Music: Americana

March 15, 2011

New Music Tuesday: Exclusive Pearl Jam, American Idol, Rise Against, Britney Spears, Travis Barker, Steve Martin

Most new music comes out on Tuesdays, and each week we cull through the mountain of new releases to bring you some of the best from different genres. Click below, or find them in Napster’s New Releases/Featured Music section.

Pearl Jam, Vs./Vitalogy (Deluxe Edition) Pearl Jam, Vs./Vitalogy (Deluxe Edition) (Alternative, Rock): As seen in this week's Best Buy circular, Napster has four exclusive bonus tracks available for streaming as a preview of the combined reissue of Vs. and Vitalogy coming March 29, including new live versions of "Even Flow" and "Daughter."


Various Artists, American Idol 10th Anniversary Various Artists, American Idol: 10th AnniversaryThe Hits, Volume 1 (Pop, Rock, R&B): This compilation of favorites from the most popular Idol competitors includes music from Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken and Fantasia as well as David Cook, Kris Allen, Adam Lambert and Lee DeWyze.


Rise Against, Endgame Rise Against, Endgame (Rock, Alternative): For their latest set, the Chicago punk rockers continue to develop the approach they took with their last album, Appeal to Reason. Topics like world politics and current events take shape over accessible melodies and riffs, resulting in rockers like first single "Help Is on the Way."


Britney Spears, Till the World Ends Britney Spears, "Till the World Ends" (Pop, Electronica): The second single from Spears' upcoming album, Femme Fatale, was co-written by Ke$ha along with hitmakers Dr. Luke and Max Martin and comes hot on the heels of first single "Hold It Against Me." And like that track, it's another energetic dancefloor filler.


Travis Barker, Give the Drummer Some Travis Barker, Give the Drummer Some (Rock, Hip-Hop): The blink-182 drummer recruited some of the biggest names in hip-hop, rock, and dance music for his "solo" debut — everyone from the RZA to Slash to Steve Aoki. The first single alone ("Can a Drummer Get Some") features Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Swizz Beatz & Game.


Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Rare Bird Alert Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Rare Bird Alert (Americana):  For his second banjo album, Martin chose to record with the excellent band he took on the road with him to support The CrowAs a bonus, Sir Paul McCartney and the Dixie Chicks each provide lead vocals on a tune apiece.


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March 11, 2011

Sierra Hull, Daybreak

Sierra Hull, Daybreak A splendid blend of contemporary songwriting and traditional bluegrass instrumentation, Sierra Hull's second album, Daybreak, is a tremendous accomplishment, sounding simultaneously current and traditional. Hull wrote seven of the 12 tracks and is, at a very young age, an extremely skilled writer, singer, and instrumentalist. Hull's mandolin playing is stunning. Her tone and precision are simply unbelievable considering that she's just 19 years old. And her vocals are as gorgeous and clear as any bluegrass singer today. Like Sarah Jarosz, Hull plays effortlessly with contemporary themes and structure while maintaining an aura of vintage-style authority and power. This is an impressive album and ups the ante over her already great debut album.

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March 10, 2011

Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, Madonna, Missy Elliott, More: Napster Playlists Featuring Women

As we continue our celebration of Women's History Month, we thought it would be nice to highlight some of the many Napster playlists focused on music made by women. These are from all different genres and styles, so have a look, click on whatever sounds good to you, and let's hear it from the ladies!

American Women American Women Popular roots music and country hits from some of the top female artists in America. Includes songs from June Carter Cash, Loretta Lynn, and Sheryl Crow.

Hot R&B Female Vocalists Hot R&B: Female Vocalists: Some of the hottest tracks and biggest hits from major stars, including songs from Keyshia Cole, Fantasia, Alicia Keys, and Beyoncé.

Essential Lite Female Vocalists Essential Lite: Female Vocalists: Great soft pop and ballads from many eras, featuring artists such as Peggy Lee, Blossom Dearie, and Roberta Flack.

Women of Comedy Women of Comedy: Hilarious bits from the funniest females in stand-up comedy, including Ellen Degeneres, Sarah Silverman, Sandra Bernhard, and Lisa Lampanelli.

Legendary Ladies of Country Legendary Ladies of Country: Unforgettable female stars of the '60s and '70s who paved the way for today's generations. Includes Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, and Loretta Lynn.

Grrrl Power Grrrl Power: Celebrate the women of alternative rock with a slew of classic tracks from such mainstays as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Hole, PJ Harvey, and more.

Pioneering Women of the Blues Pioneering Women of the Blues: Though blues artists tend to be men, a surprising number of women have made a crucial impact, including Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, and Ida Cox.

Pop Divas The '80s Pop Divas: The '80s: A platinum setting of hits from some of the decade's most glittering solo female superstars, including Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Gibson, and more.

Female Jazz Vocalists of Today Female Jazz Vocalists of Today: Music from stellar comtemporary vocalists informed by both traditional and modern jazz. Features Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, and Diana Krall.

