Pick Six is a half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view.
Kevin O'Connor, KBEM music director:
1 Emmet Cohen, "Future Stride." With this album, the pianist/composer joins the rapidly growing family of Mack Avenue Records. A cheap synopsis would call this a new take on an early piano tradition, but it's also complex and heavier on improvisation.
2 Steve Yeager featuring Katy Vernon, "Poetry of Sara Teasdale." This album is both a primer into the poetry of the brilliant American lyric poet Sara Teasdale and a soundscape. Vernon's delivery of the sultry and poignant lines is the perfect vibe for Yeager's sonic vision.
3 Joyann Parker, "Out of the Dark." Produced by Kevin Bowe, all tracks were co-written with guitarist Mark Lamoine, but the lyrics pack a wallop that is pure Parker. If this doesn't kick in the door of national fame for Parker, there's no hope for the music industry. Out Feb. 12.
Jon Bream, Star Tribune critic:
1 "Give Us the Blues," Downbeat magazine cover story. J.D. Considine explores how 2020 gave people the blues and the music to match, by interviewing veteran blues artists Ruthie Foster and Billy Gibbons, protest singers Dave Specter and Shemekia Copeland, and new bloods like Kingfish, 22, from Clarksdale, Miss., who says: "All of this plays to what the blues is: hard times, people getting murdered, life and hardships."
2 Willie Jones, "American Dream" video. With his catchy trap 'n' twang tune, this Louisiana country singer mentions Minneapolis, George Floyd and Philando Castile while singing "when you're living as a Black man, it's a different kind of American dream." So, too, for a Black man in country music.
3 Miley Cyrus on NPR's Tiny Desk (Home) Concert. Performing in a made-in-Hollywood tiny bedroom, she shows her playful personality and underappreciated voice with two winning tracks from her current "Plastic Hearts" album plus a cover of Mazzy Starr's "Fade Into You" featuring an unexpected roar on the usually hushed refrain.