1. Ken Tucker reviews Jenny Lewis' new album, Voyager : 

"Lewis’ strength as a singer is that she’s a powerful vocalist who rarely shows off her chops—like the once and future actress she is, she knows how to modulate the emotions she puts out there, holding back to achieve some of her best effects. This is a quality showcased on a song produced by Beck called “Just One of the Guys.” The song is getting some attention for its video, which features Lewis singing alongside gal pals including Anne Hathaway and Kristen Stewart, but you don’t need the visuals to lock into the hypnotic allure of the melody.”


View in High-Res

    Ken Tucker reviews Jenny Lewis' new album, Voyager : 

    "Lewis’ strength as a singer is that she’s a powerful vocalist who rarely shows off her chops—like the once and future actress she is, she knows how to modulate the emotions she puts out there, holding back to achieve some of her best effects. This is a quality showcased on a song produced by Beck called “Just One of the Guys.” The song is getting some attention for its video, which features Lewis singing alongside gal pals including Anne Hathaway and Kristen Stewart, but you don’t need the visuals to lock into the hypnotic allure of the melody.”

  2. jenny lewis

    voyager

    music review

    ken tucker

  1. Cowboy Jack Clement was a prolific producer, songwriter, arranger, and talent scout.  He only made three albums of his own, the last of which is the new For Once and For All, executive produced by T Bone Burnett.  Ken Tucker reviews: 

Cowboy Jack Clement – the “cowboy” nickname was always something of a joke; he once said, “cowboy boots make my feet hurt”—was a colorful character as well as a first-rate songwriter and producer. Clement told music historian Peter Guralnick that Shakespeare and PG Wodehouse were influences on him as significant as any country or rock & roll artist, and since he wrote tunes for Johnny Cash called “Dirty Old Egg-Suckin’ Dog” and “Flushed from the Bathroom of your Heart,” I’m inclined to believe him. He also wrote some of the finest pure-country songs ever. 
View in High-Res

    Cowboy Jack Clement was a prolific producer, songwriter, arranger, and talent scout.  He only made three albums of his own, the last of which is the new For Once and For All, executive produced by T Bone Burnett.  Ken Tucker reviews: 

    Cowboy Jack Clement – the “cowboy” nickname was always something of a joke; he once said, “cowboy boots make my feet hurt”—was a colorful character as well as a first-rate songwriter and producer. Clement told music historian Peter Guralnick that Shakespeare and PG Wodehouse were influences on him as significant as any country or rock & roll artist, and since he wrote tunes for Johnny Cash called “Dirty Old Egg-Suckin’ Dog” and “Flushed from the Bathroom of your Heart,” I’m inclined to believe him. He also wrote some of the finest pure-country songs ever. 

  2. cowboy jack clement

    t bone burnett

    ken tucker

    review

  1. Ken Tucker on Jim Lauderdale's 'admirable and somewhat puzzling career' and his new album I’m a Song: 

"So with all these good songs and strong singing, why isn’t Lauderdale a bigger star? I think one answer is the absence of a consistent persona in his work. Look at his idols: George Jones is, in Jim’s phrase, the king of broken hearts; Gram Parsons is the sensitive tragic hero that Lauderdale is too optimistic and too wise to the ways of the music biz to emulate; bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, with whom Lauderdale recorded a Grammy-winning album, is the kind of formalist that Jim never aspired to be. Lauderdale rarely goes as bleakly dark as his pal Buddy Miller can, both on guitar and in lyrics with his wife Julie Miller. One reason Lauderdale is a successful songwriter for others is because he can slip into others’ skins, and write from different points of view and moods. On his own projects, and on the satellite radio show he co-hosts with Buddy Miller, he projects a sunniness that to some listeners may come across as lightweight. But it takes as much craft to sound resilient as it does to sound shattered and depressed."
View in High-Res

    Ken Tucker on Jim Lauderdale's 'admirable and somewhat puzzling career' and his new album I’m a Song:

