The Ash & Clay by the Milk Carton Kids: Reflections on a country in disrepair

By Dylan Lubao, 8 July 2013

In The Ash & Clay, the Milk Carton Kids—Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan—examine an America at the crossroads.

Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories

By Zac Corrigan, 8 June 2013

French duo Daft Punk—Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (born 1974) and Thomas Bangalter (born 1975)—have returned with their first full-length album since Human After All (2005).

Ray Manzarek, a founding member of The Doors, dead at 74

By Hiram Lee, 25 May 2013

Ray Manzarek, keyboardist of the 1960s rock band The Doors, died May 20 at the age of 74.

Tyler, the Creator’s Wolf: Hiding from reality behind a mask of cynicism

By Nick Barrickman, 2 May 2013

Wolf is Tyler, The Creator’s third studio album, released on Sony Music Entertainment in April this year.

Country music legend George Jones dead at 81

By Hiram Lee, 29 April 2013

Legendary country singer George Jones died in Nashville on April 26. A remarkable performer, Jones was a significant figure in American popular music during the second half of the 20th century.

SXSW Music Festival 2013—Part 2

By Zac Corrigan, 16 April 2013

South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas has grown from a local independent music showcase into one of the largest music festivals in the world. This is the second article on the 2013 festival.

Remembering Cleotha Staples and the Staple Singers

By Hiram Lee, 10 April 2013

Singer Cleotha Staples of the popular gospel, folk and R&B group the Staple Singers, died recently at the age of 78.

SXSW Music Festival 2013—Part 1

By Zac Corrigan, 9 April 2013

South by Southwest in Austin, Texas has grown from a local independent music showcase attracting some 700 registered attendees in 1987 into one of the largest music festivals in the world.

Fat Jon’s Rapture Kontrolle— Hip hop with an emotional content

By Nick Barrickman, 25 March 2013

Rapture Kontrolle is the eighth studio instrumental album by hip hop/electronic producer/song writer Fat Jon the Ample Soul Physician (born John Marshall in 1969), released in 2012 on Ample Soul Recordings, under the alias Maurice Galactica.

Detroit techno artist Robert Hood’s Motor: Nighttime World Volume 3

By Zac Corrigan, 9 March 2013

The latest album from Robert Hood is a collection of a dozen instrumental renderings of the decline of the artist’s hometown.

Van Cliburn, US pianist who achieved fame at Moscow competition, dead at 78

By Fred Mazelis, 2 March 2013

A musician who became world-famous more than half a century ago, Van Cliburn had a career that was noteworthy, even if he never achieved the potential that seemed possible in his youth.

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra at New York’s Carnegie Hall

By Fred Mazelis, 28 February 2013

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is an ensemble that brings together Palestinian and Israeli musicians in concert halls around the globe.

Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange

By Matthew Brennan, 23 February 2013

Channel Orange, the debut from Frank Ocean, was one of the more intriguing albums released in 2012.

Donald Byrd, extraordinary jazz trumpeter, dies at 80

By John Andrews, 11 February 2013

Donald Byrd, a trumpet master associated with the post-bebop jazz that emerged in New York City during the 1950s and 1960s, died last week at the age of 80.

Girl on Fire—Alicia Keys closes her eyes to the world

By Hiram Lee, 6 February 2013

The latest album by the popular R&B singer.

Favorite music of 2012

By Matthew Brennan and Hiram Lee, 29 December 2012

World Socialist Web Site music writers pick their favorite pop and jazz releases of 2012.

Ravi Shankar, acclaimed Indian musician, dies at 92

By Kapila Fernando, K. Ratnayake and Peter Symonds, 20 December 2012

What was unique about Ravi Shankar was the breadth of his interests, willingness to experiment and passion for making classical Indian music available to the world.

Death Grips’ No Love Deep Web: A terminally destructive message

By Zac Corrigan, 13 December 2012

Death Grips are a trio from Sacramento, California, composed of vocalist MC Ride (Stefan Burnett), percussionist Zach Hill and producer Andy “Flatlander” Morin.

Jazz musician Dave Brubeck dies at 91

By Hiram Lee, 10 December 2012

A significant figure in postwar American culture, Brubeck’s classic 1959 album Time Out sold a million copies, the first jazz album to hold that distinction.

Elliott Carter (1908-2012) and the crisis of contemporary music

By Fred Mazelis, 6 December 2012

American composer Elliott Carter reflected the trajectory of Western classical music in the past century.

Nirvana’s Nevermind re-issued by Sony/Universal

Assessing an American pop icon

By Nick Barrickman, 5 December 2012

In late 2011, a re-mastered edition of the seminal album Nevermind by pop-punk band Nirvana was released, marking the work’s 20th anniversary.

