Nicole Mitchell grew up in California, but Chicago is where she became the original artist she is today. From her mid-20s into her 40s, she played and taught there, and composed and presented complete works for creative spirits like science-fiction novelist Octavia Butler (Xenogenesis Suite) and musician Alice Coltrane (Where the Paths Meet the Sea).
Somebody does something a little different — they briefly step off the curb — and plenty of folks are ready to dub them a "self-made man" or "self-made woman." But what Lonnie Holley does, and what he has made of himself, demands a whole new term. He truly is his own invention.
John Legend is already an R&B legend, even at a relatively young age. His buttery sound and sexy lyrics have earned him nine Grammy awards. But it's been awhile since he has delivered a solo album, and one with all of his own original material. But now he is back, with an album called Love in the Future.
Thirty years after launching his music career, what does it mean for Ian MacKaye to be a punk rocker? In the 1980s, MacKaye rebelled against popular culture as the front man of the influential D.C. punk bands Minor Threat and Fugazi, and founded his own label, Dischord Records. These days, he maintains the label and plays in a more stripped-down outfit, The Evens, with his wife, Amy Farina.
James Vincent McMorrow first popped on our radar back in 2010, when he released his breathtakingly beautiful debut Early In The Morning, a collection of acoustic folk notable, in part, for McMorrow's remarkable voice. But it turns out McMorrow never really wanted to be a folk singer. His latest album, Post-Tropical, is a sultry, slinky R&B album, with drum machines and soul-inspired harmonies. Now comes a dark, sometimes unnerving new video for the album's first single, "Cavalier."
The Colorado band Elephant Revival has made a few records that mix jam, bluegrass and folk music. But its latest, These Changing Skies, finds what seems to be its sweet spot. With banjo, bass, guitar, fiddle and washboard balancing the many disparate influences, songs like "Birds and Stars" capture the mystery and intrigue of everything from nature to love — those places where all of life's most important formative elements intersect.
"3 Seconds to Cross," a new song by Luscious Jackson, begins somewhere in New York City. The narrator lies awake longing to be in California, though it becomes apparent a New Yorker like her really wouldn't fit in: "It only takes just a little to get yourself lost."
California, we're told, is a land unfriendly to pedestrians, where an L.A. traffic light might give you three seconds to cross the street.
The Pines' members make their second appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live on the campus of the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minn. Led by Iowa natives Benson Ramsey and David Huckfelt, the band plays washy, dark, melodic sounds that evoke the stark side of folk-rock. Now based out of the Twin Cities, the group actually found its roots in Arizona, where Ramsey and Huckfelt met while living in a Mexican barrio. The musicians discovered an overlap in their musical tastes and soon began writing original material together.
In this session, World Cafe welcomes back the Austin blues-funk band Black Joe Lewis, which recently released a new album called Electric Slave. It's a different animal than the group's first two albums, 2009's Tell 'Em What Your Name Is and 2011's Scandalous: It's fiercer, it's more rock-driven, and it moves away from the soul-revival sound of the earlier discs.