Blues

Every January, I attend globalFEST at a New York City nightclub and see some of the most fantastic music I'll experience all year. Now, given the pandemic's challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST moved the 2021 edition from the nightclub to your screen of choice and shared the festival with the world. We called it Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST.

To be a respected citizen of the bluegrass world, no matter how far newgrass, jamgrass, folk-rock, pop, indie and classical offshoots push its boundaries, requires being able to play in a traditional style with real command and grit. The band Sister Sadie has certainly lived up to that musical ideal over the past eight years through various festival and club dates and two album releases.

Founding singer-guitarist Dale Ann Bradley describes, with conviction and an evocative gardening tool metaphor, how her band mates attack their instruments:

Congratulations! You made it to 2021! This year, more than any other in recent memory, maybe you're excited for a fresh start — and certainly hopeful that this year might be better than the last. While we can't know what the future holds, this day may well feel like you've made it to the other side of something, like you've crossed a bridge over troubled water. To kick off the new year, here's a playlist that's all about new beginnings. Enjoy.

Blues legend Robert Johnson has been mythologized as a backwoods loner, his talent the result of selling his soul to the devil. Wrong and wrong again, according to Johnson's younger stepsister, who lives in Amherst, Mass. She tells his true story in Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson, a memoir about growing up with her brother she published in June.

Her name is Annye Anderson, but unless you're older than she is — and fat chance of that, as she's 94 — you better call her Mrs. Anderson.

When the 63rd annual Grammy Awards ceremony airs on Sunday, Jan, 31, the show will probably be unlike any Grammys we've seen before. The pandemic has changed the music industry in all sorts of ways, and that includes its "biggest night" — but there's still a ton of great music to celebrate, and many of this year's nominated artists are World Cafe alumni.

There's been a lot of talking recently. A lot of words. A lot of people talking, arguing, debating, shouting slogans at you. So today we present a giant playlist of songs with no words: 100 instrumental jams to clear your head. You can groove, you can surf, you can even "East St Louis Toodle-Oo."

On her new album, Uncivil War, blues singer Shemekia Copeland tells the story of what's thought to be the last slave ship to smuggle African captives to American shores, the Clotilda. On the centerpiece track, she sings:

She's coming for you, hear the chains rattle,
Turn you into a slave, another piece of chattel

Kingfish: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

Oct 20, 2020

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

Sometimes bass guitar can be an overlooked instrument. Sometimes it gets relegated to the background. But today, it's a 62-song playlist that's all about that bass. We asked our social followers "What is the greatest bass riff of all time?" and they delivered.

When you speak with The War and Treaty, you can feel the love that Tanya Blount-Trotter and Michael Trotter Jr have for each other and their fans, whom they credit as helping create the bubble of acceptance that is the duo's latest album, Hearts Town.

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