Oddisee’s Traveling Man: Globalized society through the lens of a hip hop artist

By Nick Barrickman, 7 November 2012

Traveling Man is a collage of 24 instrumental compositions created by the artist while he stayed in the given locales—mainly large metropolitan areas around the world.

Antibalas: War, social crisis meet intricate musicianship

By Jeff Lusanne, 16 October 2012

A new, self-titled album by Brooklyn-based afrobeat band Antibalas offers a welcome blend of exciting, skilled musicianship and socially critical lyricism.

Singer Nick Lowe in Louisville, Kentucky

By Hiram Lee, 1 October 2012

British singer-songwriter Nick Lowe performed in Louisville, Kentucky, last week, the fifth stop on a fall tour of the United States.

The enigma of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony

By Verena Nees, 12 September 2012

A memorable concert took place 70 years ago when Dmitri Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony was performed in the city of Leningrad, which had been besieged by German troops for more than a year.

Music review: Replica from Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferraro’s Far Side Virtual

By Zac Corrigan, 4 September 2012

Oneohtrix Point Never’s Replica and Far Side Virtual from James Ferraro have much in common: both albums were released in the autumn of 2011 by prolific experimental musicians from New York.

100 years since singer Woody Guthrie’s birth

By Clement Daly, 28 August 2012

This year marks 100 years since the birth of American folk singer Woody Guthrie. The anniversary has become the occasion for commemorations and conferences held throughout the US, as well as the opening of a new museum and archive.

Searching for Sugar Man: Detroit musician connects with mass audience in South Africa

By James Brewer, 27 August 2012

An amazing story documents the popularity of the music of Sixto Rodriguez in South Africa, music virtually unknown in the US.

Kitty Wells, “Queen of Country Music” (1919-2012)

By Hiram Lee, 23 July 2012

Country music icon Kitty Wells died July 16 at her home in Nashville, Tennessee.

Delaware Symphony Orchestra suspends 2012-2013 season

By Fred Mazelis, 15 June 2012

The Delaware Symphony Orchestra is the latest musical institution to announce that financial problems have forced drastic cutbacks.

Guitar and folk music great Doc Watson dead at 89

By Hiram Lee, 8 June 2012

Legendary guitarist and folk singer Doc Watson died May 29 in North Carolina.

Donald “Duck” Dunn, legendary bass player, dead at 70

By James Brewer, 26 May 2012

Booker T. and the M.G.’s bass player Donald “Duck” Dunn, died suddenly while on tour in Tokyo on May 13.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, one of the great vocal artists of the 20th century, dies at 86

By Dorian Griscom, 25 May 2012

The German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was renowned for his interpretations of Schubert, Schumann and Brahms songs, but his repertoire included opera and oratorio as well.

Levon Helm, the distinctive voice of The Band, dies at 71

By James Brewer, 23 April 2012

After 14-year bout with cancer, Levon Helm, the drummer and singer of The Band, dies in New York.

Bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs dies at 88

By Hiram Lee, 31 March 2012

Earl Scruggs, a pioneering figure in Bluegrass music and an innovator on the 5-string Banjo, has died at the age of 88.

Ani DiFranco's “¿Which Side Are You On?”: a “radical” artist openly embraces Obama and the Democrats

By Jeff Lusanne, 15 March 2012

“¿Which Side Are You On?” by independent American folk artist Ani DiFranco, is an album that raises significant issues facing artists today—above all, how to view society critically.

An honest band for difficult times: Shaving by Chewing on Tinfoil

By Aidan Claire, 1 March 2012

Chewing on Tinfoil is a five-piece punk and ska band from Dublin.

The death of Whitney Houston

By Hiram Lee, 13 February 2012

American popular singer Whitney Houston has died in Los Angeles at the age of 48.

Composer Gustav Mahler: A centennial appreciation

By Dorian Griscom, 31 January 2012

Gustav Mahler is among the most widely listened to of classical composers. Last year, which marked the 100th anniversary of his death, witnessed concerts, new recordings, lectures and exhibitions celebrating his life and music.

“Sing like your life depends on it”: Etta James—1938-2012

By Paul Bond, 26 January 2012

Etta James had an instantly recognisable voice, sinuous, tender and harsh in equal measure. She died a few days short of her 74th birthday.

Johnny Otis, R&B’s renaissance man, dies at 90

By Hiram Lee, 24 January 2012

Influential R&B musician Johnny Otis, best-known for the hit dance record “Willie and the Hand Jive” died January 17 at the age of 90.