    "So with all these good songs and strong singing, why isn’t Lauderdale a bigger star? I think one answer is the absence of a consistent persona in his work. Look at his idols: George Jones is, in Jim’s phrase, the king of broken hearts; Gram Parsons is the sensitive tragic hero that Lauderdale is too optimistic and too wise to the ways of the music biz to emulate; bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, with whom Lauderdale recorded a Grammy-winning album, is the kind of formalist that Jim never aspired to be. Lauderdale rarely goes as bleakly dark as his pal Buddy Miller can, both on guitar and in lyrics with his wife Julie Miller. One reason Lauderdale is a successful songwriter for others is because he can slip into others’ skins, and write from different points of view and moods. On his own projects, and on the satellite radio show he co-hosts with Buddy Miller, he projects a sunniness that to some listeners may come across as lightweight. But it takes as much craft to sound resilient as it does to sound shattered and depressed."

  2. jim lauderdale

    review

    ken tucker

  1. Musician Timothy Showalter has been recording under the name Strand of Oaks since 2006. He has cited performers ranging from Jeff Buckley to the comedian Richard Pryor as influences. Rock critic Ken Tucker reviews his album ‘Heal’:


"If you’re going to be downbeat, glum, or morose, it’s best to do it the way Timothy Showalter does it. Which is, with an energy and purpose that doesn’t contradict the melancholy, but rather frames it as various stories—studies in seriousness. He records under the name Strand of Oaks, he writes and performs nearly all of the music on this new album himself, and it’s titled Heal as in “healing a wound,” something Strand of Oaks frequently seems in need of."
View in High-Res

    Musician Timothy Showalter has been recording under the name Strand of Oaks since 2006. He has cited performers ranging from Jeff Buckley to the comedian Richard Pryor as influences. Rock critic Ken Tucker reviews his album ‘Heal’:

    "If you’re going to be downbeat, glum, or morose, it’s best to do it the way Timothy Showalter does it. Which is, with an energy and purpose that doesn’t contradict the melancholy, but rather frames it as various stories—studies in seriousness. He records under the name Strand of Oaks, he writes and performs nearly all of the music on this new album himself, and it’s titled Heal as in “healing a wound,” something Strand of Oaks frequently seems in need of."

  2. strand of oaks

    timothy showalter

    ken tucker

    review

  1. 
"Lana Del Rey is sharp-witted, aiming to take her place among her predecessors. She is Morrissey with a better pout; she is Katy Perry with the blues. She’s the daughter Twin Peaks’ Laura Palmer never lived to have. Del Rey dares you to believe that she’s all trouble and impure pleasure, even as she crafts music so darkly inviting, it enters you like a knife between your ribs."

- Ken Tucker on Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence
View in High-Res

    "Lana Del Rey is sharp-witted, aiming to take her place among her predecessors. She is Morrissey with a better pout; she is Katy Perry with the blues. She’s the daughter Twin Peaks’ Laura Palmer never lived to have. Del Rey dares you to believe that she’s all trouble and impure pleasure, even as she crafts music so darkly inviting, it enters you like a knife between your ribs."

    - Ken Tucker on Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence

  2. lana del rey

    review

    ultraviolence

    ken tucker

    fresh air

  1. Fresh Air critic Ken Tucker reviews the latest album from Parquet Courts, Sunbathing Animal: 

Parquet Courts creates songs that dare you to be irritated by them. They stick with a riff like that one, a song called “Dear Ramona,” and shuffle into it lines such as “Whoever she might be goin’ to bed with, you can read about that in her moleskine.” There’s an undercurrent of sarcasm there, and I would be surprised if the Parquet Courts boys don’t own a few moleskine notebooks themselves. But making clever snark develop into something more emotional, more revelatory — that’s the challenge the band sets for itself. 


photo by Ben Rayner via Rolling Stone View in High-Res

    Fresh Air critic Ken Tucker reviews the latest album from Parquet Courts, Sunbathing Animal: 

    Parquet Courts creates songs that dare you to be irritated by them. They stick with a riff like that one, a song called “Dear Ramona,” and shuffle into it lines such as “Whoever she might be goin’ to bed with, you can read about that in her moleskine.” There’s an undercurrent of sarcasm there, and I would be surprised if the Parquet Courts boys don’t own a few moleskine notebooks themselves. But making clever snark develop into something more emotional, more revelatory — that’s the challenge the band sets for itself.

    photo by Ben Rayner via Rolling Stone

  2. parquet courts

    ken tucker

    music

    review

    sunbathing animal

  1. Miranda Lambert leads off her enormously entertaining album Platinum with that song, “Girls.” It’s a mini-manifesto of country feminism nicely complicated by Lambert’s cheerful acknowledgment that making a blanket statement about ALL women is a fool’s game. And Miranda is no fool. She began her career opining about everything from domestic violence to smokin’ and drinkin’. Now, a superstar at the center of her industry, she’s—well, she’s devising new ways to sing about smokin’ and drinkin’.

