Few musicians get better with age, but Nick Lowe is an exception. I've been following Lowe's music since his days with the country-rock band Brinsley Schwarz in the early 1970s. He wrote one of his best-known tunes with that band: "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding?" But it wasn't until he left Brinsley Schwarz that people began hearing his name, first with the Dave Edmunds project Rockpile. (Edmunds produced one of the last Brinsley Schwarz records, the one with "What's So Funny.")
Mavis Staples is a legend, but she's not stuck in the past. You probably know her work with her family band, The Staple Singers, which was all over the radio in the '70s with hits like "Respect Yourself," "Let's Do It Again" and "I'll Take You There" (which she excerpts in her performance here).
Several generations of nerds can chart the course of their lives against the career trajectory of "Weird Al" Yankovic. For me, his 1984 album In 3-D was the first record I ever owned, and his appearance at the Wausau County Fair in 1985 was the second concert I ever attended. I spent my 17th birthday being driven to the movie theater — by my mother, of course — to watch UHF, Yankovic's debut as a leading man, by myself.
With all due respect to its terrific albums and kinetic, frenetic live shows, if The Avett Brothers could put on a three-song acoustic concert at every workplace in America, the band would be a world-beating colossus. For proof, take six minutes to don some headphones and listen to "Laundry Room," which opens this set at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen.