Donnie Fritts: Ready For His Close-Up


  This article appears in our September/October 2015 issue, now available on newsstands. Imagine the scene projected larger than life on a theater screen. A grizzled old musician and actor named Donnie Fritts, a hearing aid planted in his ear, plays an ancient Wurlitzer 200a piano while he sings a song called “Errol Flynn” and […]

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No Future: Punk On Both Sides of the Atlantic


This article appears in the July/August “British Issue,” now available on newsstands.  Released as a single in October 1977, “Holidays In The Sun” by the Sex Pistols is a caustic punk bugger-off that kicks off with the sounds of hundreds – thousands? – of jackboots goose-stepping in unison. That short, sharp sample establishes the cadence […]

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Capturing The Blues: The Curious Story of Paramount Records


This article appears in the May/June 2015 “Blues Issue,” now available on newsstands.  In 1929 Paramount Records released the first 78 record by an unknown Mississippi musician named Charley Patton. On the A side is “Pony Blues,” which reveals him to be a nimble-fingered guitar player and a singer with a low, booming, yet playful […]

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Blues All The Time: 20 Essential Songs from the Blues’ First Century


Over the past hundred years, blues music has mutated and transformed itself repeatedly, borrowing from other styles and traditions as it migrated from the South over to Texas and up to Chicago. Winnowing such a massive catalog down to a handful of tracks would be impossible, but here are 20 songs essential to the blues […]

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Joe Pug: The Big Picture

Joe Pug March/April

The centerpiece of Windfall, the new album by Chicago singer-songwriter Joe Pug, is a beautiful, worried tune called “Great Hosannas,” which features a hymnlike melody and some of his most evocative lyrics. Drawing out his syllables like dying breaths and blowing on a harmonica like it’s a church organ, he runs through a list of […]

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American Songwriter’s Top 50 Songs Of 2014

TOP SONGS PSD long final

50. Angaleena Presley” “Ain’t No Man” This kind of thing shouldn’t work at all. Over a gritty acoustic blues riff, Holler Annie unleashes a volley of imaginative similes to inflate a small-town girl to tall-tale dimensions. But her soft-focus vocals, complete with a wink and a nudge, make the word games sound almost as fun as […]

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Where The Creatures Meet: Harmony and Discord in Laurel Canyon

Laurel Canyon

In April 1970 Joni Mitchell released her third record, Ladies Of The Canyon, an ode to the denizens of the neighborhood she called home, Laurel Canyon, a mountainous paradise nestled in the purgatory of Los Angeles. The gentle title track is perhaps the most obvious tribute: Accompanied by a guitar that sounds like wind chimes […]

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A Deeper Well: The Music Of The Carolinas


“Drum,” the closing track on Hiss Golden Messenger’s fifth album, Lateness Of Dancers, sounds like it contains decades of Carolina music. As a battered acoustic guitar picks and strums out a steady rhythm, a fiddle and banjo dance merrily in the background, then everyone joins in on the hymnal chorus: “Take the good news and […]

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Hillbillies, Outlaws, and Songwriting Legends: The Legacy Of Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium

Ryman Auditorium

It was the trash in the streets that finally got the Grand Ole Opry tossed out of War Memorial Auditorium, the radio barn dance’s fourth home since it first aired in 1925. From 1939 until 1943, the popular show had broadcast from one of Nashville’s swankiest downtown venues, directly across the street from the State […]

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If You Can Make It There: Five Legendary New York City Music Locales

Cafe Wha

(The Chelsea Hotel) “53rd & 3rd! Standing on the street! 53rd & 3rd! Trying to turn a trick!” barked the Ramones on their 1976 song named after a notorious New York intersection. In the 1960s and into the early 1970s, that area was rundown, seedy, and forbidding: largely abandoned during the day but a hot […]

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Noah Gundersen: Ledges

Noah Gundersen Ledges

Noah Gundersen Ledges (Dualtone) 3.5 out of 5 stars Noah Gundersen’s first full-length album opens with “Poor Man’s Son,” a nearly a cappella tune featuring the Seattle singer-songwriter harmonizing with his sister Abby. He strums a few times on his acoustic guitar, but that’s mainly to let you know it’s still there. Mostly the song […]

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Come Around Sundown: Country Music In The Crescent City

sam doores

(Sam Doores. Photos by Sarrah Danziger) One of the most influential New Orleans albums of the last ten years came packaged in a brown paper bag, like a bottle of cheap booze. Sundown Songs’ 2008 debut, Like A Jazz Band In Nashville, collects twenty austere, rambling, surprisingly deft country tunes – plus one recipe for […]

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