    — 

    Ken Tucker

     Hear the full review of Miranda Lambert’s new album Platinum

  2. miranda lambert

    country music

    ken tucker

    review

  1. Ken Tucker reviews Oklahoma singer-songwriter John Fullbright's second album titled Songs:

John Fullbright’s Songs is the most interestingly uneven album I’ve heard in a while. The work of a very smart young man, it’s also the work of a very self-conscious young man, one prone to mistaking articulate melancholy for wisdom. Fullbright’s debut album contained bold melodies and told stories about daydreamers and off-beat people. On this new one, Fullbright opts for pure mood-setting, sounding morose in an attempt to signal subtle passion, but that’s not really how it plays out. 

Photo of Fullbright by David McClister, via Rolling Stone View in High-Res

    Ken Tucker reviews Oklahoma singer-songwriter John Fullbright's second album titled Songs:

    John Fullbright’s Songs is the most interestingly uneven album I’ve heard in a while. The work of a very smart young man, it’s also the work of a very self-conscious young man, one prone to mistaking articulate melancholy for wisdom. Fullbright’s debut album contained bold melodies and told stories about daydreamers and off-beat people. On this new one, Fullbright opts for pure mood-setting, sounding morose in an attempt to signal subtle passion, but that’s not really how it plays out.

    Photo of Fullbright by David McClister, via Rolling Stone

  2. john fullbright

    ken tucker

    review

    singer-songwriter

  1. 
The title song on Ray LaMontagne's new album, Supernova, features sunny, just-this-side-of-psychedelic production and instrumentation. It’s a bright plea to a woman to join the singer on some new romantic adventures. For a guy who made his reputation as a morosely troubled, soulful crooner, it’s a departure, and a welcome one.

You can read/listen to Ken Tucker’s full review here. View in High-Res

    The title song on Ray LaMontagne's new album, Supernova, features sunny, just-this-side-of-psychedelic production and instrumentation. It’s a bright plea to a woman to join the singer on some new romantic adventures. For a guy who made his reputation as a morosely troubled, soulful crooner, it’s a departure, and a welcome one.

    You can read/listen to Ken Tucker’s full review here.

  2. ray lamontagne

    supernova

    music review

    ken tucker

  1. 
tUnE-yArDs is Merrill Garbus. She writes the songs, which frequently consist of musical riffs broken into pieces and shards, glued together with an organizing rhythm. She provides most of the multi-layered vocals, much of the percussion, as well as various keyboards, ukele and other instruments and objects. Working with bassist Nate Brenner and occasionally a few other singers and instrumentalists, Garbus gives electrifying performances that showcase her remarkably flexible singing voice. In her ability to create music that sounds at once invitingly familiar and disorientingly new, Garbus is the real thing — an original artist.


Check out Ken Tucker's full review of Nikki-Nack  View in High-Res

    tUnE-yArDs is Merrill Garbus. She writes the songs, which frequently consist of musical riffs broken into pieces and shards, glued together with an organizing rhythm. She provides most of the multi-layered vocals, much of the percussion, as well as various keyboards, ukele and other instruments and objects. Working with bassist Nate Brenner and occasionally a few other singers and instrumentalists, Garbus gives electrifying performances that showcase her remarkably flexible singing voice. In her ability to create music that sounds at once invitingly familiar and disorientingly new, Garbus is the real thing — an original artist.