Composing Women Composing Women: Works from female composers working in what was once a male-dominated field. Includes Barbara Strozzi, Fanny Mendelssohn, and Meredith Monk.

Women of Contemporary Christian Music Women of Contemporary Christian Music: The most uplifting tracks from female artists leading the way in CCM, featuring Francesca Battistelli, Bethany Dillon, and Heather Hedley.

Ladies First Female MCs Ladies First: Female MCs: Get in touch with the first ladies of hip-hop. But don't expect them to go easy on you—these MCs, including Missy Elliott, Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, are fierce.

Femmes Fatales Femmes Fatales: Devastatingly seductive sounds from the dark side of alternative music, including music by Björk, PJ Harvey, Portishead, Morcheeba, and more.

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March 04, 2011

Lucinda Williams, Blessed

Lucinda Williams, Blessed Lucinda Williams' talent is undeniable; she's been releasing affecting and intensely personal records for over 30 years now. She is, however, somewhat mercurial and has chosen many times not to offer listeners the easiest road to becoming fans. Her work can be exhilarating and gorgeous, but it can also be deeply introspective and reflective of difficult individual struggles. That is, of course, what being an artist is, or should be, about. That said, Williams has just released Blessed, a truly amazing album by this veteran artist. It's her best work since World without Tears, but it also happens to be her most accessible music in a very long time; those unfamiliar with her work will find it as fine an introduction as anything in her catalog. The songs are immediately appealing, but, as always, contain complex examinations of human experience. Guests on Blessed include Elvis Costello and Matthew Sweet, while production was handled by the legendary Don Was. This is a fascinating, wonderful album.

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March 03, 2011

Buddy Miller, The Majestic Silver Strings

Buddy Miller, The Majestic Silver Strings Just in case there was any lingering doubt, Buddy Miller is, in fact, a genius. The opening strains of "Cattle Call," a cover of the iconic Eddy Arnold song that leads off The Majestic Silver Strings, feel warm, endearing and comfortable. The ethereal and reverberant instrumentation welcomes the listener into Miller's most accomplished and assured outing to date. In the last 10 years, he has released the following amazing albums: Midnight and Lonesome (2002),  Universal House of Prayer (2004), Written In Chalk (with wife Julie in 2009) and now, The Majestic Silver Strings. In that timeframe he has also produced records for Solomon Burke, Allison Moorer, Patty Griffin, and Robert Plant (among others). The Majestic Silver Strings is a compelling collection of tracks (mostly classic country covers) that feature tantalizing guest performances from Griffin, Lee Ann Womack, Emmylou Harris, Julie Miller and a host of equally impeccable musicians. This is undoubtedly one of the top Americana releases of 2011 (and you'd probably be safe even removing the "Americana" from that statement), and it's an album to play over and over and over again.

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March 02, 2011

Americana Snapshot: Winter 2011 (Napster Playlist)

Americana Snapshot, Winter 2011 It's been a long, cold, wet winter indeed, but it was a pretty fertile season still for roots music fans. From bluegrass to folk to root-influenced alt-rock and everything in between, we've had a nice batch of releases to keep us warm through the frosty times. Napster's "Americana Snapshot: Winter 2011" playlist brings together some of the best tracks from the last three months in one place for your one-click listening pleasure, should you care to survey the latest bounty of roots and roots-related music. Leading off with the incomparable Abigail Washburn's "Chains," from her latest, City of Refuge, we then get a couple of surprises in the form of the very rootsy "El Camino" from Amos Lee and "Don't Carry It All" from The Decemberists. Throw in a little new Drive-By Truckers, Cowboy Junkies, and Hayes Carll, as well as righteous pickin' from Goose Creek Symphony and Cabinet, and it's a fun mix indeed — and that's just the first half.

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February 28, 2011

Drive-By Truckers, Go-Go Boots

Drive-By Truckers, Go-Go BootsDrive-By Truckers are back with another fine album. With Go-Go Boots boosting the band's catalog to an even dozen records in about as many years, DBT have demonstrated an impressive ability to keep the music coming, but more important, their records consistently have an enormously appealing quality. The band has managed to learn and grow, get better at their instruments, write better songs, and generally evolve, asll without losing the rawness and vulnerability that made them such a treasure back in '98 when Gangstabilly first signaled that America had a new favorite country-flavored alt-rock band. Go-Go Boots may be a bit mellower that typical DBT, but the album seems somehow even deeper than the band's recent work and definitely gets more engrossing with each successive listen.

