Songwriter/singer Haley Bonar has a voice that can clear up the weather. The artful country sound of her leaves a profound impression. Born near Winnipeg, Canada, in 1984 and raised in the Black Hills of South Dakota, she now resides in St. Paul, Minnesota. Bonar has toured with Low, Richard Buckner, Mary Lou Lord, Josh Ritter, and Neko Case. Something quirky and gifted here. The title "Something Great," from Bonar's 2008 album Big Star, is four-corners pleasing.
The Posies are the intensely imaginative Seattle-based indie/underground band founded in 1988 by Jon Auer, Darius Minwalla, Matt Harris, and Ken Stringfellow. With over 20 years together, they say, "The history between us is something that can't be erased. It just so happened that, beyond the Posies' history, we found we have a future together." Their collective collaborations include REM, Fountains of Wayne, and Ben Folds. "Could He Treat You Better," from the 2005 release Every Kind of Light, is a romantic rock 'n' roll composition and a tall melodic drink of water.
Texas bluesman Lightnin' Hopkins was born Sam Hopkins on March 15, 1912, in Centerville, Texas, into a musical family. Hopkins started out as a duo with his cousin Texas Alexander, then recorded with pianist Thunder Smith. Hopkins ultimately went solo, with a career spanning nearly 60 years. He was considered one of the finest country bluesman of the 20th century, faithful to his unique style. His collaborations include Blind Lemon Jefferson, Joan Baez, and Pete Seeger. Hopkins passed away in 1982 and left us the real McCoy: his recording of "Baby Please Don't Go," from the 1965 album Live at Newport feels like a favorite pair of shoes.
Artist: Lightnin' Hopkins
Song: Baby Please Don't Go
Album: Live at Newport
Jazz pianist, organist, and composer Carla Bley was born Carla Borg in Oakland, California, in 1936, the daughter of musical parents. Carla's father, a piano teacher/church organist, gave her music lessons at the age of 3. Carla dropped out of high school to work in a record store. She soon moved to New York to be near jazz music and the world of musicians. She got a job as a cigarette girl at the famous Birdland jazz club and met her first husband, composer/musician Paul Bley, and her career took off. Some of Carla Bley's collaborations include Ornette Coleman, Charlie Haden, Keith Jarrett, Jack Bruce, and the late Hiram Bullock. In 1995, her album Big Band Theory was nominated for a Grammy for Best Jazz Big Band Album. Bley's work is extensive and sophisticated. Get started with the dramatic title "Hotel Overture," from the 1968 album Escalator Over the Hill.
Artist: Carla Bley
Song: Hotel Overture
Album: Escalator Over the Hill
Portugal The Man
Portugal The Man was founded in the now-famous Wasilla, Alaska, by John Baldwin Gourley (guitar, vocals), Zachary Scott Carothers (bass, vocals), Ryan Neighbors (keys, vocals), and Jason Sechrist (drums), and is currently Seattle based. Although they have played together in various groups since 2002, their first recording as Portugal The Man was made in 2006. The band is possessed with flavorful swagger and a lack of self-consciousness. "Bellies Are Full," from the 2007 album Church Mouth, must be played loudly, with the top down, even if it's raining.
Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902, the great-great-nephew of John Mercer Langston, the very first black American elected to public office, in 1855. This Harlem Renaissance poet's fertile writing career continued over four decades, leaving behind sixteen books of poetry, novels, short stories, essays, biographies, plays, children's poetry, musicals, and operas, and more. Hughes died in New York on May 22, 1967. Harlem, New York's East 127th Street was later renamed Langston Hughes Place in the poet's honor. The spoken-word title "Blues Montage (Pt. 1, 2, 3)," from the 1958 album Weary Blues, compositions by the great Charles Mingus and Leonard Feather, performed by the Horace Parlan Trio and an all-star sextet, is profound, rapturous history.
Genre: Spoken Word
Artist: Langston Hughes
Song: Blues Montage (Pt. 1, 2, 3)
Album: Weary Blues