NPR Music & Concerts

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ABBA's Essential, Influential Melancholy

May 23, 2015

Dressed in black and greeted by Barry and Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, former ABBA members Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson took their 2010 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seriously and sincerely. While Lyngstad definitively dismissed reunion rumors, Andersson spoke of the quartet's musical roots and emotional core.

The Thistle & Shamrock: At The Edge

May 22, 2015

Hear music with an evolving Celtic roots sound, inspired by jazz and classical arrangements and driven by contemporary and worldly rhythms. This week's episode includes music from Solas, Scrüj MacDuhk and John Rae.

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We rarely invite Tiny Desk alumni back to the confines of Bob Boilen's work space, but we couldn't resist this time. Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis and Grammy-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux have both given solo Tiny Desk performances. Since then they've paired up for concerts and a new album of works composed especially for their combination of instruments.

Rickie Lee Jones needs no introduction. Seriously. The singer-songwriter is so elementally articulate, so gifted at grasping both the rawest and the most complicatedly cooked emotions in her compositions, that critical framing best comes after the experience of listening to her.

They've made music together since they were young teens, coming together in Edinburgh from places as far apart as Ghana and Maryland. Young Fathers' hip-hop-infused poetry is intense; you can hear that on the group's new album, White Men Are Black Men Too.

A Mississippi car accident in 1937 cut short the life of Bessie Smith.

She was just 43 years old. But she'd already established her legacy as "Empress of the Blues" — a pioneering American performer who demanded respect and equal pay in a world dominated by men and controlled by whites.

She'd also achieved a degree of infamy for her boozing, her brawling and her sexual appetites.

B.B. King And The Majesty Of The Blues

May 16, 2015

B.B. King, the legendary blues musician, died Thursday after spending much of the month in hospice care. He was 89.

Born Riley B. King in Indianola, Miss., in 1925, King began his life on a plantation, where he was born the son of a sharecropper. Speaking to Fresh Air's Terry Gross in 1996, King remembered an early life without telephones, electricity or any outside opportunities. "A lot of the people, including myself in the early years, just thought this was it, you raise your families and you get old, you die, your families take over, kids, what have you," King said.

Great fado singers sound as if they carry the weight of the world's sadness. They don't just wear their hearts on their sleeves — they bare their souls.

The nominees for the 2015 Americana Honors and Awards were announced today at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. This year's slate shows how the definition of Americana is gently expanding to include more generationally, racially and stylistically diverse stars, while remaining grounded in its country-leaning, singer-songwriter-dominated definition of roots music.

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