The Handsome Family, the wife and husband duo of Rennie Sparks (vocals, bass and banjo) and Brett Sparks (vocals, guitar and keyboards), love telling stories, and they've been doing it in song for 20 years. A new album, Wilderness, is out May 14, and "Woodpecker," a song from the album, tells a fascinating tale about Mary Sweeney, who, in the 1890's, was known as the Wisconsin Window Smasher.
For its eighth and most recent appearance on Mountain Stage, the iconic Western swing band Asleep at the Wheel traveled to the birthplace of country music in the border town of Bristol, Tenn./Va. Led for more than 40 years by singer-guitarist Ray Benson, the group was conceived in the tiny town of Paw Paw, W.Va., in 1969. Since then, Asleep at the Wheel has become the world's undisputed king of Western swing bands.
"Pink Champagne," a song on Caitlin Rose's second album The Stand-In, presents Rose's voice in its sparest purity and veiled shrewdness. She sends her voice skyward, the notes as buoyant and light as the bubbles of the pink champagne she's singing about. Her high trills could, with only a slight shift in tone and attitude, become self-conscious with a Betty Boop coyness, as they do once or twice on The Stand-In. But most of the time, Rose keeps her music grounded in the details of yearning, heartache and a welcome sense of gratefulness and enthused energy.
Imagine the capital of Somalia, Mogadishu, in the 1980s. You can't, right? Neither can most music critics. That's why the recent re-release of a record by a popular '80s-era Mogadishu dance band has caught the attention of critics lately.
The founders of Dur-Dur Band now live in Columbus, Ohio. Weekends on All Things Considered asked members Abdinur Daljir and Sahra Dawo to go to a studio there — accompanied by an interpreter — to talk about the newly reissued record and the story that precedes it.
For decades, the Austin Lounge Lizards have been trying to keep their Texas hometown weird. Armed with an alt-country sound and precise harmonies, the members have been spoofing politics, religion and romance for as long as most Austinites can remember. Now, they're releasing their first studio album in seven years, Home and Deranged. Founding members Hank Card and Conrad Deisler spoke with NPR's Rachel Martin; click the audio link on this page to hear their conversation.