Make a list of bands with integrity, still highly respected and still making music after 25 years, and that list will have Cowboy Junkies near the top. More active than ever, the group has released four new studio records in the past two years — an insane achievement. A prolific nature doesn't define greatness, of course, but these past few years have produced some of the best music Cowboy Junkies' members have ever made.
Most people who haven't been living under a rock are aware of the newspaper industry's precipitous decline. And even the least media savvy surface dwellers could guess that this sorry state of affairs has disproportionately impacted arts journalism.
Most people wouldn't think of Washington, D.C., as one of R&B's great cities. Despite the fact that soul music greats Marvin Gaye and Roberta Flack grew up in D.C. neighborhoods, the city never had the equivalent of Detroit's Berry Gordy and Motown, or Memphis' Willie Mitchell and Hi Records. But in the early 1970s, D.C. did have producer Robert Williams and his Red, Black and Green Productions. A new compilation album called Eccentric Soul: A Red Black Green Production revisits Williams' influence on the sound of R&B in D.C.
By now, Daniel Rossen's name is synonymous with the kind of raggedy, whimsical, airy music he writes. A contributing songwriter and musician in Grizzly Bear, Rossen often saved his most personal compositions for his other band, Department of Eagles, which shares Grizzly Bear's roots in Rossen's undergraduate years at NYU. Both bands saw success, and Rossen continued to work in both projects.
A surfer and songwriter, Ben Howard's two loves intertwined when the English surfing world became the first audience for his quiet, meditative music. At the encouragement of friends, Howard released two EPs and was soon invited to tour with Xavier Rudd. Howard is a talented artist in the vein of labelmate and influence Nick Drake, with similarly dark and soulful lyrics.