cars on 94," sings Sam Beam in "Winter Prayers." From Iron And Wine's 2013 album, Ghost On Ghost, the song is a bleak December tale of regret that seems right at home on a desolate stretch of Midwest highway.
Beam first turned heads with 2002's The Creek Drank The Cradle -- a compilation of spare acoustic demos. Since then, his sound has expanded with lush string arrangements, Motown-inspired backing vocals, and prominent horns that one might expect to find on a soul record from 1974. But when Beam appeared on Soundcheck back in April, it was a chance to hear these new songs with the intimacy they were likely first written: just him and an acoustic guitar. What resulted was gorgeous.
Download our live recording of Iron and Wine performing "Winter Prayers" in the Soundcheck studio on Monday, Dec. 9.
Hear more from Iron and Wine's session here -- and watch a video of the performance below.
Coming up on Tuesday: A free download from Bobby McFerrin.
In this episode: For a long time, Lynn Goldsmith didn’t want to be known as a “rock and roll photographer.” Yet with her new book, Rock And Roll Stories, she’s embraced the label. The collection collects four decades worth of photos and behind-the-scenes tales about music's biggest stars.
Then, Will Ferrell's surly news anchor and magnificent jazz flute extraordinaire Ron Burgundy returns to theaters in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. John Nau -- one of two composers behind the new movie’s soundtrack and score -- talks about the music behind the eagerly-anticipated comedy.
And, Seasick Mama -- the pop moniker of singer, songwriter and model Marial Maher -- performs songs from her latest EP, Tip Top Shape, as well as a previously-unheard new song.
ARTIST: Saeid Shanbehzadeh, Basel Rajoub, Naghib Shanbehzadeh, Kenan Adnawi
The news surrounding Iran and Syria as of late has been overwhelmingly about nuclear weapons and war. But tomorrow night, the two nations’ common musical interests will be explored at an Asia Society performance called Sound: The Encounter. Four Iranian and Syrian performers will take the stage, including the Iranian bagpipe player and dancer Saied Shanbezadeh and the Syrian saxophonist/duclar performer Basel Rajoub. Download their piece called "Mina," which is the Arab word for harbor.
Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president and a treasured symbol of hope in the struggle against racial oppression, died Thursday at 95. Soundcheck host John Schaefer has this musical remembrance.
On June 20, 1990, Nelson Mandela made his historic visit to New York. The way this city opened up to him was like nothing I’d ever seen. In fact, I was afraid the city’s emotional embrace of Mandela would do what all those years in prison couldn’t -- namely, squash him like a bug.
There was a ticker tape parade up the Canyon Of Heroes in lower Broadway. A grueling schedule of meetings, interviews, and broadcasts. And a big concert at Yankee Stadium. I’m sure there was more stuff I’m forgetting. But what I will always remember are the musicians from South Africa who came to our studio to honor, in their own distinctive and personal ways, this man who meant so much to them.
On June 19, I did a session with the Mahotella Queens, one of South Africa’s greatest vocal groups and leaders in the music style known as mbaqanga, or “Township Jive.” If you’re familiar with Paul Simon’s Graceland then you’ve heard elements of that sound. On June 20, the day of Mandela’s arrival, we had another, very special guest.
Abdullah Ibrahim -- or Dollar Brand as he was originally known -- has been one of South Africa’s great musical exports since his surprise hit “Capetown Fringe” in the early 70s. He is not known as a singer. But he came in that day and played a moving version of his song “Jacaranda Blues,” about the jacaranda tree of South Africa. It’s a tree that can be a home to flowers, or to locusts, and Ibrahim used it as a metaphor for the choice facing South Africa, which was still under white rule. The jacaranda flower has a sweet scent -- a “perfume for Winnie,” as he sings here in a reference to Mandela’s wife, and of course could provide a respite from the sun -- “and Nelson’s shade.”
I believe I had a lump in my throat as Abdullah Ibrahim ended the song (which, for you fans, includes references to a couple of his other pieces towards the end). Over the many years and many live performances our studios have seen, this remains one that I know I will never forget.
Today, it seems appropriate to hear it again.
Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president and a treasured symbol of hope in the struggle against racial oppression, died Thursday at 95.
Born in a country that saw him as a second-class citizen, Mandela was convicted of treason by the white minority government and spent 27 years in prison. After his release in 1990, he led the African National Congress to victory in 1994 -- the first fully democratic election in South African history -- becoming one of the world's most respected statesmen and icons.
Unsurprisingly, Mandela stirred musicians from all over the world to write songs about apartheid and the political strife of the times, and Mandela's inspiring life. To reflect on the impact and importance of Nelson Mandela, Soundcheck has put together a collaborative Spotify playlist of songs that honor and remember him.
If you wish, feel free to add some of your favorites to the list, or make song suggestions in the comments section below.
In this episode: Actor Oscar Isaac talks about starring -- and performing much of the music -- in the Coen brothers' latest film, Inside Llewyn Davis.
Then, the Grammy Award winning jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater performs live in the Soundcheck studio.
A new compilation, Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound, chronicles ten years of lesser-known Twin Cities funk and R&B that set the stage for Prince. The curator behind the set and one of the featured artists talk about the Minneapolis music scene of that time.
ARTIST: Seasick Mama
DOWNLOAD: "Tees and Jeans"
Neil Young sang about “seasick mamas” in his 1974 song “For the Turnstiles.” Now, Seasick Mama is the stage name of singer and model Marial Eve Maher – who calls her brand of music “intellectual pop.” Her new EP, Tip Top Shape, was produced by Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio. Here’s one of the tracks off of that EP, called “Tees and Jeans.” If you want to see her performing live, Seasick Mama and her band are taking over Santos Party House tonight.
Download "Tees and Jeans" above and watch a video below.
In this episode: Stax Records built a soul music empire, but Memphis music historian Robert Gordon says it was more than a record label: Stax provided a refuge from the racial tensions roiling the South in the 1960's.
Then, songwriter Lucy Wainwright Roche -- the daughter of Loudon Wainwright III and Suzzy Roche -- stakes out her own territory on There’s A Last Time For Everything, a new album that features a collaboration Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, and a cover of Robyn's "Call Your Girlfriend." Hear her perform in the Soundcheck studio, with her mom.
And, this season, the NFL teams in Kansas City and Seattle are battling for the title of “loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium,” after a Chiefs game recently topped 137 decibels. We delve into it with The New York Times' Joyce Cohen and Chiefs super-fan Ty Rowton -- a.k.a. “X-Factor” -- who helped organize fans to break a decibel-record at the NFL team’s home, Arrowhead Stadium.
ARTIST: Jean-Michel Pilc
DOWNLOAD: "Un Poco Fandango"
Download "Un Poco Fandango" above and watch a video below.
In this episode: Thanksgiving is behind us and you know what that means: Christmas music. Everywhere. All the time. Esquire's Sean Manning shares some new holiday releases including some new gems and a few stinkers too.
Then, jazz bassist Ben Allison and his band performs songs from The Stars Look Very Different Today, his sci-fi film-influenced new album with a title that tips its hat to a David Bowie song.
And: Lisa Kron -- who wrote the book and lyrics for the new musical Fun Home, which is playing at the Public Theater through the end of December -- shares a Pick Three playlist of some of her favorite songs.
ARTIST: Jagwar Ma
DOWNLOAD: "Come Save Me (Matthew Dear Remix)"
Download "Come Save Me" above and watch a video below.
In this episode: That Was a Hit?!? -- Soundcheck's occasional series on surprising pop-chart success -- examines "One Night In Bangkok," that rare beast: a No. 3 hit from a concept album that later inspired a stage musical about, yes, chess. The writer and Sirius XM personality Mario Correa joins us to talk about Murray Head’s utterly weird, completely infectious song.
Then, the virtuosic electric bassist Stephen Bruner has gigged with singer Erykah Badu and fellow L.A. natives Snoop Dogg, Flying Lotus and Suicidal Tendencies. Bruner and his soul-funk trio come to the Soundcheck studio to play songs from his second solo record, Apocalypse, released under the moniker Thundercat.
Plus: You probably know most -- but not all -- of the road warriors and product pushers on Forbes magazine’s list of highest-grossing musicians of 2013. Zack O'Malley Greenburg talks about who made the list and why.
ARTIST: Los Lobos
STREAM: "Tears of God"
40 years ago in California, a band called “Los Lobos del Este (de Los Angeles)” was formed. Luckily, they quickly shortened their name – and Los Lobos took off. The Chicano group’s blend of rock, folk and traditional Mexican music has earned them multiple Grammys and many years of success on the road. They’re playing at City Winery tonight – which happens to be where they recorded their most recent album – called Disconnected in New York City.
Stream "Tears of God" above and watch a video below.
In this episode Soundcheck revisits a few recent favorite segments:
First: Sarah Jarosz is just 22, but she’s already made a mark on the folk and bluegrass scene thanks to her deep bluegrass knowledge and exceptional instrumental skills. The Grammy nominated singer-songwriter from Texas plays live in the Soundcheck studio.
Then, comedian Kurt Braunohler talks about his debut comedy album How Do I Land?, and plays three favorite songs as part of Soundcheck's Pick Three series.
And, British electro-pop artist and producer Ebony Bones has a flair for larger-than-life musical performances. Her tendency toward the flamboyant earned her a spot opening for Cee Lo Green a few years back. Hear -- and see -- why when she performs live in the Soundcheck studio.