Category: Music

Kickoff Banned Books Week with Freedom Sings

By , September 17, 2015

Freedom SingsThe library is going full tilt this year with Banned Books Week—a week long celebration of the freedom to read (Sept. 26-Oct.3). Every year during Banned Books Week, libraries, schools, bookstores, authors, publishers, and readers ensure open access to information by highlighting the problem of censorship with public readings, displays, discussions, and concerts.

We are kicking things off with Freedom Sings—a critically acclaimed multimedia experience featuring music that has been banned, censored, or sounded a call for social change. Freedom Sings is the inspiring story of free speech in America told through rock, pop, hip-hop and country music. Fight censorship and come to this free concert on Saturday, September 26th at 2pm at the Main Library.

Ken Paulsen, creator of Freedom Sings and president of the First Amendment Center, didn’t want me to spoil the show by revealing a full set list but you can pregame with a little Janis Ian (CD | Freegal) and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (CD | Hoopla).

If you come to the show and are “guilty” of reading banned books and proud of it—and we hope you are—take a “shelfie” with your favorite banned book. Librarians from the teen department will be on hand with a ton of banned books and a photo backdrop. Share your “shelfie” on social media with the hashtag #NPLbannedbooks to enter a contest to win Banned Books Week prize packs. Post those shelfies before October 3rd.


Free Music, You Say?!

By , August 14, 2015

Did someone say free and live music all in one sentence?! That’s right, it’s that time of year again when NPL and local radio station, Lightning 100, begin both of their free concert series – the Courtyard Concerts and Live on the Green. Both concert series provide a wide variety of talented performers for any connoisseur of music…don’t believe me, just watch! Check out the line-ups below along with links to what the Library has to offer…

2015 Courtyard Concerts

All concerts occur in the 2nd floor Courtyard, from 11:45 – 1:00 on nine consecutive Tuesdays from August through the beginning of October. And they are rain or shine, with a secondary location already set up just in case.

Occurred this week – August 11th - Riders in the Sky
“America’s Favorite Cowboys”


August 18thRod McGaha


August 25th - Marshall Chapman, Malcolm Holcombe & Mary Gauthier
Songwriter’s Session


September 1st - Sara Sant’Ambrogio
Grammy Award-Winning Classical Cellist


September 8th - The WannaBeatles
Beatles Music at its best


September 15th - Jonell Mosser


September 22nd - Andy T Nick Nixon Band


September 29th - Jerry Douglas and Friends
Bluegrass and more


October 6th - Revolfusion


To learn more about each artist and the event, click on the following link to view the Courtyard Concerts’ page.

Live on the Green

And now for a slightly more crowded yet still as entertaining concert series. Live on the Green takes place in Public Square Park in front of the historic Metropolitan Courthouse, in downtown Nashville. Starting August 20th, the 4-week music festival occurs every Thursday evening, beginning at 6:15 and finishes around 11:00. For the second year in a row, the festival concludes with a 3-day, multi-stage event with many great artists, several of which are local.

Check out the line-up for this year:


"Moon Taxi" at Ascend Ampitheater on August 6th

Moon Taxi at Ascend Amphitheater on August 6th

As of recently, Lightning 100 has released the last few remaining artists. One of the last headliners that was announced is the local band, Moon Taxi (you can find Moon Taxi’s music on Freegal). Along with the Louisville-native band My Morning JacketMoon Taxi played a show at Ascend Amphitheater on Thursday, August 7th. Lightning 100 sponsored that show as well and announced after Moon Taxi’s performance that the band would be returning for Live on the Green. I know because I was there. I’ve seen both of those bands now several times and every time is different but equally as awesome. Moon Taxi has played Live on the Green many times in the past, only missing out on two seasons in its six-year span. So make sure you don’t miss them this year, they do a killer Pink Floyd cover of “Another Brick in the Wall.”

