I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. The blues have always been a way to get at some of life's tougher trials and Otis Taylor's music is no different. Taylor, who calls himself a trans-blues musician, has taken on big themes like murder, racism and poverty in previous albums, but his latest album - his 13th and he says his emotional - started with four little words.
James Hunter has spent his life learning how to tell soul's stories in fresh and personal ways. Born in 1962 in Essex, England and mentored early on by Van Morrison, he embarked on a career with many ups and downs before breaking through in America in his forties. Now the Grammy-nominated Hunter has made his first album in the States, where the music he loves was born.
The four main members of the Swedish band The Amazing play in many other successful music acts (Dungen, et al), some of which are shared projects. The overlap makes for obvious chemistry within this experimental, genre-bending folk-rock supergroup.
On its most recent album, 2011's Gentle Stream, The Amazing jumps around quite a bit, delving into psychedelic folk, pop and acoustic rock. Here, the group plays songs from its latest album and sits down with David Dye to discuss its grandiose name and musical influences.
Veteran producer Joe Boyd says he'd long resisted putting together some sort of tribute album for his late friend, the legendary folksinger Nick Drake. But he finally decided to make one when Boyd realized that the recordings could be captured in a live concert. "In my opinion, the only way to make a tribute record work is to get everyone together in the same place so there's a unity of sound and spirit," he tells us in an email.
Clarinetist Anat Cohen is one of a handful of Israeli jazz musicians making a mark on the American jazz scene. She's been voted Clarinetist of the Year six years in a row by the Jazz Journalists Association, and her most recent album, Claroscuro, showcases the range of her talents and musical influences, from New Orleans-style jazz to Israel to Latin music — particularly that of Brazil.
Cohen says that the clarinet's somewhat old-fashioned reputation may be the result of the very thing that attracts her to the instrument.