NPR Music & Concerts

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

Reclaiming The Queer Dance Floor

Apr 12, 2016

Mike Servito has been playing records in public since the mid-'90s, and while the Brooklyn-based DJ is fully capable of plying his trade just about anywhere, he also knows that there's nothing quite like a queer dance floor. "You definitely turn it up a little bit at a gay party," he says. "You can be more brash, more vocal, and put a little more feeling and sexuality into it."

Last fall in New York City, NPR Music recorded a blistering concert by Palehound, in which singer, songwriter and guitarist Ellen Kempner presided over a string of tense and evocative songs about overcoming doubt and, when necessary, spitting venom.

While Kristine Leschper was singing her songs behind my desk, in the crowd was a tiny baby in a stroller. As I watched the child and the band, I couldn't help but think about both the promise and innocence of youth and the struggles of adulthood, as Leschper sang:

We lived unloved in unmade beds

You wore me like a necklace

You closed me like a locket

If there was a Mount Rushmore of the benchmark greats of American music, Merle Haggard would have to be on it. He was among the greatest of his or any generation of country performers. A true triple-threat, his prowess as a guitarist and fiddler could only be eclipsed by his greatness as a vocalist and songwriter. He was also a true entertainer with charisma and seemingly effortless stage presence.

On this week's episode of The Thistle & Shamrock, host Fiona Ritchie handpicks more of the best new sounds from rising artists, along with the latest from some old favorites. Hear new music by Jim Malcolm, Solas, Burning Bridget Cleary, Sgoil Chiùil na Gàidhealtachd and more.

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Middle America At The Dawn Of Outlaw Country

Apr 5, 2016

Early in Heads, his deep exploration of American psychedelic culture, Jesse Jarnow details how the Berkeley-based visual artist Rick Shubb drew up a peculiar new world map. Called "Humbead's Revised Map of the World" and appearing in underground magazines starting in 1968, it was a psychedelic Pangaea comprised primarily of hippie hubs like San Francisco, Cambridge and New York City.