A look at 3 Cohens’ Family album

By Hiram Lee, 20 January 2012

Jazz group 3 Cohens have returned with Family, the third album to feature this ensemble of sibling musicians since their debut in 2004.

Blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin (1931-2011): “Feel the soul and the pain”

By Paul Bond, 5 January 2012

The longtime sideman for Chicago blues great Howlin’ Wolf, Hubert Sumlin, died last month at the age of 80.

Pop and rock music in 2011

By Matthew Brennan and Hiram Lee, 31 December 2011

The past year produced few meaningful efforts in the field of pop and rock music. Only a handful of works stand out.

Favorite jazz recordings of 2011

By Hiram Lee, 31 December 2011

Some of the more interesting jazz albums of 2011.

Jazz drummer Paul Motian (1931-2011)

By Hiram Lee, 28 December 2011

Jazz drummer Paul Motian, a member of the classic Bill Evans Trio of the early 1960s, died recently at the age of 80.

Bad as Me—a new album from Tom Waits

By Hiram Lee, 7 December 2011

American singer-songwriter Tom Waits has returned with his first album of new material since 2004’s Real Gone.

Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers—reconsidering a hip hop “classic”

By Nikolai Barrickman, 20 September 2011

Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album, widely considered a hip hop classic, is a landmark in both the development and the decline of the genre.

Gene McDaniels, soul singer and songwriter, dead at 76

By Hiram Lee, 30 August 2011

Soul singer and songwriter Gene McDaniels, composer of “Compared to What” and other protest songs, died July 29 at the age of 76.

Randy Newman at the Sydney Opera House: an evening with a unique musical story-teller

By Richard Phillips, 25 August 2011

Randy Newman, who began his career in the late 1950s, still continues to write and perform his ironic vignettes, political satires and poignant love songs.

Born This Way and the Lady Gaga phenomenon

By Hiram Lee, 27 July 2011

Pop singer and media sensation Lady Gaga has returned with her third album, Born This Way.

The death of saxophonist Clarence Clemons

By Hiram Lee, 22 June 2011

Clarence Clemons was the longtime saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Best known for “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

Musician and poet Gil Scott-Heron dead at 62

By Matthew Brennan, 11 June 2011

Gil Scott-Heron, the African-American poet and musician best known for his song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” died May 27 at the age of 62.

Folksinger Hazel Dickens dies at 75

By Hiram Lee, 9 May 2011

Folksinger Hazel Dickens, who often sang about the struggles of coal miners in Appalachia, died April 22 in Washington, D.C.

The Juilliard Orchestra performs Mahler’s Ninth Symphony in New York City

By Fred Mazelis, 7 May 2011

A recent performance of Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, his last completed work in that form, highlighted the role of the Juilliard School in New York City’s classical music scene.

Rock band White Stripes breaks up: a look back

By Hiram Lee, 2 April 2011

After more than a decade together, the members of the rock band White Stripes have announced their break-up.

Country singer Charlie Louvin dead at 83

By Hiram Lee, 1 February 2011

Country singer Charlie Louvin, one half of the influential duo The Louvin Brothers, died on January 26 at the age of 83.

How I Got Over, the new album from The Roots

By Nikolai Barrickman and Hiram Lee, 19 January 2011

How I Got Over is the latest album from veteran hip hop group The Roots.

Don Van Vliet—“Captain Beefheart” (1941-2010): Avant-garde musician and painter

By Kevin Martinez, 12 January 2011

Of all the musical acts that came out of America and Britain in the late 1960s and early 1970s, none were more surreal and musically ambitious than Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band.

An interview with jazz and blues singer Mose Allison

By James Brewer, 29 December 2010

Renowned blues musician Mose Allison recently spoke to WSWS reporter James Brewer about his career and his music.

Connected, a 2004 collaboration between Dutch and US hip-hop musicians

By Nikolai Barrickman, 15 December 2010

A review of Connected, from hip-hop group The Foreign Exchange, an album regarded by many as an alternative rap “classic.”

The “cool little cluster” that is Mose Allison’s brain

By James Brewer, 22 November 2010

Jazz and blues artist Mose Allison’s musical career spans over fifty years. He is still well worth listening to.

National Ransom, Elvis Costello and Americana music

By Hiram Lee, 3 November 2010

Elvis Costello once again returns to traditional Americana music with his latest release, National Ransom.

Cleveland Orchestra players support striking DSO musicians

By Shannon Jones, 18 October 2010

Members of the Cleveland Orchestra are planning to join striking DSO musicians at an October 24 support concert.

Roger Waters’ The Wall Live tour: A comment from a reader

13 October 2010

Roger Waters, of Pink Floyd fame, is currently touring North America and Europe with The Wall Live. A reader discusses Water’s music and his evolution.

