To quote many of the music reviews coming in on singer-songwriter Sufjan Steven's new album, "this might be the year's masterwork." Every once in a while a record comes along with such breathtaking creativity and audaciousness and Illinoise is this year's model.
Vocalist Lizz Wright was introduced to XPN listeners in 2003 when she released her debut album, Salt. With an eclectic mix of traditional jazz, R&B and soul/folk, Wright’s sultry vocals and warm, organic songs quickly won fans around the world with Salt's release and Lizz’s dazzling live performances. Salt was an XPN Featured Album of the week in June of '03, and came in at no. 21 in the Top 50 Countdown that same year.
Ever since jazz guitarist John Scofield was a kid, the music of Ray Charles had a significant influence on him. So when Verve Records’ President Ron Goldstone approached Scofield with the idea of doing a tribute album to Charles, Scofield was game.
With bossa nova beats, trip-hop, Jamaican dub, and world grooves galore, the Washington DC based DJ duo of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton are back with The Cosmic Game, their fourth record. Since the mid-90's Hilton and Garza have created their own flourishing cultural cottage industry with their own record label and a niteclub, restaurant and bar in Washington, DC. Starting out as DJ's catering to fans or rare-groove and acid-jazz music, they broadened their sound to include an ecelctic mix of groove and ambient genres of music. The Cosmic Game is their finest studio record yet.
Way back in the Winter of 2002, XPN mid-day host Helen Leicht began playing an independent release from a Philly based singer-songwriter named Amos Lee. Soulful and organic, Lee was making ends meet working at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia and honing his craft by playing open-mic nights and writing songs. After recording an EP, his music reached Helen - who directs XPN’s Philly Local program – and she began playing songs like “Colors” and “Arms Of A Woman.”
With Careless Love, Peyroux is once again proving herself to be an original interpreter and an open receptor to songs from earlier eras—an artist who channels vintage jazz and blues with chilling accuracy. “I feel very lucky to be part of a tradition of songwriting that stands the test of time,” says Peyroux. “I also feel lucky to be able to go back and perform as much as I did before—I can’t wait.” Adds Peyroux, with characteristic modesty:
Guitarist, singer and songwriter Marc Broussard's new album Carenco (pronounced Karen-Crow) is named after his hometown in Louisiana. At a young 22, he sounds wise beyond his age mixing up soul and R&B with heavy doses of good old fashioned rock 'n' roll. Growing up in Lafayette, Louisiana, Broussard was exposed to music as a youngster as his dad was guitarist for the legendary South Louisiana swamp band The Boogie Kings. Marc debuted in 2002 with the album Momentary Setback, and on Carencro he continues to hone his incredible rocking soul stylings with his best songs and most soulful singing yet.
In early 2002 WXPN listeners and members got their first taste of the sounds and music of Citizen Cope on his self-titled debut record on the Dreamworks label. Fusing soulful, down-home grooves with pop sensibilities, Cope’s record quickly found a home on 88.5 and developed a nice following in our listening areas. Cope’s debut was smart, intelligent, high quality music for an integrated world. Not afraid to take on weighty, social, cultural and political issues in his lyrics, he’s both a realist and an optimist. Songs like “If There’s Love,” “Let The Drummer Kick It,” “Mistaken Identity,” and “Contact” quickly became staples on the radio dial at XPN, as did Cope’s collaboration with Santana on the song “Sideways” from Santana’s Shaman album.
One of XPN’s Artists To Watch for 2004, singer-songwriter, Ray Lamontagne explains how Stephen Stills saved his life. One of six children raised by a single mom who worked hard to make ends meet, Lamontagne – who barely made it out of high school left his family for Lewiston, Maine. Bored, going nowhere in his life and doing some serious soul searching Ray was in Lewiston working long hard hours in a shoe factory when he experienced a musical epiphany.