NPR Music

Music features, reviews and "first listens" from NPR.  For WUNC's music programs,  Back Porch Music.

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats have had quite the year since they played the 2015 Newport Folk Festival last July.

Ryan Adams is well on his way to becoming a Newport Folk regular.

Paul Janeway regularly gives the kind of performance that compels you to pay attention. There's no denying that the man who once trained as a preacher in Alabama was meant to be fronting a soul band. During an early-afternoon set at the Newport Folk Festival, Janeway put St. Paul & the Broken Bones through its paces, storming the stage with electric presence and a thunderous voice that pays tribute to — but doesn't imitate — his idol, Otis Redding.

Even though Violent Femmes played the Newport Folk Festival midway through a bright summer afternoon, the rock band's new song "I Could Be Anything" made the sunny field feel like a packed pub, where beer has made everyone friends, and revelers bellow out drinking songs with arms thrown across shoulders.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Essential Celtic

Jul 22, 2016

Learn how to inject a Celtic core into your music library that reflects past and present, honors tradition and celebrates the spirit of innovation. The Thistle & Shamrock host Fiona Ritchie has some suggestions to enhance any personal music collection.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Listening to John Congleton can be scary. The imagery — of "blood between my legs," of loving another "like a lion loves its kill" — can be horrifying. But the songs Congleton sings (from his album Until The Horror Goes) touch on what it means to be human, and what it means to face the fact that we are flesh-and-blood "temporary custodians" in vessels that will inevitably return to the earth and decay.

We're Off To The Newport Folk Festival!

Jul 22, 2016

Gregory Porter's healing soul music sends a message of compassion, and he's got a baritone voice that resonates love. When Porter visited NPR, we'd just learned that our colleague, photojournalist David Gilkey, had been killed while working on a story for NPR in Afghanistan. When Porter began singing the calmly beautiful "No Love Dying," he may not have known how much it would mean to us.

For much of the post-Dylan age, and particularly in such self-consciously cerebral genres as indie rock, contemporary folk and Americana, artists have been more likely to command critical respect for cultivating their songwriting voices than for interpreting songs from others' pens. But John Prine, who was once pegged as a new Dylan, seems to be having a fine time toying with that modern musical hierarchy.

There's a point when a jam is just a jam, and when a jam becomes a journey... man. Ever since Chris Forsyth started The Solar Motel Band to fill out his long-form rock compositions, the Philly guitarist has proven his versatility not only as an instrumentalist, but also as a storyteller.

"...the Spirituals, in a limited degree, are still in the making."
-James Weldon Johnson

The Thistle & Shamrock: World Beat

Jul 13, 2016

On the latest episode of The Thistle & Shamrock, hear a world of Celtic music with an hour of Afro-, Balkan-, Latin- and country-influenced songs.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Headliners at the Essence Festival, which marked its 22nd Fourth of July weekend in New Orleans earlier this month, play in the middle of the Superdome, a cavernous arena that, as configured for the fest, seats about 50,000. Up on the stadium's plaza level, a cozier, less formal kind of show takes place. Four multipurpose party rooms deemed Superlounges, which each fit about 1,200 fans, serve as secondary stages.

Pages