Splitting Image, the final album from Supastition

By Nikolai Barrickman, 17 September 2010

Splitting Image is the final album from underground rapper Kam Moye, more popularly known as Supastition.

Germany: Heinrich Heine in the “Marble Galgotha”

By Sybille Fuchs, 26 August 2010

In the last week of July, the celebrated German poet Heinrich Heine was bestowed a very dubious honour, as his bust was placed in the “Teutonic” Hall of Fame built by King Ludwig I of Bavaria, which Heine had himself ridiculed.

Jasmine, duet recordings from Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden

By Hiram Lee, 24 August 2010

Jasmine, the new album from pianist Keith Jarrett and bassist Charlie Haden, reunites the two artists who had not recorded together for three decades for a moving album of standards and love songs.

Beyond Borders, but how far beyond?—An album by Soulstice and SBe

By Andrew Lawrence, 7 August 2010

Described as an international project from hip hop musicians in various countries, Beyond Borders by rapper Soulstice and producer SBe fails to live up to the claims.

Music review: Peter Wolf’s “Midnight Souvenirs”

By C.W. Rogers, 25 May 2010

“Midnight Souvenirs,” the latest album from Peter Wolf, is his seventh solo record since his days as front-man for the J. Geils Band and the first since 2002’s widely acclaimed “Sleepless.”

Singer, actress dead at 92

Lena Horne, 1917-2010

By John Andrews, 13 May 2010

Lena Horne’s death in a New York City hospital last Sunday, less than two months shy of her 93rd birthday, is an occasion not only to review her remarkable show business career, but also to consider the conditions during which that career unfolded.

Transference, the new album from Spoon

By Hiram Lee, 3 May 2010

Indie Rock band Spoon’s latest album Transference is a welcome addition to the group’s already impressive catalogue of recordings.

Music review: Yonder Is the Clock by the Felice Brothers

By Dwight Stoll, 5 April 2010

If the Felice Brothers’ album Yonder Is The Clock’s receiving the award for Country album of 2009 from the BBC came as a surprise, it was only because the group is hard to define as a country band.

In a visible voice: Alex Chilton (1950-2010)

By Hiram Lee, 24 March 2010

Alex Chilton, former lead singer of the Box Tops and Big Star, died on March 17 at the age of 59.

Jazz drummer Ed Thigpen dies at 79

By Jesse Werner, 10 February 2010

Jazz drummer Ed Thigpen, best known for his work with the Oscar Peterson Trio, died in mid-January at the age of 79.

Why is Sonic Youth’s The Eternal such a disappointment?

By Hiram Lee, 8 January 2010

The latest album from veteran rock group Sonic Youth is a disappointing work, the least interesting effort from the group since their much heralded return to form with 2002’s Murray Street.

Making the “voice of the people” heard again: 70 years of Topic Records

By Paul Bond, 10 November 2009

The British folk music record label Topic has recently published a 7-CD and book set, Three Score and Ten: A Voice to the People, to mark its 70th anniversary.

Music Review: The Monsters of Folk

By C.W. Rogers, 6 November 2009

The Monsters of Folk is a collaborative “supergroup” composed of Conner Oberst and multi-instrumentalist-producer Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, and singer-songwriter M. Ward.

Mercedes Sosa, 1935-2009

By D. Lencho, 10 October 2009

Latin American music lost one of its greatest exponents with the death of Argentinean singer Mercedes Sosa last Sunday. The singer’s career, which spanned over five decades, came to fruition during one of the most critical periods in the continent’s history.


Les Paul: A legacy of ground-breaking musical invention

By Tony Cornwell, 19 August 2009

As well as being a beautiful player who never sacrificed musical ideas for flashy displays of technique, Les Paul was responsible for key advances in musical recording techniques.

Gurrumul: an evocative and unique musical contribution

By Tony Cornwell, 7 August 2009

The most remarkable feature of Gurrumul, the recent first album by Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, is this blind Australian indigenous singer’s extraordinary voice.

New York City Opera threatened by economic crisis

By Fred Mazelis, 9 July 2009

The crisis facing the New York City Opera says a great deal about the current state of so-called “high” culture, those sections of the performing arts that are not always or even mostly profitable.

The Michael Jackson memorial: A mostly tawdry affair

By David Walsh, 8 July 2009

A collection of performers, preachers and politicians entertained or addressed a crowd of some 20,000 people in the Staples Center for slightly more than two hours.

PJ Harvey and John Parish in concert

By Hiram Lee, 26 June 2009

PJ Harvey and John Parish recently gave a remarkable performance in Covington, Kentucky, while touring in support of their new album A Woman a Man Walked By.

