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Weekend Audition: 3 New Orleans Winners

Ani DiFranco: "?Which Side Are You On?"
Righteous Babe Records

What do musicians Ani DiFranco, Wynton Marsalis, and Norah Jones have in common? Answer: They've all been steeped in the rich New Orleans music scene. Let's take a listen -- and look -- at these different, talented artists, beginning with a new release from Ani DiFranco.

Despite the album cover, Ani DiFranco does not resemble a peacock. But she does speak and sing her mind, noting she’s “testing deeper waters with the political songs” in her new album, ?Which Side Are You On? She adds, from her web site:

“I feel a little bit frustrated, politically desperate... what can you sing and get away with? I guess I’ve been pushing my own boundaries of politics and art."

These songs inspire and provoke. Her album takes its name from a 1931 song written by the wife of a union organizer in Kentucky coal country, and made famous by Pete Seeger. DiFranco wrote the remaining songs with the themes of homelessness, politics, reflections on growing older, and enduring love (“I will always be your lover even after our atoms are dispersed,” from the song, “Hearse”). There's a cosmic view of women in “Splinter” below. She always seems very present.


In learning that Ani DiFranco has been calling New Orleans home for a decade, I noticed "her neighbors," The Little Willies, just released For the Good Times. It includes lovingly-rendered country classics such as Dolly Parton's "Jolene" and Johnny Cash’s “Wide Open Road." Here's mellow Norah Jones singing “Lovesick Blues” in a jazzy, smoky duet with guitarist Richard Julian -- it can’t help but put a smile on your face.


Grand trumpeter Wynton Marsalis recently was named Cultural Correspondent for CBS News, and he debuts this Monday, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. You might know that New Orleans-native Marsalis won a Pulitzer Prize and Grammies for his jazz creations and performing. Years ago he even grabbed Grammies for his classical efforts, including for this toe-tappin’ trumpet concerto finale by Johann Hummel, a Beethoven contemporary. What's fun in these videos is first to witness young Marsalis "ride a horse" when teaching a nervous student this challenging piece -- then enjoy The Master gallop away!


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