Music and Musicians

Effectively a "who's who" of the Iowa City bluegrass scene, this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend" features the classic, tight harmonies, deft picking, and quirky humor of Banjoy. 

Join host Ben Kieffer as he talks with the group- which consists of banjo legend Bob Black,  guitarists Kristie Black and Mark Wilson, and bassist Paul Wilson- about the many years of bluegrass they have under their belts. 

Photo Courtesy of Nate Sletten

Nate Sletten leads the band program at Earlham High School, and he has twice been nominated for a Grammy for Music Educator of the Year. This year, he was a semi-finalist, chosen in a group of 25 music educators from across the country. He did not win, but he’s done some amazing work building the band program in Earlham, in part by continuing to play in bands himself and letting students sit in with him. 

He says he chooses to stay in a rural district because of the relationships he has the opportunity to build there. 

Come see what all the fuss is about this Friday, February 10, as Des Moines indie-rock group The Fuss performs on IPR Studio One's Java Blend.

At 2 p.m. at The Java House in downtown Iowa City, join Java Blend host Ben Kieffer as he chats with the group about their quick rise through the Des Moines DIY scene. 

Melissa Stukenholtz / Gorman House Photograph

Sixteen years ago, Patresa Hartman started writing songs, but she kept them hidden because she was afraid to let anyone hear them.  By 2011, she had enough of this performance phobia and looked for a place to play her music.

Photo Courtesy of the Des Moines Metro Opera

The Des Moines Metro Opera opens its run of Soldier Songs this weekend at Camp Dodge in Johnston. It will be the first time an opera has been performed at an active military base. 

Michael Mayes, the operatic baritone who will be performing the one -man opera, says it's been a unique experience to be rehearsing a piece like Soldier Songs in front of active military service members. 

In the first Java Blend performance of the season, bluegrass legend Bob Black will be joined by Kristie Black and Banjoy on Friday, January 27 at  2 p.m. in The Java House in downtown Iowa City. 

Stop by (for free!) and join host Ben Kieffer to hear the group seamlessly juggle their technical prowess, impressive vocal harmonies, and clever songwriting. 

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host Ben Kieffer welcomes the signature pop melodies and tight harmonies of The Well Pennies to Iowa. 

The folk duo, who recently relocated from Los Angeles to Des Moines, earned national acclaim for their rendition of the classic Beatles tune "All My Loving," featured on a 2013 release called "Beatles Reimagined." 

Download the free podcast below to hear The Well Pennies play their Beatles takes and well-crafted original music that spans the length of their careers. 

Paul Sabin Photo

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host Ben Kieffer chats with Iowa music legend  and visual artist Tony Brown. 

Listen to and download the free podcast below to hear Brown impressive command of a wide-range of styles from old school Blues to R&B, Soul, Ska, Reggae, Jazz, Rock, Fold, Funk and Latin flavors. Plus, here incredible stories of Brown's childhood in Waterloo, as well as his experiences abroad. 

When you think of the state of Iowa, you might not initially find yourself thinking about its music scene or rich musical culture. But there is a growing diversity of sound in the state and a “special sauce” that makes the music that’s made here unique.

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Dave Zollo, Iowa City based artist and founder of Trailer Records; Luke Tweedy, owner of Flat Black Studios and Tim Hankewich of Orchestra Iowa about music in Iowa.

In this special, outdoor episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa music greats David Zollo and William Elliott Whitmore join together to perform at IPR's second annual Great Iowa Potluck. 

Download the free podcast below to hear host Ben Kieffer chat with the pair about their storied music careers, their Iowa upbringings, and their new project Middle Western. 

Kari Bedford

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Illinois singer-songwriter Ben Bedford tells  host Ben Kieffer about the his background in history has shaped his songwriting. 

Listen in to the podcast below to hear tunes from Bedford's new album, "The Pilot and the Flying Machine.

Courtesy of Bob Dorr

Looking for the best of Blues in 2016? Bob Dorr, frontman for Bob Dorr and the Blue Band and host of Beatles Medley, Backtracks, and Blue Avenue on Iowa Public Radio, shares his thoughts on this year's releases.

