While schools do often struggle to encourage and develop students' creativity, it's also true that many artists - actors, writers, musicians - when asked about a major influence, will name a teacher. That's certainly true of R&B singer Brian McKnight.
James Hunter fell in love with vintage R&B during his youth in England, with his grandmother's records providing a foundation. Hunter sang in workingman's clubs and got a break in the early '90s, when Van Morrison heard him singing and invited him on tour as a backing vocalist.
Singer-songwriter Kim Richey makes her fourth appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, W.Va. Richey first emerged in the early 1990s as part of the growing alt-country movement — and, as such, remained difficult to classify. Nevertheless, Richey's music didn't go unnoticed in Nashville: Many of her songs ended up recorded by mainstream heavyweights such as Trisha Yearwood and Brooks & Dunn.
Brad Paisley's Wheelhouse is yet another very good album from a singer, songwriter and guitarist who's made a bunch of them in a row. It features a slew of shrewd songs about finding pleasure and comfort in a frequently unpleasant, uncomfortable world. The music includes a bone-cracking song about domestic violence written from a woman's point of view, one that praises Christian values from the perspective of a jealous skeptic, and one that samples the great Roger Miller as deftly as any hip-hop production.
Jesse Dee grew up in Boston — far from the South, where the music he loves has its roots — and could never quite shake the '50s and '60s R&B he'd heard on the radio as a kid. He started writing his own material in high school because he wanted his music to be contemporary.
Dee's first album, Bittersweet Batch, came out in 2008; his latest is On My Mind/In My Heart. His love of singing shines through, in both our conversation and this live session.
For Rhye's first-ever radio performance, we turned the lights down and lit some candles to get in the mood. We were curious to hear how the band — the project of producer Robin Hannibal and singer Mike Milosh — would translate the intimacy of its sensual, soulful music into a live setting. With the help of incredible backing players, including a string section, Hannibal and Milosh pulled off a romantic, moving set.