Talia Schlanger

To my ear, serpentwithfeet's debut full length album soil is one of the most intriguing albums of the year. serpent blends his classical music training with his church choir upbringing and swirls it all together with ideas about love, sexuality, identity and honesty in a way that is devastating and uplifting at the same time.

No matter what you listen to in your life right now, no matter how far your musical tastes have come, the music you grew up with will always be special. Today's guest, Boz Scaggs, can tell you that firsthand. He played with the Steve Miller Band in the '60s and became a household name in the '70s thanks to songs like "Lido Shuffle" and albums like Silk Degrees.

"They'll blow your socks off if you have any on," reads a fan's Facebook post about the live capabilities of Rainbow Kitten Surprise. And it's true. This undefinable five-piece band from the small town of Boone, N.C. boasts a blend of charisma, musical chops, sing-along harmonies and breakneck creativity that's made it a nearly instant favorite among the nation's sandals-wearing music festival crowd.

If you ask today's guest what she's been up to since the last time she was on World Cafe about a year and a half ago, she might say something like, "Oh, not much. Finished my Masters of Fine Arts, raised a toddler, toured in my husband's band the 400 unit, completed another record of my own, won Emerging Artist of the Year at the Americana Music Awards ... and slept at some point."

Looking back on the past year of some incredible sessions this week, World Cafe is digging into the archives for some of its best performances and interviews since last July. You'll hear sessions with artists including singer-songwriter Natalie Prass, "the Croz" himself, David Crosby, Australian rocker Courtney Barnett and more.

Dessa On World Cafe

Jul 18, 2018

Can you insure your heartache through GEICO if you use it as a professional asset for writing songs? If you're a self-proclaimed "bottle-blonde, fair-skinned woman" whose mother is Puerto Rican but you don't look it, what's the best way to be a responsible rapper? Can you locate the spot your ex occupies in your brain through MRI scanning?

Neko Case's voice sounds like it originates from the belly of Mother Earth herself. In her music, you can hear the roots of trees, the wisdom of ancient warrior bones, the shift of tectonic plates, molten lava and placid water. "Have mercy on the natural world," she sings on the title track to her latest album Hell-On. It's her connection to and reverence of the natural world that stands out both in the album's lyrics and in the circumstances around making it.

"Stop asking musicians what they think." That is the opening line of the song "1933" on Frank Turner's new album Be More Kind, and a directive I was very happy to ignore when we sat down to talk about his music. Turner is clearly a deep thinker who values discussion and debate as fundamental parts of healthy society, in his words: "How do you have a conversation with someone you disagree with?"

People who love the band Dawes really love the band Dawes. Songwriting and musicianship aside, I think one of the things fans latch on to is that this is a band that feels like a good hang. The band's current lineup includes Taylor Goldsmith, along with his brother Griffin on drums, Wylie Gelber on bass; and Lee Pardini on keys. Whether you listen to its records on long car rides or in college dorm rooms or in dive bars or at wedding receptions, Dawes feels like good company.

A couple years ago, The Record Company released its debut album and earned a a Grammy nomination, a few hits, sold-out headlining shows, late night TV appearances — you get the idea — all off the strength of that one record made in bass player Alex Stiff's living room in LA. This is a surprisingly sharp trajectory if you know anything about how the music business works. But it's not surprising if you know how the band itself works.

There's an intimacy in the way Ray LaMontagne records and performs music that makes you feel like you're peeking through a curtain and listening in on a private moment. And in some ways, you truly are.

Ray is an artist I think of the purest sort. He's in it for the expression, not the attention. That's one of the things that I love about Ray and have loved since his 2004 debut Trouble. And it's the same quality that makes this career path challenging for him.

In this session, we hear the story of how two brothers went from singing in the pubs of an old steel town four hours North of London called Scunthorpe to recording at Rick Rubin's Shangri La Studios in Malibu, Calif.

For an emerging artist putting out a debut album, recording a session for this show, which airs across the country, could be a nerve-racking experience. Especially if your album features a full electric band, you planned to play with them for the session and on the day, one of the members gets sick and you had to go it alone in front of a live audience. That could be extra nerve-racking.

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