Courtesy of Oleg Timofeyev

After listening through new Iowa classical music releases from 2016, Iowa Public Radio host Barney Sherman says that Iowa tends to excel in classical genres and ensemble types that are a off the beaten path and under performed  in major metropolitan areas.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Sherman about his favorite new Iowa classical music for 2016. During this hour, we also hear about some of best new folk music for 2016, curated by Karen Impola, host of Iowa Public Radio's The Folk Tree and University Concert.

IPR/Tony Dehner

We received around 1,800 albums this year, and we put just under 900 of those into rotation on IPR's Studio One. There's been so much incredible music released this year; it's impossible to get to all of it. Never fear! We've created a guide. 

Below, you'll find lists of favorites from 2016 from all three of IPR's Studio One Tracks hosts, alongside lists from IPR's Sean McClain and Clay Masters.

Iowa City folk rock group The Recliners channels recent Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan from The Java House stage in downtown Iowa City on this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend." 

Join the group in reminiscing on their favorite Dylan stories, moments, and most importantly, songs, by downloading the free podcast below. 

IPR Studio One's "Java Blend" will host Iowa City's reggae master Tony Brown on Friday, December 2 at The Java House in downtown Iowa City. 

Stop by at 2 P.M. to hear Java Blend host Ben Kieffer chat with Brown about his long and storied career and listen to him perform tunes from his rich discography. 

In this episode of Iowa Public Radio Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa blues icon Kevin B.F. Burt stops by The Java House in downtown Iowa City to croon and belt his legendary tunes. 

Lend an ear to the podcast below to hear some of Burt's new works, as well as some searing covers of B.B. King, Bob Dylan, and more. 

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Des Moines powerhouse Bonne Finken trades laid back acoustic arrangements for grand, sprawling electronic tunes. 

Download the podcast below to hear host Ben Kieffer chat with Finken on her decision to go electronic. 

Clare Roth / Iowa Public Radio

It’s 2007, “The World Spins Madly On” is a massive hit, and The Weepies are exhausted.

“We did a year of our car, coffeehouses, 180 shows in 190 days where we were at festivals in Europe and everywhere, and we were just exhausted. And we are like recluses,” says Steve Tannen, one half of the folk-pop/husband-wife duo.

So, after releasing and touring their second album, Say I Am You, he and Deb Talan escaped to a small cabin in a state park one hour outside of Los Angeles, to take a breath and regroup.

“For that time, it was a real refuge. Yea, we did run away a little bit. Partly in order to make our next record and not feel like we had something to prove, just to sort of get a little bit of a cave, where we could just sort of do what we do,” says Talan.

And while their move to Iowa City may make it seem like they’ve run away again, Tannen and Talan says it’s simply the right place for them and their three children.

“This felt more like a running to, to me,” says Talan. “We had two kids, we started looking outside LA. It was so expensive and so crazy, and we had really embraced the crazy for a bunch of years, and then we were just like, ‘I think we need to at least try to feel what it feels like to be outside.’”

“We’re vagabonds and we wanted to put roots down somewhere,” Tannen adds, “and every time we’d been through Iowa we’d say to each other, ‘This is amazing, we should buy a house here and raise a bunch of kids.’”

Their upcoming tour kicks off at the Englert Theater with “The Weepies: Completely Acoustic and Alone.” In this Talk of Iowa interview, host Charity Nebbe talks with Tannen and Talan about recording Sirens, living in Iowa, and how creating music and creating a family intertwine.

Four essentials and four bonus tracks to get acquainted with the folk-pop duo.

Somebody Loved

Tannen has said the key lyric at the center of this song--"You turned me into somebody loved."--is the Tannen-Talan family motto.

The World Spins Madly On

The song that catapulted them to folk-pop stardom.

"The record sold 238 copies the first week," says Tannen. "Then, three months later, it was the number one song on the folk charts of eight countries, including America, and it was on the strength essentially of people sharing that song. I didn't want it on the record, because it was my voice. I love Deb's voice. Mine is fine, I have a fine voice."

"You have a beautiful, emotional voice," Talan interrupts.

She continues, "We were very surprised with how it sort of caught. You put out music that you feel. You write songs that you feel and you produce them in a way that is 'feelingful' and you put them out in the world. And we have songs that are particularly personally resonate, but there's no saying what other people will sort of--what will resonate in their own lives."

