NPR Music & Concerts

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

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artist Carlos Santana has won 10 Grammys and sold more than 100 million records. He has become one of the world's most celebrated musicians, a destiny that was difficult to imagine during his childhood in a small Mexican town. His father, also a musician, was Santana's first teacher, but he really learned his craft playing on the street and in strip clubs in Tijuana.

Hear music for the season and spine-chilling Scottish tales, narrated by host Fiona Ritchie.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Sun Ra Arkestra: Tiny Desk Concert

Oct 31, 2014

Sun Ra was a big-band innovator, a pioneer of recording and playing with electronics, a poet, a cosmic philosopher, a bandleader and a keyboard innovator who claimed to be from Saturn. Herman Poole Blount would have turned 100 in 2014 had he not left us more than 20 years ago. But his spirit lives on, and so does his long-running band.

Tiny Desk Concerts often require creative and logistical transformations, from electric bands going acoustic to big bands squashing into a tiny space to many players gathering around a single microphone. But the setting is particularly challenging for vocalists, especially those accustomed to heavy production, effects or — in the case of recent guest T-Pain — generous dollops of Auto-Tune.

T-Pain's fingerprints are all over pop and R&B and hip-hop. He wasn't the first musician to use Auto-Tune as an instrument — he noticed it on a Jennifer Lopez remix, and remembers "Deep" well — but it was, as he says, his style. For a while, in the mid-2000s, he lived at the top of the charts. He dominated that brief moment of our lives when ringtones were a thing.

An abundance of facial hair is not restricted to the sensitive male indie-rocker set. Three of the four players in the Danish String Quartet could easily pass for hipster Brooklyn beard farmers. "We are simply your friendly neighborhood string quartet with above average amounts of beard," the group's website says.

Yet what's really important about the ensemble is how they play — and judging from this performance behind Bob Boilen's desk, these Nordic lads possess warmth, wit, a beautiful tone and technical prowess second to none.

The Thistle & Shamrock: New Fall Sounds 2

Oct 24, 2014

Join Thistle & Shamrock host Fiona Ritchie as she explores the latest batch of releases, showcasing what's new from established artists and emerging talent alike.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Denmark may be small — smaller than West Virginia — but its musical impact is disproportionately big. Since the late 19th century, some of the best symphonists have hailed from the Scandinavian country, and though they may not be household names in the U.S., their works have influence far beyond their homeland.

Anthony D'Amato sings and writes in the tradition of Bruce Springsteen or Josh Ritter: His songs sound friendly musically, but they also tackle the difficult and the twisted. Like those great songwriters, D'Amato's work is universal without devolving into moping. There's also a spirit to these songs, as it's easy to imagine a crowd spontaneously backing these his powerful choruses.

Jessie Ware On Learning To Trust Herself

Oct 20, 2014

As a music geek, I often find myself in conversations, either online or over cocktails, about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Indeed, I've been nerding out about the Hall since last Thursday, when the institution announced its shortlist for induction into the Hall Class of 2015. And when I find myself in polite but argumentative company debating the Rock Hall, I have an approach I use.

When he was 20, Ásgeir Trausti Einarsson released an album in Iceland, sung in Icelandic, with many of the words written by his father. Dýrð í dauðaþögn became the biggest-selling debut in Icelandic music history.

I love composer anniversaries because they afford us opportunities to look at musicians anew, and 2015 will mark the centenary of the death of Russian composer Alexander Scriabin. It's quite possible that you've never heard of Scriabin, but take comfort in the fact that even his biographer said, "No one was more famous during their lifetime, and few were more quickly ignored after death."

The Metropolitan Opera in New York is bracing for one of the more controversial productions in its history. Since its first performance more than 20 years ago, some critics have charged that composer John Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer is anti-Israel, and even anti-Semitic. But the opera's supporters dispute that. They argue that Klinghoffer is a dramatic masterpiece that deserves to make its Met debut on Monday.

In April 2015, Duncan Sheik, a songwriter who has had hits on both pop radio and the Broadway stage, will release Legerdemain, his first album of original material since 2009's Whisper House and the first not connected to a theater piece since 2006's White Limousine. Sheik crafted the album in his Garrison, N.Y. studio, and he's sharing two songs from that album via NPR Music; you can listen and download both of them below.

The Bots' members are brothers and bandmates whose playful, catchy songs rock hard. Singer-guitarist Mikaiah Lei is 21 and drummer Anaiah Lei is 17; they made their first album when they were 15 and 12, respectively. Pink Palms is their newest and best.

Singer Raquel Sofia has spent most of her career 20 feet from stardom as a backup singer for Juanes and Shakira. But these days, she's got her own new album and tour, leading a small band of gifted musicians. Sofia's songs are about matters of the heart — and, as you'll hear in her performance here, it's hard to believe that feeling bad can sound this good. Her music doesn't wallow; instead, it makes me want to celebrate and experience the joy and pain along with her.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Lowlands

Oct 10, 2014

From shipyards and farmlands to mills and mining villages, the Scottish Lowlands have been a hive of activity for centuries. Tour the musical landscape with Archie Fisher, Deaf Shepherd, and Alison Kinnaird.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The Pop-Punks Of Anarchy

Oct 9, 2014

The last short story Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote is about being seriously ridiculous. In "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man," an intellectual prone to existentialist despair is saved from suicide when, in a vision, he discovers a parallel planet where humanity has never sinned. "It was like being in love with each other, but an all-embracing, universal feeling," he tells the reader. This contact with Eden reinvigorates him, but then, during a playful moment, he teaches the planet's innocents how to deceive each other — and this leads to a catastrophic, Biblical fall.

My admiration for Jackson Browne began with his first album in 1971. I was wowed by the fact that the singer-songwriter had worked with Nico of Velvet Underground fame — his girlfriend at the time — on her first album, Chelsea Girl. He wrote one of my favorite songs on that record, "These Days."

The Thistle & Shamrock: Canada

Oct 6, 2014

Travel to Cape Breton, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and on into the west to hear the authentic Celtic-rooted music of Canada.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Irish Pairs

Oct 6, 2014

Few musical sounds make a more honest and direct statement than duos in the Irish tradition. Enjoy them combining their voices, guitars, fiddles, flutes and more acoustic instruments.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: Tiny Desk Concert

Oct 4, 2014

Even if you've never been to a jazz concert in your life, it's likely that you've heard Ryan Keberle play trombone. He's toured with Sufjan Stevens, backed up pop stars like Alicia Keys and Justin Timberlake, recorded for a Woody Allen film, played in Broadway pits and directed music for a church in Manhattan. Left to his own devices, though, Keberle likes to put himself into improvising situations.

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