Lauren Onkey

Rosanne Cash and her band arrived at NPR to play the Tiny Desk on a freezing cold, bright sunny day in January — one of those brittle, crystal clear winter days when the snow reflects the sun and there's nowhere to hide from the light. Her intense performance had that same balance of heat and ice.

Art Neville's life in music can be described as a straight line, connected directly to rock and roll's first notes. In the first half of the 1950s, musicians were recording R&B tracks — the foundations of rock and roll — at Cosimo Matassa's J&M Studios, led of course by Fats Domino, who recorded his first record there in 1949. Art was never a Fats, but nonetheless was foundational to helping shape the contours of popular music.

Mac Rebennack, better known as Dr. John, made records for more than 60 years. He died Thursday. He started on guitar, but he made his mark as a piano player, traditional and bold enough to take his place in the pantheon of New Orleans giants like Professor Longhair and Allen Toussaint.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Bandcamp playlist at the bottom of the page.


Mavis Staples turns 80 this summer. She's a respected elder of soul and gospel music, a beloved collaborator with rock musicians, and a living embodiment of gospel music's place in the civil rights movement. But she's no static symbol of the past.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple Music playlists at the bottom of the page.

At the start of Day 2 at this year's Newport Folk Festival, Curtis Harding lit up the Fort stage with what he calls "slop 'n' soul," a soul-rock hybrid that woke up the crowd. Based in Atlanta, Harding has deep experience as a singer, songwriter and guitarist who uses the conventions of soul to look forward, not back.

Fifty years after recording "Do the Reggay" in 1968, Toots Hibbert performed the most exuberant set I saw at this year's Newport Folk Festival. Toots and the Maytals helped create reggae in the '60s with some of the most creative and exciting records to come out of Jamaica. The legend's Newport set was packed with songs from throughout his career.

The finale of the 2018 Newport Folk Festival, A Change is Gonna Come, was a powerful and challenging take on how American music has framed the meaning of civil rights.

On Saturday night, Bruce Springsteen will perform, for the 236th and final night, Springsteen on Broadway, his intensely personal one-man show at the intimate, 975-seat Walter Kerr Theatre. Just a couple of hours after that, Netflix will make public a document of the show, filmed during a July performance.

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