Without further ado, here is this year’s schedule:

August 20th - Elliot Root, Shakey Graves, and Lord Huron (Freegal)

August 27th - Houndmouth, J Roddy Walston & the Business (Hoopla), and Cold War Kids (Freegal)

September 3rd - Greg Holden (Hoopla), The Delta Saints (Freegal)and Moon Taxi (Freegal)

Three-Day Festival EventSeptember 10th-12th

Thursday - Civil Twilight (Freegal), Humming House, Kopecky (formerly the Kopecky Family Band) (Hoopla | Freegal), JD McPherson (Hoopla), Delta Rae (Hoopla)and Rodrigo y Gabriela (Hoopla|Freegal)

Friday - Smooth Hound Smith, Turbo Fruits (Hoopla|Freegal), Zella Day (Hoopla), The Vespers, Big Data (Hoopla), Colony House (Freegal), and Passion Pit (Freegal)

Saturday (starts at 1:15) - Mr. Steve, The Districts (Hoopla | Freegal), Future Thieves, Lennon & Maisy, Kaleo, Elle King (Hoopla|Freegal), Anderson East (Hoopla), Family of the Year (Hoopla), All Them Witches (Hoopla), another band to be announced on Aug 14th, and the final headliner is…….(drum roll please)…..BEN FOLDS (Hoopla|Freegal)!

Though I’m excited to see all of these bands (a few I’ve already seen and loved), I’m mostly looking forward to:

Elliot Root: Minus the multiple voices, they remind me of Milo Greene and The Lone Bellow a little – and seem like they’ll be great live.
Lord Huron: For obvious reasons, they have such a unique and lovable sound.
Rodrigo y Gabriela: I mean, come on…acoustic guitar duo that did a cover of “Stairway to heaven.” Yeah. 
Passion Pit: 
I missed him when I was at Bonnaroo a few years ago, so I’m glad I’m getting a second chance. With an indietronic sound and high-pitched talented voice, Passion Pit is similar to the bands Empire of the Sun, MGMT and a personal favorite - Matt & Kim
Kaleo: Another awesome band from Iceland, I think of the bands Ásgeir and Hozier when I hear them. Yes, Ásgeir is also from Iceland but the softness of this lead singer’s voice is very much as enjoyable as Ásgeir. And I was reminded of Hozier in their song “Way Down We Go” because of its edge.

Also, fun fact: one of the performers at Live on the Green this year is the daughter of comedian, Rob Schneider. Can you guess who? Here’s your hint, she has a catchy tune about her exes…

Find out more information about the festival, VIP tickets, personalized schedules and more at the Live on the Green website.  

Bessie Smith, Empress of the Blues

By , June 26, 2015

Bessie Smith photo by Van Vechten, Carl - Library of CongressLegendary blues singer Bessie Smith was born in 1894 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She performed on the vaudeville circuit and was one of the first African American vocalists to be recorded (along with Nashville’s Fisk Jubilee Singers). She signed with Columbia Records in 1923 and soon became known as the “greatest and highest salaried race star in the world,” selling over 4 million records between 1924 and 1929.

Bessie’s song, “Backwater Blues,” recorded in February of 1927, is believed to be about the Nashville Flood of 1926. She was scheduled to start performances at Nashville’s Bijou Theatre on December 30 and would have arrived in town in the aftermath of the Christmas Day flood. Music scholar David Evans revealed this discovery during a blues class at Vanderbilt in 2004.

NR Postcard Collection - 036e - Bijou Th., Nash, TN

Last month HBO premiered a biopic of the singer, directed by Nashville native Dee Rees. When asked why it was so important for her to tell Bessie’s story, Rees told Madame Noire,

“My grandmother played her records, my mom played her. There’s this album that they had called One Mo Time, that was recorded from a 1979 a Black Vaudeville kind of sendup. And so that was something I remembered as a kid. So I was always curious about her life. She was a woman from Tennessee, a Black woman, a queer woman from Tennessee, who wasn’t afraid to be who she was.”

Interested in learning more about Bessie Smith? Make it part of your Summer Challenge!

Read about Bessie:

Blues Empress in Black Chattanooga: Bessie Smith and the Emerging Urban South
Blues Legacies & Black Feminism

Listen to Bessie:

“Backwater Blues” on The Essential Bessie Smith
“My Man Blues” on the One Mo’Time Original Cast Album

Visit a museum honoring Bessie:

The Bessie Smith Cultural Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Music review: Belgian musician Stromae

By , April 10, 2015

Promo stromaeThere is so much music out there in the world, my friends.  As residents of Music City, we can sometimes forget to explore beyond the musical borders of our beloved Nashville.  To make new music discoveries, I follow some of the big music happenings, like the South by Southwest festival in Austin.  Every year when I read about artists who wowed folks at SXSW, I happily discover a new musical obsession.  See the cutie in the picture to your left?  That’s Stromae, the Belgian pop star who has a bazillion views on Youtube!  Music fans all over the world already appreciate his artistry.  It’s about time we join in.

