Talia Schlanger

Bettye LaVette's voice illuminates the definition of a true soul singer. It pierces through the physical and awakens the listener's emotional core. A soul singer's voice is only amplified through experience, and as Bettye told me when we spoke, "I've got so much stuff to cry about, and so much stuff to holler about, and so much stuff to laugh about."

As the saying goes, "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar." So it is for Natalie Prass on her new album, The Future and the Past.

If you think of Willie Nelson as a lot of people do, you might make the same mistake I did on the way up the stairs of his tour bus, Honeysuckle Rose. I imagined we were going to visit a mythical creature or an immortal shaman; in reality, it was better than that.

On her new album, Courtney Barnett does something I don't think many people could do — I know I couldn't do it. She takes an insult that was hurled at her and turns it into a powerful lyric in one of her songs. The insult-turned-lyric is this quote: "I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out better words than you."

Anyone who says you should never meet your heroes because they will disappoint you has never met John Prine. He is everything you love about his songs. He's warm, funny and wise — although you get the sense he's not trying to be. He cares about people and their smallest details and, as his lyrics might suggest, he'll find a way to work pork chops into the conversation.

Meeting Charley Crockett through his music, you get the sense he's the kind of guy who, in person, would shake your hand, look you straight in the eye and remember your name. Charley was raised in South Texas by a single mom whose unshakable sense of ambition and perseverance rubbed off.

Belly On World Cafe

May 30, 2018

In 1995, Bill Watterson, the author of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, decided to end it even though it seemed like the comic was in its prime. Since then, Bill has said, "It's better to leave the party early." Belly, our guest in this session did the very same thing. The band had explosive success with the debut album Star in 1993 and was all over MTV with the hit song "Feed the Tree." Belly released the follow-up King in 1995, grabbing the cover of Rolling Stone in the spring of that year.

Who do you still know from eighth grade? And what's your relationship? Do you check in on Facebook to see how many kids, pets and houses they have? Or have you built an entire career together and made it work for decades, like the co-frontmen of the band Dr. Dog?

A couple nights before Donovan Woods came in to World Cafe I went to see his show in Philadelphia and I was standing next to a guy who had never heard of Woods before. Once the applause died down after the first song, the man said to himself, "Wow."

It was almost funny but also not surprising. I've seen this happen a bunch of times when I'm with somebody who hears Donovan's music for the first time. And I'm hoping that's what'll happen today on this show.

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