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Playlist: Music Station Picks for January

Compiled By: PRX Editors

 Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/36613169@N00/243451360/">Gisela Giardino</a>
Image by: Gisela Giardino 
Curated Playlist
Here are the January picks for music stations from PRX Format Curator David Srebnik.

PRX Format Curators are here to help stations quickly locate radio pieces that are more relevant to their local air. Format Curators are very good in their fields: they have proven content expertise and have worked at local stations. They get the challenges of programming to a specific format and a local sound.

David produces Virtuoso Voices, an interview clip and fundraising service heard on 115 stations. As an Associate Producer at NPR, he programmed the music heard on Performance Today, and directed news and music programming at stations in Texas, Michigan, Florida, New Orleans and North Carolina.

What David listens for in music programming:

"I look and listen for programming that puts the listener first, speaks listener language and answers 'yes' to questions like:

* Is it enjoyable, beautiful, entertaining or substantial?
* Will it be memorable?
* Will it advance understanding and enjoyment of the music?
* Will this contribute to making public radio indispensable?

"I'm not big on music education on the radio, especially in the form made infamous by the so-called 'old-school' of classical music announcing.

"Radio can, however, educate in a compelling and entertaining way. David Schulman's Musicians in their Own Words series and WNYC's Richard Wagner documentaries are good examples of music education without the academic shackles that have made that term deadly on the radio."

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Here are the January picks for music stations from PRX Format Curator David Srebnik.

PRX Format Curators are here to help stations quickly locate radio pieces that are more relevant to their local air. Format Curators are very good in their fields: they have proven content expertise and have worked at local stations. They get the challenges of programming to a specific format and a local sound.

David produces Virtuoso Voices, an interview clip and fundraising service heard on 115 stations. As an Associate Producer at NPR, he programmed the music heard on Performance Today, and directed news and music programming at stations in Texas, Michigan, Florida, New Orleans and North Carolina.

... Show full description

Sparrow Quartet

From Georgia Public Broadcasting | 10:26

Here's a most pleasant and musically compelling tale of an American singer-songwriter who became a "banjo player who writes songs in English and Chinese."

That mix of musical styles and cultures brought that banjo playing songwriter, Abigail Washburn and her Sparrow Quartet together with Banjo star and banjo boundary breaker, Bela Fleck.

GPB's Edgar Treiguts's 6:12 feature effectively touches on the high points of Abigail Washburn's "Bluegrass-Americana" career and how it naturally intersected with Chinese culture and then a Bela Fleck partnership without going heavy documentary-National Geographic on us. The music is sweet, genuine and often quite touching.

The feature, mixed nicely with music, runs 6:12 and then segues to a Washburn-Fleck collaboration for you to play out or talk over and fade out.

The entire 10:26 could be an ideal way to end your local magazine program or could end a particular hour of your local (AAA or AAA connected) music shift.

Default-piece-image-2 Banjo great Bela Fleck has partnered with Abigail Washburn to bring Chinese music and the banjo together. Suggested Intro/Tag 2 banjos, a fiddle and cello make-up a new bluegrass quartet playing around the world. But it?s NOT your typical Americana music experience, when you factor-in the heavy influence of Chinese culture in the band?s sound. The foursome?s debut CD--?Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet?, gets a big boost from a multi-Grammy award winning banjo player in the mix. The band recently rolled through Georgia, and 2 of the quartet?s members--Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn--visited with Edgar Treiguts of Georgia Public Broadcasting

Amazing Grace

From Canadian Broadcasting Corporation | 50:34

Author Steve Turner calls it "America's most beloved song." In truth, "Amazing Grace" and its story is the gift that keeps on giving. Each story begets another story, and they're all captured in a highly enriching and engaging interview-documentary, "Amazing Grace: The Story of America's Most Beloved Song."

"Amazing Grace" could also rightfully be called "America's most versatile song." It's a gospel classic and a bagpipe standard that brings peace and slow tears to funerals. It's a folksong and a civil rights anthem. It's also where many turned for comfort after 9/11 and other national and other world-changing disasters.

America's most versatile song also contains a rich history and story that continue to be written in modern times. The hymn actually lays out the biography of John Newton, a one-time slave trader who wrote the words. He is also the wretch mentioned in the text we've heard, celebrated, sung, and meditated on for more than 170 years.

The song's story and history, by themselves, go well beyond interesting and captivating. But it's the history of the individual words, "wretch," "grace" and "amazing" that create the most interest and momentum. Author Steve Turner juxtaposes Newton's original intentions for these words with the stories of people whose lives were rescued and transformed upon hearing them at their lowest and highest life moments. These juxtapositions create the documentary's deepest, most gripping moments.

The talk-to-music ratio leans primarily towards compelling conversation. For music-intensive stations, and those who remember the definitive "Amazing Grace" PBS documentary, this is not a "music program." The hymn appears in eight riveting excerpts, but more as supporting material.

Suitable for almost all formats and for stations with regular and occasional documentary slots in their schedule.

Convincing storytelling of a rare and remarkable multi-layered story.

(N.B. There is about 20 seconds of Vivaldi's Four Seasons at the opening in which I believe is unintentional and the producers have been notified.)

