Ann Powers

Ann Powers appears in the following:

Anderson East, 'Satisfy Me'

Monday, April 06, 2015

Often when young singers connect with soul or blues legacies, they don angels' wings — reaching for transcendent big notes within arrangements as clean and full of echo as a megachurch. Not Anderson East. The Athens, Alabama, native, who's lived in Nashville since his days at Middle Tennessee State University, ...


First Listen: Villagers, 'Darling Arithmetic'

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Villagers began as a lush one-man band with 2010's Becoming A Jackal, then morphed into an even more complex collaborative effort in time for 2013's {Awayland}, as Dublin singer-songwriter Conor O'Brien learned to work with a team he'd assembled. A natural progression would involve Villagers exploring that full-band dynamic ...


First Listen: Dwight Yoakam, 'Second Hand Heart'

Sunday, April 05, 2015

The country singer-songwriter's 15th studio album feels as fresh as anything he's ever done. Better yet, these songs were built to be played live.


The National, 'Sunshine On My Back'

Thursday, April 02, 2015

When I was a kid, I loved Paul McCartney to distraction. He was my first crush, my doe-eyed androgynous masculine ideal — goofy in Beatles movies, unabashedly feelingful in their songs, sexy in that innocent, what-is-sex-anyhow fashion that a twelve-year-old craves. But I hated the song ...


How To Be Alone: Musicians Confront Solitude

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

In his formal, disarmingly humble way, Sufjan Stevens accomplishes something remarkable in the first notes of his new album, Carrie & Lowell. After a Bach-like interlude plucked on a ukulele, Stevens opens this confessional meditation on mourning and reconciliation with a characteristic whisper. "Spirit of my silence, I ...


Torres, 'Sprinter'

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Walk America's motor-mown playing fields on a Sunday afternoon, past baseball diamonds that look like half-hewn crop circles and running tracks cut in dirt or clay. See the swarms of children neatening themselves into game formations, each one trying to tamp down nervous energy and make her talent behave. Skinny ...


Buffy Sainte-Marie, 'It's My Way'

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sometimes the simplest declarations echo most forcefully through time. Repeated, growing and shifting to fit different contexts, phrases like I am somebody or give peace a chance or fight the power define and support the core experience of being human. So much can be communicated in just three or four ...


Benjamin Booker Faces The Past

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The guitar-wielding kids of the American South are in the midst of a full-fledged roots revival. What started amongst a few friends in towns throughout the region has blossomed into a community connecting New Orleans to Nashville to the rest of a nation eager to hear classic music reimagined by ...


Banditos, 'Cry Baby Cry'

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

On the cover of its soon-to-be released Bloodshot Records debut album, the rock and roll marauders in Banditos are relaxing on an American flag. The huge banner makes up the floor and walls of a makeshift living room, where the group lounges in voluminous hair, hats and, on drummer Randy ...


Sympathy For The Devils

Saturday, February 28, 2015

It's been five years since Kanye West raised his glass to "the a--holes" in the song "Runaway," a poetic taxonomy of bad behavior that formed the emotional center of his masterwork My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It's a sad song about romantic failure, but also a ...


First Listen: Andrew Combs, 'All These Dreams'

Sunday, February 22, 2015

It ain't easy being genteel. Refinement goes against the grain of both rock 'n' roll and Top 40 pop: The former's deliberately confrontational history and the latter's need to hook the masses make it hard to cultivate a sense of balance. Indie-rock fans tend to prefer a rough edge or ...


Chris Stapleton, 'Traveller'

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

If you're a lover of songs well sung, you probably have a few voices you carry around to provide encouragement when things get rough and warm affirmation during moments of happiness. Chris Stapleton's voice is ideal for the journey. Perfectly imperfect, grounded in the taciturn expressiveness of his native Kentucky ...


Alabama Shakes, 'Don't Wanna Fight'

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

As I sat down to write a few lines on the instantly arresting new song from Alabama Shakes, a swarm of blue-headed birds touched down on my front lawn, pressing right up against my window. Thanks, nature, for giving me a metaphor! That swarm is what this deep soul ...


First Listen: The Mavericks, 'Mono'

Sunday, February 08, 2015

In his rockabilly history Go Cat Go!, ethnomusicologist Craig Morrison describes the typical cradle of rock 'n' roll: a community hall reconfigured to serve as a nightclub for a night. "There might be Christmas lights strung across the back of the stage, tables and chairs around the perimeter of ...


Leon Bridges, 'Coming Home'

Monday, February 02, 2015

"There was just nobody doing it," 25-year-old Fort Worth wonder Leon Bridges recently told a hometown reporter of his decision to pursue the sound of 1960 in his rhythm and blues. It seems like a strange comment, especially when you hear "Coming Home," one of two songs that ...


First Listen: Rhiannon Giddens, 'Tomorrow Is My Turn'

Sunday, February 01, 2015

What does it take for a work of art to become an intervention? In music, any reinterpretation alters the original, if only because different fingerprints touch it. But certain lineages — folk music, for example — are built on the bones of those retellings. Whoever owns a song for a ...


First Listen: JD McPherson, 'Let The Good Times Roll'

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Two stretched concepts made the rock 'n' roll coming out of Sun Studios in the 1950s unlike other music of its kind: time and space. In a shabby little room near downtown Memphis, Sam Phillips gave the men and kids he recorded all the room in the world. "Spontaneity" was ...


From The Isleys To Aaliyah To Frank Ocean, The Evolution Of 'Love'

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

When Frank Ocean released his version of The Isley Brothers' Quiet Storm classic "At Your Best (You Are Love)" last week, it was both a flower left at a grave and an investment in the future. Posted on the boundary-blending singer-songwriter's Tumblr the day after what ...


Andrew Combs, 'Nothing To Lose'

Monday, January 26, 2015

For any young artist, an important leap happens when influences are absorbed and the act of mining the past transforms into something personal. That's what happens on All These Dreams, the second album from the singer-songwriter Andrew Combs, to be released in the U.S. in early March. Combs is an ...


First Listen: Diana Krall, 'Wallflower'

Sunday, January 25, 2015

In the 1970s, when Diana Krall was growing up, children and young adolescents regularly encountered very adult music on Top 40 radio. These songs were different from the sexually explicit playground rhymes so common in mainstream music today. They often centered on seduction, but were just as likely to ...