Artist to Watch

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July 14, 2001 approximately 11 months (count ‘em – 11) after Five For Fighting and John Ondrasik released America Town, John was on stage at XPN’s Singer-Songwriter Weekend and still on the brink of commercial success. John sat down at the piano and played the opening chords to “Superman,”

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, Charlotte Martin is a remarkable new talent. In 2003 Ms. Martin released an EP called In Parentheses that signaled her engaging arrival. An intense piano-laden collection of confessional songs in which she demonstrated her amazing vocals, it was but a hint of the magic she would ultimately release on her full debut album, On Your Shore.

A fantastic new artist is emerging from the acoustic music world and she’s one of our Artists To Watch for 2004. Nashville singer-songwriter Adrienne Young’s debut album is a beautiful, well-crafted and passionate collection of songs that brings to mind the work of artists like Gillian Welch, Mindy Smith and Nickel Creek in their musical context and breadth. Like each of those artists Ms. Young is a unique artist with a compelling vision and message. She’s a neo-traditionalist comfortable with old-timey music who spins it out in a modern, contemporary world.

An understated gem, Josh Ritter’s second album Hello Starling is an album not to be missed this year.

First listens to this Idaho-born singer-songwriter will reveal touchstones as familiar as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, even Tim Hardin.

There are some artists that just don’t act their age. And in the case of XPN Aritst To Watch Michael Kiwanuka, that's a good thing! The fact that this singer-songwriter is in his early 20’s will be the last thing to come to mind (if at all) when you make your way through his debut album Home Again. Kiwanuka is the latest in a wave of British soul and R&B singers to captivate audiences. And while connections to his peers like Adele exist, he paves his own path to our ears with the songs of Home Again.

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals have come a long way from their blues-rock beginnings in Waitsfield, Vermont. For Grace, she's finally emerging as the superstar frontwoman that so many of us knew she had the potential to be. And on the latest album, The Lion The Beast The Beat she grabs hold of the spotlight and seems unwilling to let it go. We know what a commanding presence this band, and Grace in particular, can be on stage, yet until now capturing that on record has been a challenge. The Lion The Beast The Beat may be the step in the right direction.

Following her impressive debut in 2005, there were big names lined up to work with Seattle songwriter Brandi Carlile. On The Story Carlile enlisted Grammy winning producer T-Bone Burnett, and on Give Up the Ghost the band bunkered down in Los Angeles with famed studio wizard Rick Rubin. For her latest, Brandi decided to settle in a little closer to home. The album Bear Creek takes its name from the studio in which it was recorded just outside of Seattle. As usual, Carlile is flanked by “the twins” Tim and Phil Hanseroth. And along with producer Trina Shoemaker (Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris), Brandi and the band set out to make an album that captures the heart of their sound.

Joan Osborne calls this new album - Pretty Little Stranger - her version of a country record, and that seems pretty fair after a few listens. The pace is moderate, the songs nicely arranged, and the whole package is tied together by her most important attribute - that remarkable voice.

It’s interesting to think back to over twelve years ago when many of us first heard the music of John Mayer. Fresh-faced and innocent he would become yet another staple in the emergence of acoustic rock joining the likes of Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson. Unlike the aforementioned songwriters, Mayer grabbed as many headlines for his off-stage activities as he did for his music. Controversial interviews and high-profile arm candy may have acted as distractions for critics and fans. But on his fifth studio album Born and Raised, Mayer aims to strike those public perceptions and regain focus on his music. If you’re ready to listen, you’ll find that these songs are some of his best yet.

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