You might be wondering just how to pronounce his name.  Say the words “my strobe light.” Now reverse the words, and remove the be and the lightStromae has said it’s a play on the word “maestro.” Get it?  If you’ve never heard any of his music,  Stromae is an artist smartly influenced by the melodies and rhythms of the world.  Many of his songs make dancing a necessity.  Stromae sings and raps in French but you can easily find English translations of his lyrics online.  Do watch his videos – they reveal the tone and intent for those of us who don’t speak French.  Take his hit song Papaoutai.  In the video you see a young boy trying in vain to connect with his father.  Stromae’s father abandoned his family in Belgium to return to Rwanda, and was killed in the  genocide of the 1990′s.

I gotta give a shout out to the folks at NPR Music who hosted Stromae at their 2015 SXSW showcase.  You can watch his performance here.  Check out his music on Hoopla.  And let’s start a campaign to bring him to Nashville!!


Book review: Girl in a Band

By , March 15, 2015

Girl in a Band by Kim GordonGirl in a Band
by Kim Gordon

Depending on the amount of amplification, a guitar can cut a listener to the quick, or it can bludgeon them into submission. That’s why they call them axes. Holding one is like holding a weapon. For thirty years, Kim Gordon wielded her bass axe as a founding member of the band Sonic Youth. The band’s noise-infused rock gave Gordon ample opportunity to pummel her audience and carve a space for herself in the pantheon of American punk rock, but her arsenal isn’t limited to music.

Gordon is also an accomplished visual artist, having exhibited works around the world, and 1993 she co-founded the fashion label X-Girl. In 2015 she adds the title of author to her list of credits with the memoir Girl in a Band.

The book begins with endings: first with Gordon’s marriage to fellow Sonic Youth member Thurston Moore and, as a result, her band. Being in a band with your spouse, touring the world in various cramped vans and buses, seems like a recipe for disaster, but somehow Gordon and Moore made it work. Until it didn’t.

Like her singing, Gordon’s voice on the page goes from menacing growl in one sentence to whisper quiet in the next. The breakup of her marriage colors her memories of her family history, her brother’s struggle with mental illness, and her work with Sonic Youth. There are tabloid details if you want them, but Gordon’s book reads more like purging than exploitation.


Music review: Bjork’s Vulnicura

By , March 13, 2015

by Bjork

Sad but true:  some of the best art is inspired by heartbreak.  Bjork’s new album is no exception.  Now those of you that are thinking she’s just too far out there for your listening pleasure, remember that heartbreak is universal and something we can all relate to – a pain so intense and profound and utterly devastating.  But at the end of  that overwhelming sadness, there is hope.  Vulnicura is Bjork’s brave musical interpretation of the end of her relationship with her partner, her love, the father of her daughter.

Vulnicura is definitely an album to listen to in it’s entirety, in the correct order.  But if I had to narrow it for you, essential tracks are the album opener Stonemilker, Atom Dance featuring Antony Hegarty, and an epic ten minute song called Black Lake. In Black Lake, Bjork proclaims family was always our sacred mutual mission – which you abandoned…At the end of the phrase the strings sustain one melancholic note for several beats, a musical  representation of the gravity of this abandonment.

Vulnicura is Bjork’s best album since 2001′s Vespertine, the album that was perhaps inspired by the beginning of the relationship with her ex-partner.   Stream or download Vulnicura on freegal. Check out Vespertine through Hoopla.  And from now through June of 2015, visit the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York to see a Bjork career retrospective.



Download now: Valentine’s Playlist

By , February 13, 2015

say-anythingNothing says I love you quite like a mix tape.  With a playlist of songs handpicked and shuffled into the perfect order, your sweetie will know just how much and how deeply you care.  Listed here are songs guaranteed bring the love.   Download tracks or create a streaming playlist.   Grab that library card – that’s all you need…

The Very Thought of You, performed by Billie Holiday.  I dare you to find another singer who exudes longing and love as well as Billie…

Open Arms, by Journey.  “Haters gonna hate,” but in my opinion, Open Arms is one of the all-time best power ballads!

Drunk in Love by Beyonce.  Just to make sure your sweetie gets the point, let Queen Bey do the convincing.

At Last performed by Eva Cassidy.  When you think of At Last, I know Etta James is on your mind.  Give a listen to the second best interpreter of this iconic song, Miss Eva Cassidy. So sad both of these lovely songbirds are no longer with us…

Total Eclipse of the Heart, by Bonnie Tyler.  Love likes over the top 80′s production, right?  My sweetie and I go into hysterics every time we hear this song!


