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2011

It surely caught some folks by surprise at the end of 2010, but yes a new album from Ryan Adams & the Cardinals was released this past December. However, don’t expect to find this new 21 song collection on the shelf in your favorite local record store. III/IV, as it is titled, was sold-out before it was even released. The now digital-only release is a hefty collection of previously, unreleased gems from recordings sessions with Ryan Adams and company.

As we usher in a new year and anticipate new musical discoveries, it’s an unmistakable voice that’ll be first to grab your ears. Low Country Blues is the first solo album from Allman Brothers founding member Gregg Allman in nearly 14 years. Along with a decorated cast of musicians, including producer T-Bone Burnett, Allman delivers a book of songs steeped in rhythm and blues yet with his own unique signature.

Coming off their expansive rock-opera, The Hazards of Love, the Portland-based band The Decemberists return to form on their new album The King Is Dead From the opening Springsteen-esque harmonica riff of the album leadoff “Don’t Carry It All,” it’s apparent that there’s different tone and atmosphere set for this collection.

For his fourth album, Mission Bell, Philadelphia native Amos Lee was drawn to Tucson, Arizona to work with producer/musician Joey Burns of the band Calexico. The acclaimed songwriter not only takes a subtle step in a new direction, but takes a commanding step forward in his artistry. The heart and soul of Mission Bell is uniquely Lee, yet texturally the presence of Burns, his Calexico bandmates and an all-star cast of guests pays instant dividends.

If Hollywood were writing the script there’d likely be a long, perilous journey before a new-comer band could hit any type of stride to success. Luckily for Fitz and the Tantrums, WXPN's February Artist To Watch, they’re writing their own story and in just over a year what started as a solo endeavor has turned into a ‘can’t miss’ stage show with a debut album to match. Pickin’ Up the Pieces, the band’s debut full-length, is an instant party-starter that not only echoes sounds of Motown soul but also fosters an indie-rock sensibility to top it off.

Too much is often made of an artist’s jump from an indie to a major label. For fear of tainted artistic vision or imposed guidelines, ‘purists’ hold their collective breath in the weeks (or months) leading up to an albums release. But to be fair, there is a recent track record of success when you think of artists like The Decemberists or Death Cab for Cutie who have arguably made some of the best albums of their careers since making such a move. And with that, Iron and Wine is the latest indie darling to successfully make the transition to a major label with his most confident and expansive album to date, Kiss Each Other Clean.

On her debut album, the title, 19, served as a reminder that such an extraordinary voice was beholden to a young lady a year shy of her twentieth birthday. Now just a couple years removed from her Grammy award winning introduction, Adele returns with 21 an equally captivating effort that only re-enforces the disparity between her actual youth and her incredible vocal prowess.

The new Live at the World Cafe Vol 31 CD is hot off the press and available as a thank you gift to XPN members. Here's the track list. One of the best yet! Make your pledge now, and pick it up as an XPN thank you gift!

Just about a year ago, word of the indie-rock collaboration that would evolve into the band Middle Brother began to make some noise – literally. After a performance at last year’s SXSW festival, we learned that Matt Vasquez (Delta Spirit), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes) and John McCauley (Deer Tick) had more in store for us beyond their one-off jam session. The three band leaders had actually been writing material for what would soon become the band’s debut album Middle Brother. Carving out some time this winter/spring, the three will release their first album and hit the road for the first time as Middle Brother.

Blessed from Lucinda Williams is the songwriter's 10th studio album and emotionally one of her heaviest works. The twelve song collection is certainly reflective, delving into some recent troubling times including both the passing of her former manager and also fellow songwriter Vic Chesnutt. While the songs of Blessed deal with some weighty issues and the musical tone is far from rollicking, Blessed is more a look at a songwriter coming to terms with these events not necessarily drowning in them.

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