Be My Thrill

In a Java Blend interview from May 2015, Tannen explained the origins behind this song were rooted in an argument he and Talan had.

"I just stormed out, I was like 'Fine!' in order to not admit that I was wrong. And I went out and I wrote a song about what I thought I wanted, and it was like the angriest song that I've ever-- and it was some of this song. And I played it for Deb, like 'Here, here's my apology.' [strums guitar angrily] And she said 'Oh my god, it's a love song,' proving what I thought, which is that she's insane. And then she took it and she fixed it and she made it like this, and she made it into an actual love song, and that is marriage as far as I'm concerned."

Sirens

The titular song from their latest album, Sirens was recorded in one take, in the midst of Talan's chemotherapy treatments.

"That was while Deb had chemo and we didn't know what was going to happen and she was extraordinarily tired that week and just impossible to live with, because she was like 'I'm getting into the studio today.' And she couldn't get up, so I helped her up the stairs, and we got one take. And that was that take. And it brought me right back there. And I think that that force of will is what got Deb through. I really do. Deb's ability to say 'This is what I'm doing with my life, whatever is happening.'"

"And your support through it," she adds. "It was a team effort. It was very much a team effort."

Bonus tracks

Jolene

From their first album, Happiness

Orbiting

From their third album, Hideaway

Can't Go Back Now

Also from Hideaway

No Trouble

This video for another hit off of Sirens features photos of the Tannen-Talans at home

Dubuque trio Cranes and Vultures brings its eclectic take on folk and alt-country to The Java House in downtown Iowa City in this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend." 

Download and listen to the podcast below to hear the band chat with "Java Blend" host Ben Kieffer and play some of their intriguing, highly original tunes. 

In this boot-stompin' episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa's old-time jazz group The Dandelion Stompers stopped by The Java House in downtown Iowa City- and the toes were tapping. 

Lend an ear to the downloadable podcast below for some jazz standards steeped in New Orleans tradition.

Iowa City's favorite bluesman, Kevin B.F. Burt, will take up a familiar role on the Java Blend stage for another electrifying performance of his award-winning roots and blues. 

Stop by The Java House in downtown Iowa City at 2 P.M. this Friday, November 4th, to hear the booming voice and distinct guitar playing that has cemented Burt as legend in blues music. 

Twin Cities jam band Frogleg crammed all seven of its members onto a tiny Java House stage for this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," so it's no wonder why their music sounds so tight. 

Join Java Blend host Ben Kieffer and listen in to the free podcast below to hear the group's stellar musicianship, infectious grooves, and dazzling chemistry. 

The Midwest-based duo The Matchsellers bring their "vaudevillian" form of bluegrass to the Java House stage in this goofy episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend" with host Ben Kieffer. 

Download and listen to the free podcast below to hear about the group's German adventures, quirky songs, superb musicianship, and even some hamboning. 

Folk duo Famous October is half Iowan, half Swiss, and all talent.

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," hear host Ben Kieffer chat with the couple on how they first met, how they became musical partners, and hear tunes off their newly released record, "One Day Baby.

Check out the free downloadable podcast below.

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation / Wikimedia Commons

The long-running public radio program A Prairie Home Companion will sound much different beginning this Saturday, as new host Chris Thile takes the reins on a permanent basis.

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa City bluegrass troop Slewgrass shows its tight harmonies and dazzling stringwork. 

Download the free podcast below to hear Java Blend host Ben Kieffer chat with the  group about their many other projects, as well as some high-energy original songs. 

Chelsey Hager

This Friday, October 7th, Twin Cities jamband Frogleg will pack their many members onto the stage in the Java House in downtown Iowa City. 

Join Java Blend host Ben Kieffer at 2 p.m. to hear about Frogleg's inception in 2012 and listen to their improvisational style. 

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa City singer-songwriter Elizabeth Moen shows off her dynamic vocals and heartfelt songwriting at The Java House in downtown Iowa City. 

Download the podcast below to hear Java Blend host Ben Kieffer chat with Liz about her writing process, the family she has found in the Iowa City music scene, and the new tracks Liz is working on. 

Courtesy of Gaelynn Lea

In March a singer, songwriter, and fiddler from Duluth, Minnesota won NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert contest. Now, Gaelynn Lea is embarking on her first solo tour and bringing her music to Iowa.

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