Ann Powers

Ann Powers appears in the following:

Nora Jane Struthers, 'The Same Road'

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Nora Jane Struthers is guided by fire. Coming up within the tradition-minded bluegrass world, she spent her youth in a family band with her father, a good daughter learning tradition. But since she's been leading her own band, the Party Line, Struthers has poured more and more emotion into her ...


TV On The Radio And The Paradox Of The Midcareer Band

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pity the midcareer artist, stuck in the long middle distance of working things out. Youth is honey, redolent of novelty, physical charm and energetic self-absorption. Veteran status, while still dangerously marginal, at least affords deference, since few in our culture expect creative lives to last as long as life itself. ...


Houndmouth, 'For No One'

Monday, November 10, 2014

Immediacy is a quality in music that's difficult to define. It's not the same as originality, but it does involve surprise: the happy shock of someone saying something that registers, waking up the senses, even if the sentiment's familiar. The Indiana band Houndmouth showed a gift for immediacy from the ...


Wild Moccasins, 'Eye Makeup'

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Someone once told Andy Warhol that he and his 1970s New York art pals invented punk. "No," he replied. "We just knew a few drag queens." Gender trouble has always been essential to rock and roll, and especially to punk and New Wave, music genres dedicated to tearing ...


First Listen: Marianne Faithfull, 'Give My Love To London'

Sunday, November 02, 2014

In many classic stories, there comes a point where someone speaks from the corner and changes everything. A stranger reveals the secret that solves a mystery; a minor character finally unburdens herself, and her words reconfigure the plot. Marianne Faithfull's music comes from that place of shadow and revelation. ...


The Many New Voices Of Taylor Swift

Thursday, October 30, 2014

As the White Queen of a pop realm in which stars are the chess-piece avatars moving on the other side of each fan's ever-shifting looking glass, Taylor Swift has been able to inhabit many contradictory identities. She's a pretty, popular beneficiary of privilege and a champion ...


Wade Bowen, 'Long Enough To Be A Memory'

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Right now, I'm sitting in a hotel in Cleveland, Ohio, eating a cheeseburger and listening to Texas country troubadour Wade Bowen's melancholy ballad about learning to make wherever you hang your hat your home. Like so many people trying to get and stay ahead, I travel for my work — ...


Fly Golden Eagle: 'Stepping Stone'

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Making music in a band is always and experiment. The players throw different elements into the enzymatic mix, let it all bubble together, and come up with a new compound every time. Recording these interactions for something as self-promotional as a music video can feel intrusive, like freezing something volatile. ...


The 2014 Campaign Ads That You Just Can't Stop Replaying

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

States that could determine which party controls the Senate next year have been barraged for months with campaign ads. For better or for worse, here are some of the most noteworthy.


Are These The Next Crossover Country Stars?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Now that Taylor Swift has left Nashville behind, a handful of other up-and-coming stars are showing how country crosses over with other genres — and hoping for success that does the same.


Hear Two Songs From Duncan Sheik's Next Album

Thursday, October 16, 2014

In April 2015, Duncan Sheik, a songwriter who has had hits on both pop radio and the Broadway stage, will release Legerdemain, his first album of original material since 2009's Whisper House and the first not connected to a theater piece since 2006's White Limousine. Sheik crafted the ...


Steelism, 'Marfa Lights'

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Nashville instrumental group Steelism stands out for its ability to blend vintage styles — steel-guitar jazz, surf rock, the cool vibe of 1960s movie soundtracks — in ways that don't feel dated. Steelism's playfulness, embodied in the easy dialogues between guitarists Jeremy Fetzer and Spencer Cullum, Jr., freshens up ...


First Listen: Neil Diamond, 'Melody Road'

Sunday, October 12, 2014

In 1989, the producer Don Was approached Neil Diamond about making a record. "'I called [him] and said, 'Neil, I think you're a rock 'n' roll artist, but you lost your way, and I know how to make it right,'" Was told a reporter in 2013. The two ...


The Dream Of Ridiculous Men

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The last short story Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote is about being seriously ridiculous. In "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man," an intellectual prone to existentialist despair is saved from suicide when, in a vision, he discovers a parallel planet where humanity has never sinned. "It was like being in love with ...


First Listen: Angaleena Presley, 'American Middle Class'

Sunday, October 05, 2014

The temptation when confronting a serious problem is to either cry it out or laugh it off. This is true in country music, as in life. Even the greatest songs about heavy subjects either diffuse the tension with jokes or go entirely maudlin, providing catharsis without true clarity. Angaleena Presley, ...


Roots, Plugged In

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

When I put Jonah Tolchin's performance at Third Man Records on my schedule for Americana Fest, the annual gathering of roots-minded musicians that took over Nashville last week, I thought I was going to see a young artist playing old-timey music. Earlier this year, the 22-year-old New Jerseyite released an ...


First Listen: Leonard Cohen, 'Popular Problems'

Monday, September 15, 2014

Leonard Cohen is not a man for manifestos. Peripatetic bohemian, Montreal native, Zen meditator, diaspora Jew: Rock's almost-octogenarian philosopher emeritus inhabits identities that are multiple, contested, and resistant to orthodoxy. He is, however, willing to lay some things on the line. "I'm slowing down the tune, I never liked ...


An Emerging Voice Of Americana (And Oklahoma)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

It's a good time to be a young contender in Americana music. The term itself, in wide use since the Americana Music Association came into being in 1999, has always applied to traditional music that also makes room for other things, like rock and roll energy, singer-songwriter individualism, and even, ...


First Listen: Steelism, '615 To FAME'

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Asked to define the essential sound of classic country music, a fan might adjust the dictum Duke Ellington and lyricist Irving Mills once applied to jazz: "It don't mean a thang if it ain't got that twang." But twang — the instrumental equivalent of a Southern accent, a sweet-and-sour ...


First Listen: Robert Plant, 'Lullaby And... The Ceaseless Roar'

Monday, September 01, 2014

The Irish poet William Butler Yeats once famously evoked the drift of time through the image of old men gazing at their own watery reflections. "Everything alters, and one by one we drop away," Yeats' elders say as they themselves sit solidly at the shore. Robert Plant is ...