A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:
John Fullbright. The young Oklahoma singer/songwriter with an old-soul voice appeared on "A Prairie Home Companion" this winter delivering the heartfelt gems "She Knows," "Going Home" and "Until You Were Gone." His first two studio albums might remind you a little of Rodney Crowell or John Prine with a dash of Townes Van Zandt.
"Songs in the Key of Life: An All-Star Salute." The TV show opened with Beyoncé doing a medley of Stevie Wonder's songs, peaking as Ed Sheeran and Gary Clark Jr. joined her to reach "Higher Ground" with a fresh kick and high-energy soul. Lady Gaga, Jennifer Hudson, Annie Lennox and Tony Bennett all performed. Of note was John Legend's nuanced solo piano version of "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)." Then Wonder topped it off with wonderful renditions of "Superstition" and "You Are the Sunshine of My Life."
The One Hit Wonders. Fronted by Patrick Coyle and Barb Byrnstad, this eight-piece Twin Cities band knocks out "Brandy," "Radar Love," "Sunny," "Tequila," "Treat Her Right" and one of my favorites, "Build Me Up Buttercup." It's a lot of fast-paced fun.
Jim Joyce, Minneapolis
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Cassandra Wilson, the Dakota. In concert, her interpretations of Billie Holiday songs seemed to be more about the instrumental arrangements for her violin-dominated sextet than her inventive vocal interpretations. Highlight: her lone original "Last Song," a brilliant ballad about Holiday not being able to sing at saxophonist Lester Young's funeral.
Will Butler, "Late Show With David Letterman." "Take My Side," from the Arcade Fire sideman's first solo album, was a riotous rocker, filled with punk-rock snarl, glorious guitar and girl-group harmonies.
Ann Michels in "Mary Poppins," Chanhassen Dinner Theatre. Even though the part is more akin to the book than the movie, Michels is luminous in her limited role. She proves to be a triple threat (singer, dancer, actor) who even tries tap dancing.
Jon Bream, Star Tribune