    Check out Ken Tucker's full review of Nikki-Nack 

  2. tUnE-yArDs

    merrill garbus

    nikki-nack

    review

    ken tucker

  1. Make My Head Sing… is an album of contradictions. It’s full of unreliable narrators who sometimes revel in jealousy, willful insanity, and drugs even as her voice and the music suggest that sanity is a better option. The music is heavy, but it soars. Her guitar riffs thud and slam, but they maintain a propulsive forward motion. Her voice frequently seems on the verge of getting buried in the mix, but then producer Newport pulls her vocal out and up so that it quivers over the melody. The tension in all these contradictions is what gives Jessica Lea Mayfield’s music its blunt power, and its subtlety.

    — Ken Tucker on Jessica Lea Mayfield's new album Make My Head Sing…

  2. fresh air

    ken tucker

    jessica lea mayfield

    review

  1. The Both is the name for the duo formed by the veteran singer-songwriters Aimee Mann and Ted Leo. The Both is also the name of their debut album. The two began performing together in 2012, when Ted Leo was Mann’s opening act. Mann began joining Leo onstage during his set. They liked the sound their voices made together, and started collaborating. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of The Both:




As separate acts, Ted Leo is generally considered a punk-influenced indie musician for the work he’s done with his band the Pharmacists, and Aimee Mann as a sensitive singer-songwriter ever since she left the pop star life with the group ‘Til Tuesday in the 1980s. But of course both of these musicians are more than their genre categories. What their work as The Both suggests is that together they’ve found common ground in confidently precise, propulsive melodies and lyrics that twist with oblique cleverness.

“Milwaukee” is one of the first songs Mann and Leo collaborated on in gradually hatching this plan to perform and record together as The Both. They bring out the best in each other musically: Leo gives Mann zip and vigor; she gives him poetry and hard-headedness. Sometimes one of them takes the lead vocal, at other times they trade off lines and harmonize throughout. 

In interviews, Aimee Mann has said working with Ted Leo has made her feel as though she’s in a rock band for the first time, which must make her old bandmates in ‘Til Tuesday feel a tad dismayed. But if anything, The Both includes some of the most Aimee Mannish of Aimee Mann songs, the way her best singing captures an urgent longing and pessimism that is redeemed by a prickly self-awareness.

The Both works so well as an album because its songs cohere as the documentation of the ways a new creative partnership revitalizes the familiar habits, tics, tricks, and talents of the collaborators. It sets their individual talents in a new context that compels the listener to form a new appreciation for these musicians. They may begin the album singing about a gamble that didn’t pay off, but their own musical collusion really has. 

 

Photo cred Christian Lantry/Super Ego Records View in High-Res

    The Both is the name for the duo formed by the veteran singer-songwriters Aimee Mann and Ted Leo. The Both is also the name of their debut album. The two began performing together in 2012, when Ted Leo was Mann’s opening act. Mann began joining Leo onstage during his set. They liked the sound their voices made together, and started collaborating. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of The Both:

    As separate acts, Ted Leo is generally considered a punk-influenced indie musician for the work he’s done with his band the Pharmacists, and Aimee Mann as a sensitive singer-songwriter ever since she left the pop star life with the group ‘Til Tuesday in the 1980s. But of course both of these musicians are more than their genre categories. What their work as The Both suggests is that together they’ve found common ground in confidently precise, propulsive melodies and lyrics that twist with oblique cleverness.

    Milwaukee” is one of the first songs Mann and Leo collaborated on in gradually hatching this plan to perform and record together as The Both. They bring out the best in each other musically: Leo gives Mann zip and vigor; she gives him poetry and hard-headedness. Sometimes one of them takes the lead vocal, at other times they trade off lines and harmonize throughout. 

    In interviews, Aimee Mann has said working with Ted Leo has made her feel as though she’s in a rock band for the first time, which must make her old bandmates in ‘Til Tuesday feel a tad dismayed. But if anything, The Both includes some of the most Aimee Mannish of Aimee Mann songs, the way her best singing captures an urgent longing and pessimism that is redeemed by a prickly self-awareness.

    The Both works so well as an album because its songs cohere as the documentation of the ways a new creative partnership revitalizes the familiar habits, tics, tricks, and talents of the collaborators. It sets their individual talents in a new context that compels the listener to form a new appreciation for these musicians. They may begin the album singing about a gamble that didn’t pay off, but their own musical collusion really has.

