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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Josh Ritter is a prime example of an artist getting better and better as he goes along. We all knew he was super-talented, but even that didn't prepare me for the genius of this new album The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. It's a bona fide best of '07 contender, and a completely rewarding listening experience, whether you hear the album from start to finish or hear it a song at a time. Ritter's got it goin' on...

Matt Nathanson's heartfelt pop songs and choirboy-with-an-attitude persona has already meant a healthy fan base, and his new album Some Mad Hope will most certainly satisfy the believers and should attract a few more. The 34 year-old Massachusetts native and San Francisco resident has a knack for tugging at the ol' heartstrings through his songs, and his ability to do that has never been sharper.

For their second album on the Hollywood label, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals certainly spent a fair amount of time concentrating on their craft. Although This Is Somewhere contains many of the same funky characteristics of the XPN hit 2005 album Nothing But The Water, there's a noticable shift in the songwriting. These new songs have way more to offer than groove. The Vermont-based band has a lot to be proud of this go 'round.

For their third album - and their first for a major label - Interpol certainly stretches out musically. Known and beloved for their various, somewhat gloomy Joy Division-esque atmospherics, the New York-based band made an effort to change things around this time, and they have achieved that.

Mark Ronson is a London-born, New York City-raised artist, producer and DJ. His new album Version is - true to its title - a collection of versions of other artists' tunes. This is, of course, an oft-used idea, but few can match the ideas, personnel, and deft production touch that Ronson possesses.

We figured we'd see it sometime... Suzanne Vega has delivered her "New York City album", a collection of 11 tunes that revolve around life in "The Big Apple" where Vega was raised and has lived ever since. It's not a new idea. Lots of artists (Lou Reed, for example on his 1989 New York album) have used this muse before. Vega has done it with a tremendous amount of style, and her first new release in six years is clearly one of her best.

On an album that will please long-time fans and new converts alike, the Texas band Spoon sound comfortable, confident, and on top of their game. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is short and sweet (10 songs, 36 minutes), and its relative brevity only serves to accentuate front man Britt Daniels' and co.'s craftsmanship.

Louisiana rocker Marc Broussard has always had more than a little soul in his rock mix so it makes a lot of sense for him to release an album of mostly R&B and soul music covers. There is one original new song on the album, which is the follow up to Broussard's 2004 breakthrough debut Carencro. While Brousard can certainly rock like the best of them, he is clearly and convincingly at home covering songs like The Staple Singers' "Respect Yourself," "Yes We Can Can" written by Allen Toussaint, Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues," "Love and Happiness" by Al Green, and the Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell duet that he sings with Toby Lightman, "If I Could Build My Whole World Around You."

Back Door Slam was XPN's Artist To Watch in March. Their CD "Roll Away" was released last July in the U.S. on Blix Street.

The enigmatic juggernaut that is Ryan Adams keeps on rollin'. It's exhausting to be a Ryan fan - he's just so prolific, and it's become difficult to digest one new album before another one comes along. That being said, it's important that you spend some time with his latest, Easy Tiger. What we have here is a truly great American songwriter who's really just hitting his stride.

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