A tribute to James Yancey: Volumes 5 and 6 of Madlib’s Beat Konducta series

By Hiram Lee, 12 May 2009

Hip hop musician Madlib pays tribute to fellow hip hop producer James Yancey, who passed away in 2006.

Renowned pianist Krystian Zimerman protests US militarism during concert

By Hiram Lee, 11 May 2009

Pianist Krystian Zimerman spoke out against US military activity in Poland and the Middle East during an April concert in Los Angeles.

“Shutting Detroit Down”: Country singer John Rich sings about the crisis, but also spreads confusion

By Hiram Lee, 22 April 2009

Country singer John Rich’s populist song “Shutting Down Detroit” takes on the Wall Street bailouts, mass layoffs and home foreclosures. At the same time, he hangs out in right-wing circles.

Akhnaten by Philip Glass, performed by the Atlanta Opera

By Kenny Crucial, 3 February 2009

Philip Glass ventured to the Emory University campus for a performance of his opera Akhnaten and to receive an award from the university. Glass was honored for both his musical output and his contribution to previous events at the school.

Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer: Documentary on famed vocalist

By David Walsh and John Andrews, 27 January 2009

Robert Cavolina and Ian McCrudden’s documentary Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer, about singer Anita O’Day, whose career spanned more than 50 years, presents a picture of an extraordinary woman: tough, resilient and enormously gifted.

A letter on cutbacks at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

23 January 2009

Attending a recent performance of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra brought home the reality of proposed cutbacks in funding. It also pointed to the hazards of a situation in which arts groups are dependent on corporate largesse.

New York concerts examine “lost music” of twentieth century

By Fred Mazelis, 7 January 2009

Classical works by composers who died at the hands of the Nazis or who were forced into exile have been receiving increased attention. Conductor James Conlon has taken the lead in this project to rescue unjustly neglected or unknown work.

Jazz great Freddie Hubbard dies at 70

By John Andrews, 3 January 2009

Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard exploded onto the 1958 New York jazz scene at the age of 20. Over the next decade, he blew fiery “hard bop” with virtually all the greatest East Coast musicians and appeared on innumerable classic albums.

To the memory of Adrian Mitchell

By David Walsh, 24 December 2008

This is more of a personal response to the death of poet Adrian Mitchell December 20 than an informed, much less scholarly, commentary. My encounter with his works took place several decades ago.

30 years since the death of Jacques Brel: his life, his art, his legacy

By Louis Girard and Hiram Lee, 15 December 2008

On the 30th anniversary of his death, the World Socialist Web Site offers a critical appreciation of legendary French singer Jacques Brel.

The deaths of singers Miriam Makeba and Odetta

By D. Lencho, 13 December 2008

Two prominent vocal artists identified with the struggle against racial oppression—Miriam Makeba and Odetta—recently died within a few weeks of each other. They came of age and achieved fame in the 1950s and 1960s, decades of intense struggles.

Songs from a modern lover: Jonathan Richman at The Southgate House

By Hiram Lee, 4 November 2008

Jonathan Richman, formerly of The Modern Lovers, performed a remarkable set at Newport, Kentucky’s Southgate House.

Chicago 2008:The Lollapalooza and Pitchfork Music Festivals

Political and musical perspectives

By Kenny Crucial, 12 August 2008

Lollapalooza, August 1-3, Grant Park; The Pitchfork Music Festival, July 18-20, Union Park

Real Emotional Trash from Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

By Hiram Lee, 21 July 2008

American singer, songwriter and guitarist Stephen Malkmus is approaching his twentieth year of making music. Best known as the lead singer and principal songwriter of the influential indie rock band Pavement, which got its start in Stockton, California, in 1989, Malkmus began his solo career when the group disbanded after 10 years of recording together.

A concert in Atlanta: Behzad Ranjbaran’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra

By Kenny Crucial, 14 June 2008

World premiere of Concerto for Piano and Orchestraby Behzad Ranjbaran, performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Robert Spano, June 5, 7 and 8

Two new “cover albums”: Shelby Lynne’s Just a Little Lovin’ and Cat Power’s Jukebox

By Hiram Lee, 18 March 2008

Country singer Shelby Lynne spent a decade in Nashville creating music for a hostile and restrictive recording industry. Between 1989 and 1999, she made several albums of country-pop essentially no different from the other various products coming out of the alleged “country music capital of the world” at that time. As Lynne told the New York Times in an interview published earlier this year, “I got to Nashville and was told what to record, what to wear.” This was not the sort of atmosphere in which a young artist could flourish.