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Author Steve Turner's book "Amazing Grace: the story of an America's Favourite Song" unearths the fascinating background of a piece of music that's had an extraordinary impact. It's been a hymn of redemption. A song of comfort. A gospel favourite, a bagpipe standard, a folksong, a civil rights anthem, the most popular song for funerals. It's the song people turned to after 9/11, Columbine, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Challenger tragedy. There are at least 450 recorded versions of it - everyone from Elvis to Mahalia Jackson. The English man who created the lyrics, John Newton, the "wretch" of the first verse, had an unbelievable life. And yet its roots are more American than anything else.

Steve Turner has written about Marvin Gaye, The Beatles, Jack Kerouac, and Van Morrison. He's published his articles about music in Rolling Stone and The London Times.

Johnny Cash: At Folsom Prison

From Joyride Media | 59:00

A veritable best of both worlds here with "Johnny Cash: At Folsom Prison." You've got the story-telling music of Johnny Cash and the story of one of the most royal of all concerts -- the incredible show Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three put on at Folsom Prison in 1968.

The music and performances are a gritty given. What stands out is how the production by Joyride Media puts you in a seat right next to a prisoner in the Folsom Prison cafeteria. You'll hear from prisoners, prison guards and reporters who all capture the color and the concert.

Incredibly entertaining and compelling radio, capturing the wonder, hope and crude and cruel merriment of a historic musical and sociological event. And Johnny Cash.

For those who hate surprises: language advisory at 13:25 in Part 1 and 4:32 in Part 2. The program contains songs with drug references as well.

Folsomcover_small IN 1968, JOHNNY CASH ENTERED CALIFORNIA’S NOTORIOUS FOLSOM PRISON TO PLAY A CONCERT. IT WASN’T HIS FIRST SHOW THERE, OR HIS LAST.  BUT THIS TIME, HE CAPTURED ON TAPE THE RAW ENERGY OF THE PRISONERS AND CAMRADERIE HE FELT WITH THEM. CASH KNEW THAT THERE WERE A LOT OF PEOPLE LIVING IN PRISONS LIKE FOLSOM THAT NEEDED TO BE TREATED LIKE HUMAN BEINGS.  IN TIME, HE BECAME A POWERFUL VOICE FOR PRISON REFORM.

WE’LL HEAR HIGHLIGHTS FROM CASH’S FOLSOM CONCERT AND TALK TO PEOPLE WHO WERE THERE TO SEE IT – FOLSOM PRISON GUARDS AND INMATES, JOURNALISTS WHO COVERED THE EVENT, CASH BIOGRAPHER MICHAEL STREISGUTH AND SPECIAL GUEST, MERLE HAGGARD.

Check out all of Joyride Media's Johnny Cash specials hosted by Rodney Crowell.

A Musician's Life: Blues guitarist and songwriter Michael Hill

From WXPN | Part of the A Musician's Life series | 05:01

New from Tracey Tanenbaum and her A Musician's Life Series -- the socially conscious music of Michael Hill. He got his inspiration at home and an accidental Jimi Hendrix sighting.

Other new and recent pieces from Tracey/A Musician's Life -- David Stone who purposely mirrors Johnny Cash, Matthew Sweet, and the not-so-crazy Kristin Hersh.

Singer-Songwriter Martin Sexton's "cafeteria religion" approach to music is also grabbing, and Mary Gautier (previously reviewed) is
still a must hear for listeners and a "must-study" for all radio producers.

Tanenbaum is the ultimate public radio music story teller and radio craftsperson -- who gets the best from her guests and effortlessly builds story, music, interview and VTs into one of PRX's most consistently excellent series.

Michaelhill_small Michael Hill grew up in the Bronx in a household filled with politics and music.  His parents told Michael about the civil rights movement and the teachings of Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr.  They played songs of the folk revival.  So it's not surprising that Hill writes songs that draw attention to society's problems.  

Michael Hill decided he wanted to play guitar when he saw a picture of Jimi Hendrix in a magazine.  His appreciation for the bands of the British invasion led him to the blues.

Michael Hill has put out several albums with his band the Blues Mob. 

NEA Jazz Master Snooky Young gives advice to aspiring players

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Jazz Masters Moments series | 01:00

NEA Jazz Masters Moments has added some new, nifty moments with trumpeter Snooky Young and the Belgian harmonicat, Toots Thielmans. There are multiple Young moments to choose from -- I like Snooky Young Gives Advice to Aspiring Players as listed here, plus the bittersweet Snooky Young's Run-in with the Law.

Toots Thielemans introduces the birth of his big hit, with Toots Thielmans on Composing 'Bluesette' and talks about his cardboard start on Toots Thielmans on his Musical Upbringing.

As with the others I've recommended, these Jazz Moments can serve your listeners and station in a variety of ways -- and each creates joy in some small way.

Jazzmasterslogorev_small NEA Jazz Master Snooky Young has been performing for decades.  In fact, he's played with some of the best jazz bands in the history of jazz - Count Basie, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, etc.  And he is still playing the trumpet, after all these years.