I’m not the only librarian who loves love songs! Here are recommendations from some of my esteemed colleagues…

Bryan recommends: Bob Dylan‘s Lay, Lady, Lay.

Jeremy recommends:  ELO‘s (Electric Light Orchestra) Turn to Stone.

Klem-Mari recommends:  Bruce Springsteen‘s I’m on Fire, and Calle 13‘s La Jirafa.


Please share your favorite love songs in the comments!  My Valentine’s gift to you – Bonnie Tyler’s timeless video interpretation of Total Eclipse of the Heart.  You’re welcome.





Record review: Ryan Adams

By , January 30, 2015

Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams, formerly of Whiskeytown and formerly known for his wantonly reckless behavior, has a new album. This is his first recording in 3 years, self titled, Ryan Adams.

Ryan Adams was once regarded as the Joyce Carol Oates of American singer songwriters. Three years is a long time for fans  of his sloppily compiled, pitch perfect songwriting to wait. Hallelujah, it was worth the wait and heck, it is winter and listening to Ryan Adams requires a climate that cleanses the soul.

The new album is full of instantly familiar songs that echo back to days of Ryan Adams stomping and stumbling through western North Carolina. There are slight hints of Lindsey Buckingham guitar chords and just when you think you recognize a riff, the lyrics call you back and require you to pay attention. You should always pay attention to Ryan Adams.

This one is available through HOOPLA.

“They don’t make coats for this kind of cold” – Ryan Adams




Popmatic Podcast December 10th, 2014: Best Music of the Year

By , December 10, 2014

Future Islands SinglesThese are the tunes that rocked our world in 2014. No joke – there are pirate songs on this list! Arrrr! Luckily, special guest Sarah shows up to save us from Bryan’s terrible picks. Tune in, turn on, check out – its the best music of the year.


Amanda’s picks
1) G I R L by Pharrell Williams CD | Freegal
2) Mandatory Fun by Weird Al Yankovic
3) Pulses by Karmin

Bryan’s picks
1) Gay Dog Food by Mykki Blanco
2) Shaken-Up Versions by The Knife
3) Cliff Martinez’ film scores CD/DVD | Freegal | Hoopla

Crystal’s picks
1) Singles by Future Islands
2) Metamodern Sounds in Country Music by Sturgill Simpson CD | Freegal
3) Interstellar by Frankie Rose Freegal | Hoopla

Mike’s picks
1) “Rock Steady” by The Bloody Beetroots
2) 1916 by Motörhead CD | Freegal | Hoopla
3) “Veil of Tears” by Beats Antique Freegal | Hoopla

Sarah’s picks
1) Diamonds by Johnnyswim
2) After the Disco by Broken Bells CD | Freegal
3) Language & Perspective by Bad Suns


Amanda’s Holiday Concert at Main Library

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page

Badmen, Heroes, and Pirate Songs and Ballads by Dick Wilder

Horrible Bosses 2

Voices by Phantogram

Evil Friends by Portugal. The Man

Mikky Ekko


Transcripts of the show are available upon request.

Book review: Mad World

By , November 14, 2014

madworld-608x812Mad World: an Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs that Defined the 1980s
by Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein

As a former writer of Duran Duran fan fiction, it’s pretty much a given I’d appreciate this book, which features not only the fab five, but many of my favorite bands from the 80′s.  But even if you enter a rage when Take On Me comes out of your speakers, Mad World will help you understand the events that led up to and influenced the sounds of that decade.

Music fans and journalists Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein interviewed (I’m so jealous!) some of the most notable new wave artists, getting them each to talk about the genesis and recording of their most popular songs. You’ll also read in the artists’ own words tales of the scene, and how some had strong friendships with their fellow new wave bands.   And while we’re on the topic, the authors talk about what new wave actually means.  The band photos provide an instant step back into the 80′s hairstyles and unique fashion sense often parodied and misunderstood.  You’re a fan of mixtapes, right?  Majewski and Bernstein recommend some excellent themed mixtapes: bands with interesting names, songs about science, songs from new groups that grew out of old groups…

I’ve already mentioned Duran Duran is represented; other participants include members of New Order, The Smiths (Morrissey and Johnny Marr were obviously interviewed separately), Tears for Fears, Adam Ant, Devo,  A Flock of Seagulls, and INXS to name a few.  And don’t forget to check our catalog, Hoopla, and freegal when you’re inspired to listen to these bands.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite songs you may know from the cover versions by Grace Jones, or Trent Reznor and friends, that would be The Normal‘s Warm Leatherette.


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