All Songs Considered hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton are back from their 2012 World Tour, which is to say they visited Seattle and Portland, Ore. last week, and have returned with a batch of new songs and stories to share. On the west coast Bob and Robin hosted a couple of listening parties, where they played music for an audience, the audience got to rate the songs, then everyone talked about them, just like hardcore music fans.
Texas singer-songwriter James McMurtry makes his ninth appearance on Mountain Stage. Drawing from his family's storytelling tradition — he's the son of novelist Larry McMurtry — he fuses wry, literate observations about the world he inhabits with the snarl of barroom rock. The result is at times sardonic, subversive and funny, but often vulnerable and always poignant.
The late Stephane Grappelli is perhaps the best-known jazz violinist in history. His collaborations with guitarist Django Reinhardt have influenced countless musicians. A comparison to Grappelli is one of the highest honors a young, rising violinist can receive.
Matthew E. White is an old soul conversant in music's past. On the cover of his debut album, Big Inner, his aesthetic is reminiscent of 1970 John Lennon on the cover of Abbey Road. The Manila-born, Virginia-raised musician was heavily influenced by the early works of Randy Newman — specifically Newman's 1972 album Sail Away.
Regina Spektor plays the piano so loudly, she has to convince piano tuners to adjust the instrument to her liking.
"It gets so loud that the strings reverberate in a certain way," Spektor says. "And I always want them to work on the voicing and to soften the hammers, and they get kind of argumentative with me — they're like, 'You're not supposed to play this loud.'"