The Steep Canyon Rangers appear on Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, W.V. One of the fastest-rising bands in bluegrass, the group earned both critical and popular praise for its work in support of comedian and banjo wizard Steve Martin. The Rangers-Martin collaboration Rare Bird Alert was nominated for a Grammy, and the group followed it with Nobody Knows You, which took home 2013's Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album.
This week's pick for World Cafe: Next is Chicago guitarist Ryley Walker. The singer-songwriter recently released a psych-folk EP titled The West Wind, which features swirling guitars and jazzy excursions that are easy to get lost in.
For decades, Jimmy Amadie played solely in his home, heard only by his students when he'd play for them during lessons. His performing career was derailed because of severe hand problems. But later in life, he achieved some fame for his albums — and for the story of what he'd had to overcome to make it possible for him to record. Amadie died of lung cancer on Dec. 10. He was 76.
A half-century on, La La Brooks still sings about boys and girls falling in love. At an age when other veterans of first-generation rock movements are thinking about retirement or oldies tours, Brooks has come up with a fresh, energetic collection that doesn't deny her past, but also refuses to succumb to mere nostalgia.
La Santa Cecilia spreads joy every time its members plug in to do a show. They do it one dance step at a time, with cumbias, corridos, elegant mambos and plain old rock 'n' roll.
I first saw La Santa Cecilia perform in an Austin, Texas, parking lot about five years ago. As all great bands do, it showcased an It Factor that has only intensified as the L.A.-based, Mexican-American group works tirelessly to perfect its musical vision.
This is FRESH AIR. With so much contention in air around holiday get-togethers, jazz critic Ken Whitehead wonders if music might help bring together folks with opposing views. He has some listening and viewing recommendations for seasonal dinners.
Given the speed with which the band rose in popularity, it's not surprising that The Head and the Heart would want to slow down for a minute. After all, the Seattle group was performing at open mics just a few years ago, yet now sells out large theaters nationwide.