Rachel Horn

Ryan Adams is well on his way to becoming a Newport Folk regular.

Paul Janeway regularly gives the kind of performance that compels you to pay attention. There's no denying that the man who once trained as a preacher in Alabama was meant to be fronting a soul band. During an early-afternoon set at the Newport Folk Festival, Janeway put St. Paul & the Broken Bones through its paces, storming the stage with electric presence and a thunderous voice that pays tribute to — but doesn't imitate — his idol, Otis Redding.

Even though Violent Femmes played the Newport Folk Festival midway through a bright summer afternoon, the rock band's new song "I Could Be Anything" made the sunny field feel like a packed pub, where beer has made everyone friends, and revelers bellow out drinking songs with arms thrown across shoulders.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones roared onto the soul-revival scene in 2014 on the strength of frontman Paul Janeway, whose earth-shaking vocals are matched only by his irrepressible energy as a performer.

Most folks are well acquainted with the classic country and blues form that is the cheatin' song. Whether the singer plays the wronged party, the adulterer or the "other" man or woman, American music is full of tales about what goes on at the dark end of the street and behind back doors.

There can be a nagging worry, among those who love veteran singers of a certain age, that seasoned voices will one day lose the quality that once enchanted us. We know it's natural for vocal cords, especially well-used ones, to experience the same wearing-down that bodies do over a lifetime. Still, we anticipate with sadness that moment when we'll emerge from a concert hall and have to admit, if only to ourselves, that a great artist's pipes aren't what they used to be.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

A native son of the Boston area who came up playing the blues in Clarksdale, Miss., Eli Paperboy Reed possesses musical passions that run as deep as they do broad.

William Bell refers to himself, primarily, as a "ballad singer." "Up-tempos I do," he acknowledges, "but ballads — you can dig deep in a ballad."

After more than four decades away from Memphis' iconic Stax Records, the 76-year-old singer and songwriter has, in a sense, come home. And "The Three Of Me," the opening cut from his new album This Is Where I Live, is Bell through and through: A ballad singer, indeed.

Diane Cluck wrote "Red August" in 2012 for her personal "Song of the Week" project, though it's yet to be officially released. Still, she's been performing the song live for a while, apparently not wedding it to any one set of instrumentation — maybe keyboards one time, cello or toy accordion the next.

"Thunderbitch. Rock 'n' Roll. The end."

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