The Listening Room: Records, Podcasts and More


Lucy Dacus



The current darling of the alternative scene scores with some fine originals—notably “My Mother & I”—and choice covers of Springsteen, Phil Collins and Wham! I used to despise “Last Christmas” til Lucy worked her magic on it.

– Chris Manson

Thirsty Curses

Thirsty Curses

I’m a sucker for pop smarts, intelligent and witty lyrics, and a bang-up whistling tune. This record has all three, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why Thirsty Curses only hasn’t broken 700 followers on the leading social media site. Facebook really is evil.

– Chris Manson


Charlie Daniels

Christmas Classics

Blue Hat Records

Clearly a compilation drawn from different eras and albums—though it’s hard to get any info, even from the official Charlie website. The transition from “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” complete with Linus Van Pelt-inspired narration, to the dirty rockin’ “Blue Christmas” is jarring, and there’s not enough of Mr. Daniels’ fiddle playing. Still, there are worse ways to kick off the holiday season.

– Chris Manson

Puss N Boots

Dear Santa

Blue Note

A joyful and triumphant five-song holiday EP. “Christmas Butt” may not become a standard, but that’s no excuse not to shake yours.

– Chris Manson


Alexandre Tharaud



Parisian pianist Alexandre Tharaud grew up in a musical and theatrical family. His latest, Versailles, focuses on a set of composers—notably Lully, Rameau, Charpentier, Couperin and others, all of whom gigged at the Palace of Versailles in the 17th and 18th centuries. Tharaud makes no attempt to reproduce the actual instruments of the time (no pianos then). Instead he makes maximum use of the sophistication and force of his modern instrument, managing a one-man show that might have brought all three King Louis-es out of their gilded seats.

– Bruce Collier


Luke Combs

What You See Is What You Get

Sony Music Nashville

Gotta love a country guy who name checks Maxwell House coffee as opposed to, say, Jack Daniel’s and Marlboros. Miraculously, all 15 tracks click, with the best of the best being “Every Little Bit Helps”—one of the finest post-breakup tunes in ages.

– Chris Manson


Tribe Zion

Get Tribal


The long-awaited full-length from local fusion-reggae movers touches on true life revelations, love, and the road that Tribe Zion has traveled to reach this point. It’s strikingly honest, while framed with island-inspired rhythms and a melting pot of musical influences that culminate in their fluid trademark style. Get Tribal isn’t just a feather in Tribe Zion’s cap, it’s a beautiful peacock feather ready to make a statement.

– Nikki Hedrick


Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox

Throwback Clapback

Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox (PMJ) has a unique approach to its music. The New York-based collective takes modern songs—well, pretty modern—and runs them through vintage genres like swing or ragtime. If it sounds too ironic for grownup listening, it’s actually witty and fun. It might even make you love stuff you previously hated. Case in point: I love Elton John, but can’t stand “Bennie and the Jets.” But revamped as a growling Vegas number a la Ella Fitzgerald (singer Aubrey Logan), I finally get it. And “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” should never be done by anyone other than Rogelio Douglas Jr.

– Bruce Collier

Keith Jarrett

Munich 2016

ECM Records

Pianist Keith Jarrett goes live in this lengthy concert recording. Jarrett has the reputation of making his audiences more nervous than they might ever make him, but Bavaria seems to agree with him. The 15-track recording (86 minutes) features 12 compositions titled simply “Part I – XII,” and three standards, including a dreamy “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and a brooding, slightly menacing cover of “It’s a Lonesome Old Town.” Jarrett dips into folk, blues and gospel, and offers some of his trademark impromptu non-verbal vocalizing. This might be the perfect album to acquire a taste for this eccentric musical genius.

– Bruce Collier


Kanye West

Jesus Is King

Getting Out Our Dreams II / Def Jam Recordings

Love him or hate him, he’s nothing if not sincere on this short but sweet foray into religious music. And though he’s palling around with Joel Osteen now, this is Kanye’s most listenable since his “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” period.

– Chris Manson


Adia Victoria



On rare occasions, I push play on an album and fall in love before the first song fades out. That was exactly my experience upon stumbling on Adia Victoria, who will be performing at the 30A Songwriters Festival next month. She’s more than a stunning, versatile voice—she’s blues swagger, unapologetically strong, and ready to open a few eyes with her gothic sweetness. It’s easy to see Victoria catapulting further into the national limelight.

– Nikki Hedrick


The Band

The Band


My favorite album ever, at least for that snowed-in weekend back in the late ‘80s when I had it on constant replay. Who’d have thought the definitive Americana record would be made by a group that was mostly Canadians? The deluxe reissue includes early takes and The Band’s complete appearance at Woodstock.

– Chris Manson

NOW That’s What I Call 80s Hits & Remixes


Any ‘80s compilation that doesn’t include Michael Jackson, Prince and/or Madonna can hardly be called definitive, but this one never claims to be. A solid listen, and I like the way the songs blend into each other. Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two” may have dropped after I graduated from high school, but I still cherish its inclusion.

– Chris Manson


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