The musicians we listened to in 2013

Photo by Flickr user Professor Bop

As we quickly approach 2014, we can’t help but reflect on our year at Art Beat. Over the next few days, we’ll be looking back at some of our best stories of 2013, starting with all things music.

From singer and actress Audra McDonald to Trey Anastasio of Phish, we covered a lot of ground. We share few highlights from Art Beat’s music coverage from the last year that we think are a worth a second view — or listen.

Arlo Guthrie Celebrates His Father’s Legacy

Rachel Wellford

Arlo Guthrie, the son of folk legend Woody Guthrie, played his first gig at the age of 13. Since then, he has performed all over the world and created his own record label, Rising Son Records. But while the younger Guthrie found his own sound and subject matter separate from his father’s, he has never forgotten his roots or forsaken that legacy as a great source for lessons in music and life. Art Beat talked to the renowned folksinger/songwriter during his “Here Comes the Kid.”

Charles Bradley Bears His Screaming Soul

If you go to a Charles Bradley concert, prepare to get hugged by the man himself. He does it every time. After the show — after the screaming and the sweat — he steps down from the stage, arms outstretched, and embraces the audience one by one. Bradley was in his 50s when the co-founder of Daptone Records “discovered” him in a Brooklyn nightclub performing as a James Brown act called Black Velvet. By age 62, Daptone released his first album, “No Time for Dreaming,” to critical acclaim. It made Rolling Stones’ 50 Best Albums of 2011, ranking him alongside smash hit artists like Adele and Frank Ocean. Art Beat caught up with him during the tour of his second album, “Victim of Love.”

Conversation: Jazz Saxophonist Charles Lloyd

Charles Lloyd; photo by mpix46 via Flickr

Saxophonist Charles Lloyd, celebrating his 75th year with grand concert celebrations, continues to tour and record, including a new duet album with pianist Jason Moran titled “Hagar’s Song.” Chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown talked to Lloyd at his home in Santa Barbara, Calif., just before he left on a European tour.

For Sarah Brightman, ‘Dreamchaser’ Preludes Upcoming Space Journey

Sarah Brightman's 'Dreamchaser'Sarah Brightman’s voice has been often described as heavenly, which more than ever seems appropriate, as the soprano has recently turned her sights to the skies. Her latest album, “Dreamchaser,” is inspired by her life-long fascination with space. And in two years Brightman’s childhood dream is set to become reality, when she boards a rocket and travels to the International Space Station. Art Beat caught up with her to talk about her album and space travel plans.

Billy Bragg, the Sherpa of Heartbreak

For a guy from England, musician Billy Bragg keeps a close and informed eye on America. He follows its politics, its music. Former NewsHour correspondent Ray Suarez sat on the bus with Bragg during the musician’s U.S. and Canada tour and talked about his latest recording, “Tooth & Nail,” heavily influenced by the Americana country sound: “We Brits have always had a huge appreciation for American roots music.”

Audra McDonald Feels at Home in Whirlwind of New Challenges

Audra McDonald
Five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald has just released her first solo album in seven years. She discusses her career, her upbringing and her aptly named record, “Go Back Home.”

Phish’s Trey Anastasio on Community, Commitment and Classical Music

The symphony is not where you expect to see the guitarist of the world’s leading jam band. Chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown talked to Phish’s Trey Anastasio about his 30-year career sneaking “harmonic elegance into rock ‘n’ roll,” being addicted to practicing, having a tight community of fans and his recent performances for classical music audiences.

Mandolin Master Chris Thile Plays Bluegrass and Bach Outside the Box

Modern master of the mandolin Chris Thile hates being boxed in by genres, and has made his reputation by going beyond traditional tunes. With a new album of works by Bach, the virtuoso easily moves from Americana to classical. Thile talks about his career and the musician he calls the greatest who ever lived.

Harper and Musselwhite Show Off ‘Different Shades of Blues’ in New Collaboration

Charlie Musselwhite and Ben Harper have a generation between them, but their love of blues brought them together. With Musselwhite on the harmonica and Harper on guitar and vocals, the two musicians have collaborated on an album, “Get Up!” Chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown sat down with the artists for a taste of their “all purpose blues.”

A Candid Conversation With Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim

In its 106 years, the MacDowell arts colony in New Hampshire has honored the likes of Aaron Copland, Philip Roth and Edward Albee, but never before an artist from musical theater. Celebrated composer and songwriter Stephen Sondheim offers some candid conversation at the prestigious institution, where he received an award.

Graham Nash Talks ‘Wild Tales’ and Musical Friends

A member of the 1960s British rock group the Hollies and one-fourth of the super-group Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Graham Nash has just come out with a new memoir of his life called “Wild Tales.” The musician discussed some of his famous musical partners while on a solo tour stop at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Va.

Bilingual Rock Star Julieta Venegas Reflects on ‘Los Momentos’

Julieta Venegas attributes her distinct sound to her upbringing in Mexican border town Tijuana. Fluent in Spanish and English, Venegas said that living on the border gave her access to different artists and genres of music before the internet age of music sharing. Art Beat met up with the bilingual rock star on her “Los Momentos” tour.

Pianist Jeremy Denk Looks at the ‘Weirdnesses of Great Music’

To explain the relationship between aria and variation in J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” classical pianist Jeremy Denk likens the work to jazz. He describes the Variations as “the largest, most complex jazz riff in the history of music, maybe … where you take the harmonies underneath a tune and then you improvise over them.” Denk released his recording of the “Goldberg Variations” in September, the same month he received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. Classical pianist Jeremy Denk spoke to chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown before a recital for the Washington Performing Arts Society at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in October.

Country Music Legend Dolly Parton’s New Role: ‘Book Lady’

Dolly Parton; photo by Mike Melia/PBS NewsHour
Country music legend Dolly Parton has delivered nearly 50 million free books to children’s homes. Called Imagination Library, the program started in 1996 in one one rural Tennessee county and has spread to 1,400 communities across the United States, England and Canada. Special correspondent for education John Merrow spoke to Parton about her title of “book lady.”

Carlos Santana on the Conviction and Charisma That Inspired His Rock Career

Carlos Santana came to the U.S. as a teenager and decades later is regarded as one of rock’s greatest guitarists. He discusses the “screaming charisma” that first inspired him to play guitar just before being honored for lifetime achievement at the Kennedy Center.