Singer/songwriter James Maddock hails from Leicester, England, and a musical family. James's first instrument was the ukulele, then he picked up trumpet and guitar. His early demos as the front man and songwriter for the band Wood were recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios, resulting in a contract with Columbia. Wood hit the Adult Alternative top five with "Stay You." Maddock's songs have been featured on Dawson's Creek and in the Miramax film Serendipity. "When the Stars Align" can be heard on ABC-TV's Wildfire this season. New York City's Rockwood Music Hall regularly presents Maddock as a house favorite. He has toured with Train, Paul Weller, and Meshell Ndegeocello, to name a few. Maddock is currently writing with Mike Scott of the Waterboys. Word is that Maddock is on Bruce Springsteen's iPod. "Fragile," from his 2007 release Strategies for Life, is unreservedly virtuous; his vocals are stirring and deluxe. The melodies will tiptoe into your brain when you least expect it. Touring now; go catch this fine artist.
Country singer Gretchen Wilson's voice holds the truth. The kind of truth that cuts through all the aching that life dishes out and just reels you in. She'll make you cry, and think twice, and listen to a song 10 times over. Wilson was born in Pocahontas, Illinois. Her childhood was filled with bitter, bitter lemons: She was forced to grow up fast and tough, as she tells it in her 2006 autobiography, Redneck Woman: Stories From My Life. In 2004, Wilson hit No. 1 on Billboard's country charts and won the CMA Horizon Award. In 2005, she took home the CMA female vocalist trophy. Wilson is a living, breathing classic, and her success is well deserved. "When I Think About Cheatin'," from her 2004 release Here for the Party, should be played very, very loud.
Artist: Gretchen Wilson
Song: When I Think About Cheatin'
Album: Here for the Party
Elliott Carter, still one of the greatest modern classical composers, was born in New York City in 1908. This December, he becomes a centenarian. The young Elliott went to New York's Horace Mann School and was mentored by composer Charles Ives. After attending Harvard, where he earned a master's in music, Carter arrived in Paris about 1933, just as conflagration was about to consume Europe. As the streets sadly teemed with Nazi refugees, Carter studied with the legendary Nadia Boulanger, eventually returning to New York to teach and compose. In 1960, after first gaining world renown, Carter was honored at home with the Pulitzer Prize for his string quartets. Among his admirers were Stravinsky and Aaron Copland. Carter's many awards include the Gold Medal for Music from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the National Medal of Arts, and a second Pulitzer. Carter, whose recent work is among his finest, considers his music to be born from jazz. "Cello Sonata: III. Adagio," performed by Chicago Pro Musica (Barbara Haffner on cello) from the 2005 album Elliott Carter: Early Chamber Music, is an excellent introduction to this living legend.
Artist: Elliott Carter
Song: Cello Sonata: III. Adagio
Album: Elliott Carter: Early Chamber Music
Bessie Smith, the "Empress of the Blues," was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1894. By the age of 10, she had tragically lost her parents and was performing as a street musician. In 1912, Smith joined Pa and Ma Rainey in their traveling show as a dancer. A deep friendship was formed with Ma Rainey, who became Smith's mentor, and Smith went on to become among the highest-paid black performers of her time. In 1937, Bessie Smith's life was devastatingly cut short in a car crash in Mississippi. Her legacy is immense. Remember her with the track "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," first recorded in 1929, from the album Bessie Smith: Greatest Hits.
Artist: Bessie Smith
Song: Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out
Album: Bessie Smith: Greatest Hits
Super Furry Animals
Super Furry Animals is an intensely creative five-piece experimental pop-rock band. Founded in Cardiff, Wales, in 1993, Super Furry Animals is Gruff Rhys (lead vocals, guitar), Guto Pryce (bass), Cian Ciarán (keyboards, electronics), Huw "Bunf" Bunford (guitar, vocals), and Dafydd Ieuan (drums). Besides being fun to listen to, they possess depth and imagination amidst their electronic and organic production. The title "Sex, War & Robots," from the 2003 release Phantom Power, is lush, graceful, and melodic.
Artist: Super Furry Animals
Song: Sex, War & Robots
Album: Phantom Power
Singer and human-rights activist Mercedes Sosa was born on July 9, 1935, in Argentina's Tucumán province. In the '60s, she made her first record, Canciones Con Fundamento (Songs With Basis). Under Argentina's junta (military regime) in the '70s, Sosa was ridiculed, censored, and harassed for her advocacy of The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo (whose children were among the thousands of Desaparecidos, "the disappeared"), and eventually arrested during a concert. After her release from jail, she went into exile in Paris, then Madrid, and has been honored by many nations and the U.N. for her continuing activism. The title "Solo Le Pido a Dios," from the album 30 Años, is sung with conviction and the devotion of a true believer.
Artist: Mercedes Sosa
Song: Solo Le Pido a Dios
Album: 30 Anos