David Dye

North Carolina singer-songwriter Tift Merritt arrived at our session with her new daughter, Jean, in tow. Jean's one of at least three new things in her life: She also has a new album, Stitch Of The World, and a new partner in pedal-steel guitarist Eric Heywood.

For Throwback Thursday, venture back to 2012 and The Milk Carton Kids' first visit to World Cafe. Singer-guitarists Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale each had their own solo careers going before teaming up as a duo, but they couldn't deny the magic in their intertwined voices and guitar lines.

The married singer-songwriters Alejandro Rivas and María Laura Bustamante met in college but didn't start making music together as Alejandro y María Laura until five years later, in 2009. Their different interests — Rivas was in a Led Zeppelin cover band and Bustamante studied theatre — somehow combined into the sophisticated soft-pop of their 2011 debut, Paracaídas. The album went top-10 in Peru, their home country, but Rivas says that might not have been on the strength of their music alone.

In a very short amount of time, 21-year-old singer-songwriter Tash Sultana has gone from busking in her hometown of Melbourne, Australia, to selling out concert venues worldwide. But the bigger challenge has been extracting herself from addiction and drug-induced psychosis, which threatened her mental well-being and her life. She credits doing only what made her happy for her recovery. That meant it was out of school and onto Melbourne's sidewalks, where she used a looping pedal to construct her own backing for her powerful songs.

By the time he was a teenager, Chris Thile was already a bluegrass prodigy on mandolin; he's since evolved into a MacArthur Grant-winning, genre-defying musical genius. Jazz pianist Brad Mehldau is equally revered, as his inventive playing has both the critical establishment and packed concert halls singing his praises.

Courtney Barnett has been one of our most beloved recent musical imports from Australia. Both 2013's double EP A Sea Of Split Peas and 2015's Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit were remarkable works of lyrical dexterity. (The latter earned her a Best New Artist Grammy nomination.)

Melbourne singer-songwriter Jen Cloher has pursued a wide-ranging and flexible career. She originally planned to study acting, but her passion quickly became music. Cloher released her first EP in 2005, formed a band called The Endless Sea and started garnering nominations for awards ranging from the ARIAs to the Australian Music Prize.

Courtney Barnett's record label, Milk! Records, is home to a wide group of Melbourne talent, including the very fun three-piece Loose Tooth. Friends Etta Curry and Nellie Jackson have known each other since the cradle; they added bassist Luc Dawson to complete the band. The trio released Saturn Returns early in 2016. Hear songs from that EP and a conversation above, and get a look at the band's performance as part of World Cafe's Milk!

If you thought that a band named King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard just had to make psychedelic music, you got that right. Out of the mind of leader Stu Mackenzie and the town of Geelong comes this incredibly prolific band that has put out eight albums in the six years it's been together. (That said, Mackenzie vows to never repeat himself.)

After realizing in music school how simpatico their interests were, Olivia Hally and Pepita Emmerichs combined forces as Oh Pep!. The duo's humorous lyrics and off-beat instrumentation make for some very catchy tunes on its debut full-length, Stadium Cake.

Melbourne singer-songwriter Missy Higgins' first three albums all went to No. 1 on the Australian charts, and she regularly fills theaters Down Under. The songs she writes have a lot of heart; her most recent album, OZ, is a collection of equally thoughtful covers of songs by other Australian artists.

The strength of community radio depends a lot on the community itself, and that works the other way as well. Sarah Smith is one of the three co-hosts of Triple R Radio's Breakfasters program. Her job is to keep track of Melbourne's ever-evolving music scene. "People often say, 'Why is Melbourne the way that it is? Why is it seen as the live music capital of Australia?' " she says.

Don't tell Fraser A. Gorman that he sounds like Bob Dylan. He's heard it a few too many times, and his head full of curls certainly helps the comparison stick — but the Melbourne musician would prefer to be judged on his own merits. We like Gorman's 2015 full-length debut, Slow Gum, but we're really lucky to hear songs that will be on his new album in this session.

