Though my cold, black heart rarely stirs for the work of singer-songwriters, the voice of Sharon Van Etten always turns me into a weepy, vulnerable heap. If you listen closely to this gorgeous Tiny Desk performance she gave with her musical partner, Cat Martino, you can hear the sound of my eyelashes fluttering with misty delight.
Los Lobos has proven time and again that a universal shared experience will always trump culture and language. The group writes music that speaks to all of us as individuals, yet can make us feel connected when we pack ourselves into a club to watch them perform.
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).