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World Cafe Words and Music from WXPN
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World Cafe Words and Music from WXPN

Author: NPR

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WXPN's live performance and interview program featuring music and conversation from a variety of important musicians
10 Episodes
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Bruce Hornsby has an appetite for the unusual that may surprise those who know him best for his 1986 smash hit "The Way It Is". His latest album, 'Absolute Zero', has a "bitonal pop song" where Hornsby plays in different keys with each hand. Another song is based on the sounds made by found objects in his studio. The album also features collaborations with artists who are known for pushing boundaries themselves. There's production from Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, and contributions from the experimental chamber ensemble yMusic and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. When Hornsby stopped by the Cafe, we talked about his long-standing appreciation for modern classical music, and how film cues he composed for director Spike Lee formed the basis for 'Absolute Zero'. He also shared stories from touring with Grateful Dead along with his theory on what makes them such a beloved band.
Michelle Zauner has an incredibly rich creative life. She makes music as Japanese Breakfast with her collaborator Craig Hendrix, she scores video games, she directs music videos for people like Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst and she's currently writing a book based on 'The New Yorker' essay she wrote called "Crying in H Mart." H Mart is an Asian grocery store chain and it's a place that holds some of Michelle's memories with her Korean mother who died in 2014. Michelle talks about how the loss of her mom informed her own sense of identity as well as her first two Japanese Breakfast albums.
In the aftermath of the Parkland mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, some of the surviving students came together with their parents to form Shine MSD. The organization is devoted to promoting healing through the arts, and their latest project is a trumpet made out of bullet casings that's touring the country. It's called the "Instrument of Hope". In this World Cafe special, we meet Shine co-founders Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Peña, as well as Josh Landress who created the trumpet at his shop in New York City.
You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you can sometimes glean a little bit about an artist by the track listing on the cover of their album. Run your finger past the song titles on Lee Fields' latest album, 'It Rains Love' — across "Blessed by the Best," "God Is Real," "Love is the Answer" — and you might rightly guess that Fields is a singer invested in spreading love through soulful music. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first single Fields ever released. He's holding it down in a circle that's getting smaller and smaller. In the last few years, Fields has lost friends and peers like Charles Bradley, who was known as the "Screaming Eagle of Soul," and Sharon Jones, who at one time was Fields' back-up singer. Lee's longtime band, The Expressions, are a who's who of session musicians and sometimes double as The Daptones house band. Fields shares the sage advice he got from legendary preacher and singer Solomon Burke and stories about his early days, including the speakeasy his parents used to run out of their home in North Carolina on weekends.
Ian Noe has an incredible way with words. On his debut album, 'Between The Country', they are not the most uplifting or pleasant. They're a reflection of what he's seen growing up and living in rural Kentucky. The state has had a streak of songwriters that have exploded onto the scene telling tales of their modern America — from Chris Stapleton to Sturgill Simpson — but Noe feels especially raw and visceral, something that acclaimed producer Dave Cobb made sure to keep in the recordings at RCA Studio A.
Craig Finn is one of the most eloquent storytellers in music. The people at the heart of his songs are filled with emotions and often flaws. As he says, he's interested in the high and the hangover. On his third solo album, 'I Need a New War', the people at the heart of these songs have seen a lot, and unlike some of the characters in his band, The Hold Steady, who embrace the bad decisions, they're trying to do the right thing. How that works out for them? Debatable. But that's the thing about Craig. These songs are nuanced. You'll find yourself laughing with a character in the first verse and on the verge of tears by the last chorus. Craig's got a knack for geography as well, and he'll tell some great stories about touring the country, including one about the most unfriendly bar in Montana.
Grammy Award-winning musician and producer Adrian Quesada was just about to get in the car after having lunch with a producer friend in Austin when he casually tossed out the question, "Oh hey! By the way, do you know anybody who would, like, sing on these songs?" Quesada had been on the hunt for the right voice to bring the soulful sound he heard in his head to life on a new project to no avail, and asked his friend whether any names popped to mind. Quesada's friend asked if he had heard of Austin-by-way-of-LA busker and singer-songwriter Eric Burton? Quesada did some digging and found it was love at first listen. Together they became Black Pumas, a band that caught major buzz at SXSW in 2018, a mere month after its formation. Black Pumas have now released its self-titled full-length debut album. Hear live performances and a conversation with Quesada and Burton about their unique, respective backgrounds, including why Quesada says musicians are the "truck drivers of the art world."
Cedric Burnside is a drummer, guitarist, singer and performer. You can hear all of those elements come together on 'Benton County Relic', his latest album. Burnside grew up in Benton County in rural Mississippi where he was raised by his grandfather, the late bluesman, R.L. Burnside. In this session, Cedric explains how growing up in a very poor environment made him who he is today. Which is why songs like "We Made It" are so personal to him. He'll perform live and also teach a little hill country blues riff.
It started with notes scribbled on napkins. Ben Lovett was touring the 2015 album 'Wilder Mind' with his band, Mumford and Sons, and sketching out his dream venue on whatever paper scraps he could. Having previously built his reputation for curation on a club-night-turned-independent-record-label called Communion, Ben wanted to give that spirit a home in the form of a music venue. Ben turned his dream into a reality called Omeara, a 320-capacity venue near London Bridge. On our recent World Cafe trip to London, Ben invited us to come check out Omeara. He showed us around and explained his philosophy on what makes a good venue, which includes dignified accommodations for artists unlike the "toilet touring" he describes experiencing early on in Mumford and Sons' career. Ben also explained how he turned a former railway arch into a completely soundproof space, and why no matter how big things get for Mumford and Sons, he'll always stay devoted to shining a light on independent talent.
It started with notes scribbled on napkins. Ben Lovett was touring the 2015 album 'Wilder Mind' with his band, Mumford and Sons, and sketching out his dream venue on whatever paper scraps he could. Having previously built his reputation for curation on a club-night-turned-independent-record-label called Communion, Ben wanted to give that spirit a home in the form of a music venue. Ben turned his dream into a reality called Omeara, a 320-capacity venue near London Bridge. On our recent World Cafe trip to London, Ben invited us to come check out Omeara. He showed us around and explained his philosophy on what makes a good venue, which includes dignified accommodations for artists unlike the "toilet touring" he describes experiencing early on in Mumford and Sons' career. Ben also explained how he turned a former railway arch into a completely soundproof space, and why no matter how big things get for Mumford and Sons, he'll always stay devoted to shining a light on independent talent.
Comments (7)

jackieblue361

Great series!

Mar 13th
Reply

Jaime Ochoa

C ef

Dec 6th
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Greg Lewis

Jaime Ochoa 6

Feb 21st
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Pamela Greenstein

Great interview for this Journey fan!

Oct 26th
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Jeremy Mitchell

no

Jul 28th
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Carol Van Note

Jeremy Mitchell we're s we'd ffuoa

Jul 1st
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Alex Reyes

god

Jan 8th
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