Singer/songstress Martha Wainwright's voice can captivate, shatter your defenses, and open wide your heart. Born in Montreal, the youngest child of a seriously musical family (father Loudon Wainwright III, mother Kate McGarrigle, and brother Rufus Wainwright). Some of her collaborations include her brother, her mother, Pete Townshend, Donald Fagen, and Leonard Cohen. The title "Tower Song," written by Wainwright for her 2008 release I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too, is total theater inside an achingly fantastical arrangement.
Peddle steel guitar master Robert Randolph was born in 1978 just outside Newark, New Jersey, the son of a minister. After his parents divorced, young Robert was raised by his father, a deacon in the House of God church. Randolph's teens were spent on the precipice of rebellion, at the same time, making his bones in church playing "sacred steel," a.k.a. peddle steel. Randolph's Family Band is cousin Marcus Randolph (drums), Danyel Morgan (bass/vocals), and Jason Crosby (B-3 organ/piano). Collaborations include Medeski Martin & Wood and Soulive. Randolph is a profound talent with genius energy. The title "Ain't Nothing Wrong With That," from the album Colorblind, is a feisty breath of fresh funky air.
Virtuoso rock and blues guitarist Derek Trucks, a native of Jacksonville, Florida (born June 8, 1979), is of Southern rock nobility. His uncle, Butch Trucks, is the drummer for the legendary Allman Brothers Band. At the age of 9, Derek picked up the guitar, and by 12 he was performing with the Allman Brothers and Buddy Guy. By the age of 20, he was shredding with the likes of Bob Dylan, Stephen Stills, and Joe Walsh. Collaborations also include his wife, the Grammy-nominated singer Susan Tedeschi, as well as Mr. Eric Clapton. The band includes Todd Smallie (bass), Yonrico Scott (drums), Kofi Burbridge (keys/flute), and Mike Mattison (lead vocals). Trucks is graceful and intuitive. The title "This Sky," written by Trucks, Mattison, and producer Jay Joyce, from the 2006 release Songlines, is pure bliss. Currently and always touring. Go catch him.
Songwriter/singer John Prine was born in Maywood, Illinois, in 1946. His grandfather played with legendary picker Merle Travis; Prine's steelworker father was also a guitarist. Nearing the age of 14, he learned guitar from his older brother. In the early '70s he was discovered by folk musician Steve Goodman and Kris Kristofferson, who championed his first record deal, with Atlantic Records founder Jerry Wexler. Prine's collaborations include Bette Midler, Joan Baez, The Everly Brothers, Lucinda Williams, and John Mellencamp. After releasing his first live album in 1988, Prine won the Best Contemporary Folk Grammy for The Missing Years, which was produced by Howie Epstein (of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), and had guest appearances by Petty, Bruce Springsteen, and Bonnie Raitt. The title "Angel From Montgomery" (a recording made famous by Raitt), from his 1972 eponymous release John Prine, produced by Arif Mardin, has stood the test of time.
Artist: John Prine
Song: Angel From Montgomery
Album: John Prine
Good Old War
Good Old War is the euphonious Philadelphia-based trio of Keith Goodwin (guitar/keys), Dan Schwartz (guitars), and Tim Arnold (drums/keys). All three do the singing. Good Old War charms with a genuine feel-goodness. The album has no posing or forced trickery. The title "Weak Man," from Good Old War's 2008 release Only Way to Be Alone, gratifies. Catch them on tour.
Artist: Good Old War
Song: Weak Man
Album: Only Way to Be Alone
Singer/songwriter Conor Oberst was born on February 15, 1980. Raised in Omaha, Nebraska, the youngest of three children in a musical family. By the age of 10 he picked up the guitar and started writing songs. Left Omaha and the indie band Bright Eyes in 2007. Shortly thereafter, Oberst summoned engineer Andy LeMaster and produced his self-titled 2008 collection in a mountain villa in Tepoztlan, Morales, Mexico, with The Mystic Valley Band (guitarists Taylor Hollingsworth and Nik Freitas, Macey Taylor on bass, Nate Walcott on keyboards/trumpet, and drummer Jason Boesel). Oberst has a compelling storytelling voice. The title "Cape Canaveral," from the new album Conor Oberst, is imagination, poetry, heart, and a little nerve. Currently touring.