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Thursday, November 27, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 8.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
The Daily


Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit look to Alabama for inspiration

Rather than scouring Nashville or L.A. to recruit members for his newest band, the 400 Unit, singer and guitarist Jason Isbell went home. The band's name is even an Alabama reference, name-checking the psychiatric ward of a small-town hospital there. However, the themes of their sophomore album, Here We Rest, are familiar to folks from nearly every state -- and walk of life. >More
 Lucinda Williams' reserve belies her music's intensity

Lucinda Williams has spent much of 2011 answering the same question. Is there a theme to her new album, Blessed? Time and again she says no. Then she adds that she doesn't often think in terms of themes. Her simple, blunt response is quintessential Williams. Live, she's sparse on exuberant chit-chat between songs. Her persona is as down-tempo as a delicate ballad. >More
 Cake tries new flavors on Showroom of Compassion

Cake's half-spoken vocals, lonesome trumpet and vivacious vibraslap wheedled their way onto mainstream radio after their 1996 album, Fashion Nugget, became a staple in dorm rooms, coffee shops and other bastions of dry-and-devastating humor. Pretty soon, the band had a slew of hits, including "The Distance" and "Never There." >More
 Rocker Ted Leo salutes Wisconsin's labor protesters

Wisconsin's union protests got Ted Leo thinking. "I wondered why we're always talking about 'labor struggles' and 'union battles,'" he says. "I think it's incredibly messed up. The captains of industry and the people in the head offices force workers into an adversarial position." >More
 In troubled Africa, Femi Kuti's music fits the times

There couldn't be a more important time to listen to Femi Kuti. With citizens struggling for democracy in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and beyond, Africa is a hotbed of sociopolitical progress. Kuti's music is an ideal soundtrack. These days, his 2001 single "Fight to Win" seems eerily prophetic in decrying the poverty of the majority and the moral turpitude of certain powerful minorities. >More
 Talib Kweli backs away from the mainstream in Gutter Rainbows

Talib Kweli has returned to his socially conscious roots. Just last week, the Brooklyn-based MC made news when he dropped Colt 45's sponsorship of his April 20 concert in Lawrence, Kan. The Pabst brand has been criticized for marketing its new fruit-flavored, high-alcohol-content Blast drink to young hip-hop fans. >More
 The Decemberists' latest mines heartland sounds

With a wintry name and a bandleader who confesses "slavish love" for Morrissey, England's king of the bleak and tongue-in-cheek, the Decemberists don't seem like a sunny lot. That doesn't mean the Portland, Ore., five-piece aren't enjoying their fame, which has grown since they signed with Capitol Records in 2005. >More
 Troubles haven't kept Sharon Van Etten down

The forces that would keep Sharon Van Etten from music only strengthen her determination to write songs. She's naturally afraid to stand in front of crowds. An abusive former boyfriend snatched her guitar and broke it. >More
 Dark Dark Dark's bright music hides twisted secrets

Dark Dark Dark revel in contradictions and small, sly tricks. Their story involves a slightly skewed road trip. Unlike many musicians before them, songwriters Nona Marie Invie and Marshall LaCount didn't start a band on a whim while listening to the radio. They're much too strategic for that. >More
 The wit and wisdom of Jeff Tweedy

Never mind the critically acclaimed Wilco and Uncle Tupelo albums. Forget the Grammy awards. More than anything, Jeff Tweedy's solo performances are remembered for one thing: his small talk with the audience between songs. Jeff Tweedy stage-banter videos have practically become a channel on YouTube. >More
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