Artist to Watch

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The premier guide for new and significant artists in rock, blues, and folk - including NPR-syndicated World Cafe ®

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24/7 Musical discovery. A unique mix of emerging and heritage blues, rock, world, folk, and alt-country artists.

World Cafe Archives

Join David Dye as he navigates the World Cafe through performances and interviews with celebrated and emerging artists.

Folk Alley

Folk music radio streaming on the web; Americana, Roots Music, recordings, and stories from folk's best.
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Maybe it’s the time of the season. Or maybe it’s the fact that as music lovers we’re overdue for a reggae record that truly strikes a chord. Either way, the new album from reggae icon Jimmy Cliff is one of the season’s brightest and most satisfying albums. The aptly titled Rebirth finds Cliff as spirited as at any point in his career and with a batch of songs that are weaved together with a message of righteousness and hope.
It’s reasonable to ask whether or not Passion Pit was ready for the level of exposure that followed the release of their Chunk of Change EP in 2008, and their subsequent debut Manners. For frontman Michael Angelakos, a musical project that started as a Valentine’s Day gift for his girlfriend evolved rather quickly into a full-time band with significant impact. Passion Pit’s animated brand of electronic, dance-pop thrilled audiences and even found a warm embrace across the media landscape from bloggers and radio to TV and film. So with high expectations and anticipation surrounding their new album, can Passion Pit continue to live up to the hype? Gossamer, their sophomore effort, answers that question with conviction.
Reunions don’t often go this well. It’s been twenty five years since The dB’s last released a new studio album. Actually, make that thirty if you’re talking about an album featuring all the original band members. Well, on Falling Off the Sky, Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey, Will Rigby and Gene Holder reconnect and restore that classic power-pop sound that’s been missing since the 80s. It’s an album that takes a serious crack at picking up where they left off and stands comfortably alongside their admired work.
An enduring rock n roller since the mid-70s Alejandro Escovedo may not be a household name to many, but the continued reverence for his music is no surprise. Big Station, his latest album, is another prime example of artistic vision and the relentless pursuit of challenging one’s own musical aspirations. For Escovedo, at this point in his career, making the same album over and over is a trap that some of his contemporaries have fallen into, but for Alejandro it’s a path that he won’t concede to take. Big Station is the proof of that.
We should’ve seen this coming. For the past decade, The Walkmen have quietly released six studio albums, all of which have been relatively well-received, and have garnered fans at a steady pace. They’ve had some minor indie hits with songs like “The Rat” from 2004’s Bows + Arrows and “Angela Surf City” from their last studio effort Lisbon. But to the general public, they still flew under the radar amongst a growing wave of blog buzz bands. As The Walkmen celebrate their 10th anniversary as a band what’s clear now is that they’ve carved their own path. The past ten years has been a cultivation of a band and a sound that now seems fully realized on the new album Heaven.
Back in 1996, at just 19 years old, Fiona Apple stepped into musical stardom with her debut album Tidal. Only two albums fall between her debut and this latest collection The Idler Wheel. Where some artists would see their supporters fade during long gaps of silence, that’s not the case with Fiona Apple. The periods between albums (the latest of which was seven years) seem to have only strengthened what is already a pretty rabid fan base. And Apple matches that intensity and obsession with her approach to making music. One thing that certainly hasn’t changed over the course of her career is her willingness to bare all no matter how difficult or controversial it may be. The Idler Wheel… is her latest assertion of that.

January, 2012 CD of the Month

There’s a new sound in Chicago and it comes in the form of XPN Artist To Watch JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound. Taking their name from Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, this four piece band goes beyond your typical soul revivalists. Following in the footsteps of standouts like Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings or Austin’s Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, Brooks and company cook up their own brand of soul stew. On their second album Want More you’ll hear a band that can produce some pure soul, add a dash of funk, rock with a punk-like attitude and even sweeten the mix with a little R&B.

February, 2012 CD of the Month

Since her debut, Failer, in 2003 it's hard to be critical of the work of Kathleen Edwards. As a songwriter, as an artist she's never really taken a step backwards. As listeners we can argue over our favorites, but it's a fair to say that each album has matched a certain level of expectations if not surpassed them. And with that the Canadian songstress continues a career trajectory on the rise with her new album, Voyageur, but at the same time broadens our expectations.

June, 2012 CD of the Month

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.

April, 2012 CD of the Month

Few bands have the natural chemistry that you’ll find on Come Back As Rain, the new album from XPN Artist To Watch, Good Old War. The latest album from the Philadelphia trio is all at once a comfortable, feel good collection and a fresh step forward. Keith Goodwin, Tim Arnold and Daniel Schwartz capture liveliness on Come Back As Rain that they’ve been applauded for onstage and translate it somewhat effortlessly in the studio.

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