     

    Photo cred Christian Lantry/Super Ego Records

  2. the both

    aimee mann

    ted leo

    review

    fresh air

    ken tucker

  1. Ken Tucker reviews Carlene Carter's new album Carter Girl, an album that offers “a fresh take on classic songs:”

 What Carlene Carter does on this album is significant. She doesn’t approach these old songs as sacred relics to be enshrined with pious respect. Rather, she treats them like living, vital pieces of art that can withstand being taken apart, thought about, and re-imagined. Take, for example, “Lonesome Valley.” It’s a song that was itself an interpretation of a public-domain composition when the Carter Family recorded it, and has subsequently been sung many different ways, by Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez, and on the soundtrack of the Coen Brothers film O Brother Where Art Thou, to name just a few. Carlene has taken back the song, added some of her own lyrics about deaths in her family, plays some wonderful piano, and sings harmony on the chorus with Vince Gill. In the process, she comes up with her own excellent piece of work.


photo by Sasha Haagensen /GettyImages View in High-Res

    Ken Tucker reviews Carlene Carter's new album Carter Girl, an album that offers “a fresh take on classic songs:”

     What Carlene Carter does on this album is significant. She doesn’t approach these old songs as sacred relics to be enshrined with pious respect. Rather, she treats them like living, vital pieces of art that can withstand being taken apart, thought about, and re-imagined. Take, for example, “Lonesome Valley.” It’s a song that was itself an interpretation of a public-domain composition when the Carter Family recorded it, and has subsequently been sung many different ways, by Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez, and on the soundtrack of the Coen Brothers film O Brother Where Art Thou, to name just a few. Carlene has taken back the song, added some of her own lyrics about deaths in her family, plays some wonderful piano, and sings harmony on the chorus with Vince Gill. In the process, she comes up with her own excellent piece of work.

    photo by Sasha Haagensen /GettyImages

  2. carlene carter

    june carter cash

    country music

    woody guthrie

    joan baez

    ken tucker

    review

  1. Ken Tucker reviews Sara Evans' album Slow Me Down:

"Sara Evans is a singer with a big voice who knows what to do with it. Her phrasing is conversational; she rarely tries to goose the emotion in a song by stretching out syllables or leaping registers. Evans has never been a singer of hardcore country music — she likes pop, and she’s not afraid to apply her big vocal power to a big, cheesy power ballad. The difference between Evans and many singers who work in that particular territory is that her power ballads really pack a punch."

image via sony music nashville View in High-Res

    Ken Tucker reviews Sara Evans' album Slow Me Down:

    "Sara Evans is a singer with a big voice who knows what to do with it. Her phrasing is conversational; she rarely tries to goose the emotion in a song by stretching out syllables or leaping registers. Evans has never been a singer of hardcore country music — she likes pop, and she’s not afraid to apply her big vocal power to a big, cheesy power ballad. The difference between Evans and many singers who work in that particular territory is that her power ballads really pack a punch."

    image via sony music nashville

  2. sara evans

    Country Music

    review

    ken tucker

  1. 
Burn Your Fire For No Witness is Angel Olsen’s first album with a backing band, and she makes great use of it. Her singing contains a naturally mysterious quality, at once confiding and baffling, even unknowable. On a song such as “Forgiven/Forgotten,” Olsen has the drums and bass guitar hammer away at her dented vocal. This creates the sound of someone beating herself up for being so obsessed with being in love, knowing that that’s not enough, for her or for the object of her love.

Read all of Ken Tucker's review of Olsen's album

photo of Angel Olsen  (Autumn Northcraft) via wnyc View in High-Res

    Burn Your Fire For No Witness is Angel Olsen’s first album with a backing band, and she makes great use of it. Her singing contains a naturally mysterious quality, at once confiding and baffling, even unknowable. On a song such as “Forgiven/Forgotten,” Olsen has the drums and bass guitar hammer away at her dented vocal. This creates the sound of someone beating herself up for being so obsessed with being in love, knowing that that’s not enough, for her or for the object of her love.

    Read all of Ken Tucker's review of Olsen's album

    photo of Angel Olsen (Autumn Northcraft) via wnyc

  2. angel olsen

    review

    ken tucker

    music