Loamlands On World Cafe

Jan 17, 2017

With this session, the band Loamlands — which hails from North Carolina and has singer and songwriter Kym Register at its center — makes its World Cafe debut. The band's debut album, Sweet High Rise, represents two very important changes for Register's songwriting. First, Loamlands' music has evolved from its folk-punk beginnings toward a classic-rock sound as Register realized they actually loved the kinds of music that most punks might scorn.

David Crosby's been inducted into in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, with The Byrds and with Crosby, Stills and Nash. He has one of the most revered voices of our time — and at 75, even with his legendary lifestyle, it sounds as good as it ever has.

Shirley Collins' recent World Cafe session is a perfect jumping-off point for exploring the world of British folk and folk-rock in the 1960s. Bands like Fairport Convention and artists like Richard Thompson got their start as "British Byrds" with electrified folk tunes.

The British folk-rock band The Levellers was DIY before anyone called it that. It formed in Brighton in 1988, when its members were still squatters, and built a career that, by 1994, had landed the band a gig on the main stage at Glastonbury and a U.S. contract with Elektra Records.

Shirley Collins has been a servant of folk songs — mostly from the U.K., some collected in her native Sussex — throughout her life. Born in 1935, she made some of the most important recordings in British folk and folk-rock through the '60s and '70s. She recorded on her own, with her sister Dolly and then with her second husband, Ashley Hutchings, in The Albion Dance Band.

The singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega was born and raised in New York City and is known for wonderfully articulate work like the breakthrough song "Luka," which earned her several Grammy nominations in 1987. Vega has a forthcoming play called Lover, Beloved: An Evening With Carson McCullers, based off an earlier play that she wrote and starred in. Her new album is Lover, Beloved: Songs From An Evening With Carson McCullers.

When Tyler Randall and Rob Keenan of Dawg Yawp were discovered by their manager and producer, fellow Cincinnati musician Rob Fetters, they were performing seated on the floor at their local creperie.

Robbie Robertson is a gifted storyteller who's best known as the guitarist and chief songwriter of The Band. His career started at age 16, when Arkansas R&B and rockabilly roadmaster Ronnie Hawkins drafted the Torontonian into his band, The Hawks.

Helado Negro (yes, that translates to "Black Ice Cream") is the alias of electro-pop musician Roberto Lange. Lange grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and made frequent trips to his parents' home country of Ecuador. He'd gotten used to living among mostly Spanish-speaking people; southern Florida is "like the capital of Latin America," he says. But from Fort Lauderdale, he moved to Savannah, Ga., where he attended art school; then to Miami; and finally to Brooklyn, where he began performing as Helado Negro.

Davy Knowles emerged last decade as a young, hotshot blues guitarist who displayed wisdom beyond his years. Knowles fronted the band Back Door Slam, which took its name from the Robert Cray song. The trio formed on the Isle of Man, off the British coast, and called it quits in 2009 when Knowles began making solo albums. His most recent release is Three Miles From Avalon.

Don't think for a moment that we didn't struggle as we compiled our list of the best World Cafe interviews and performances of 2016. We had to choose from over 200 sessions we recorded this year in our studio, onstage at World Cafe Live and on our "Sense of Place" travel adventures.

Happy holidays, my friends! Here's a gift from World Cafe to you: The Oh Hellos' annual Christmas Extravaganza. The Oh Hellos are a family band hailing from San Marcus, Texas. Brother and sister Tyler and Maggie Heath have been recording together since 2012 and released their first Christmas album in 2013.

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings got a rare chance to look back at their old music with the release of Boots No. 1: The Official Revival Bootleg, a double-disc album of material from the period when Welch was recording her 1996 debut, Revival.

Doyle Bramhall II has been playing guitar all his life. At 18, he became the rhythm guitarist in Jimmie Vaughan's band, The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Bramhall's father, the first Doyle Bramhall, was a drummer. The younger Bramhall was headed in that direction, too, until he picked up the guitar (left-handed, strung upside down) and taught himself in the style of his idol Albert King.

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