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February 25, 2011

Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers, Rare Bird Alert

Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers, Rare Bird Alert Steve Martin has made another banjo album. Well, bluegrass album, really, but prominently featuring banjo (as much bluegrass music does). Anyway, it's a real doozie, and it's scheduled for release on March 15. Those who have heard The Crow, Martin's 2009 banjo-album debut, know that a) Martin is no slouch on the instrument (a matter we have discussed before), and b) he surrounds himself with excellent players, including some of the all-time banjo and bluegrass greats. So, for Rare Bird Alert, his second foray into the "serious" album-making world (the title has to do with his upcoming bird-watching movie, The Big Year), he recruited one Tony Trischka, long a supporter of Martin's banjo-playing alter-ego, to produce. And for his band, he made the wise decision of working with The Steep Canyon Rangers, the very classy North Carolina string band he took on the road with him to support The Crow, and to whom he pays the highest of compliments in Rare Bird's wonderful liner notes: With the Rangers, he writes, "I enjoyed once again something I had once grown to loathe: the road." So, band and Martin set about recording a new set of Martin originals (he wrote or co-wrote everything on the album), and the results are just beautiful. The album sounds so graceful, one almost forgets this man's wild and crazy roots. It's interesting, because Martin's writing on this album, both musically and lyrically, seems to let in a bit more of his abundant humor than on The Crow, where his clear respect for the music somewhat muted the funny. In the career arc of Steve Martin, it's fascinating to see and hear him at this juncture, no longer the outrageous laugh-getter, but more of a Mark Twain-style humorist (even though this album includes a bluegrass version of his '80s yukfest "King Tut). And like Twain, there's only one of him, and that's all there will ever be. Oh, did we forget to mention that both Sir Paul McCartney and the Dixie Chicks (all three of 'em) provide guest vocals on a tune apiece? Well, they do, and they sound great, too.

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February 12, 2011

Steve Wariner, Guitar Laboratory

Steve Wariner, Guitar Laboratory Guitar wizard Steve Wariner has been taking it easy for a while now. It's probably not fair or accurate to say that he's retired, but his presence on the charts has certainly been missed over the last few years (his last charting single or album, in fact, was way back in 2003). Of late, he appears to be focused on enjoying his life and recording albums that are perhaps less commercial but near to his heart. For example, he released My Tribute to Chet Atkins in late 2009, which is an outstanding tribute album to his idol and mentor—it was Atkins, after all, who signed Wariner to his first record deal in the early 1980s. Here and now, in early aught-eleven, Wariner's latest outing is the just-released Guitar Laboratory, an album of instrumental tracks that spotlight the sterling musicianship that first bestowed fame and fortune upon him. Wariner says that he thinks it's the most adventurous guitar project he's ever done, and we do, too. While there's plenty of country-oriented material on the album, but he also steps outside the boundaries of country and assembles an impressive collection of compositions and performances. It's a great record and a really enjoyable listen. And by the way, Wariner will be inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame on April 7, so what better way to help celebrate than to play the man's latest and greatest?

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February 08, 2011

R&B Love, Lovers Rock Hits, Classic Rock Valentine, and more: New Valentine's Day Napster Playlists

We've got a ton of new playlists for you to celebrate Valentine's Day with this year, and you've gotta love that, right? So cuddle up with that someone special and take your pick of these romantic collections:

R&B Love (Napster Playlist) R&B Love: Major R&B hits with a common theme. Features classics from Mariah Carey, Keyshia Cole, DeBarge, Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, and more.

Lovers Rock Hits (Napster Playlist) Lovers Rock Hits: Romantic reggae bursting with heartfelt emotion. Includes hits from Gregory Isaacs, Luisa Mark, Sugar Minott, and Deborahe Glasgow.

Classic Rock Valentine (Napster Playlist) Classic Rock Valentine: Hits and album cuts fueled by love. A mix of upbeat rockers ballads by Kiss, Bad Company, Van Halen, Eric Clapton, and more.

Modern Love (Napster Playlist) Modern Love: Romance, alternative-style. Includes modern rock from Paramore, Franz Ferdinand, Florence & The Machine, and more.

The Pompatus of Love (Napster Playlist) The Pompatus of Love: Rock, doo-wop, blues, and the mysteries of romance from Steve Miller, The Clovers, The Medallions, Lightnin' Hopkins, and Muddy Waters.

Classical Valentine, Vol. 2 (Napster Playlist) Classical Valentine, Vol. 2: Love-themed instrumentals for the lovers' holiday. Features Berlioz, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Janacek, and more.

Easy Love (Napster Playlist) Easy Love: Romantic ballads and soft-rock beats. Includes love songs from Nat King Cole, Barbra Streisand, Michael Bublé, and Josh Groban.

My Funny Valentine, Vol. 2 (Napster Playlist) My Funny Valentine, Vol. 2: Comedians take an uncensored look at love. Anthony Jeselnik, Whitney Cummings, and Greg Giraldo hold forth.

Smooth Valentine Love Songs (Napster Playlist) Smooth Valentine Love Songs: Tender R&B/jazz-infused songs from Al Jarreau, Michael Buble, David Sanborn, Harry Connick Jr., Dave Grusin, and more.

Soft Rock Seduction (Napster Playlist) Soft Rock Seduction: Cozy classics made for romance. Features songs by Bill Withers, Karen Carpenter, Bread, Richard Marx, and Peabo Bryson.

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