Ann Powers

Ann Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs.

One of the nation's most notable music critics, Powers has been writing for The Record, NPR's blog about finding, making, buying, sharing and talking about music, since April 2011.

Powers served as chief pop music critic at the Los Angeles Times from 2006 until she joined NPR. Prior to the Los Angeles Times, she was senior critic at Blender and senior curator at Experience Music Project. From 1997 to 2001 Powers was a pop critic at The New York Times and before that worked as a senior editor at the Village Voice. Powers began her career working as an editor and columnist at San Francisco Weekly.

Her writing extends beyond blogs, magazines and newspapers. Powers co-wrote Tori Amos: Piece By Piece, with Amos, which was published in 2005. In 1999, Power's book Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America was published. She was the editor, with Evelyn McDonnell, of the 1995 book Rock She Wrote: Women Write About Rock, Rap, and Pop and the editor of Best Music Writing 2010.

After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing from San Francisco State University, Powers went on to receive a Master of Arts degree in English from the University of California.

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First Listen
11:03 pm
Sun May 24, 2015

First Listen: Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard, 'Django And Jimmie'

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard's new album, Django And Jimmie, comes out June 2.
Danny Clinch Courtesy of the artist

Love your old uncles while you have them. Mine used to hang around near the drinks table at family gatherings, comparing the weird bumps growing on their ears, sharing jokes they'd learned in the Army, and blowing the kids away with stories culled from decades' worth of interesting exploits. Most have gone to the next beyond by now, but I hold my uncles' devil-may-care spirit close to my heart. People have a lot to learn from those among them who've lived long enough to not worry about any particular outcome.

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The Record
1:29 pm
Thu May 21, 2015

Rickie Lee Jones Embraces 'The Big Invisible'

Rickie Lee Jones' new album, The Other Side of Desire, will be out on June 23.
David McClister Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu May 21, 2015 1:41 pm

Rickie Lee Jones needs no introduction. Seriously. The singer-songwriter is so elementally articulate, so gifted at grasping both the rawest and the most complicatedly cooked emotions in her compositions, that critical framing best comes after the experience of listening to her.

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Songs We Love
12:06 pm
Tue May 19, 2015

Songs We Love: Rayland Baxter, 'Yellow Eyes'

Rayland Baxter's new album, Imaginary Man, comes out August 14.
Eric Ryan Anderson Courtesy of the artist

Many musicians can craft about one-third of an excellent pop song. Some write beautiful bare melodies that drip into your head like honey into cake. Others are masters of tone, using genius arrangements and technical wizardry to craft a sound that transports, no matter the shape of the tune. Still others employ wit to craft characters that feel like friends. Rarely, a musician manages to do all three. On the new "Yellow Eyes," Rayland Baxter comes pretty darn close to such perfection.

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The Record
2:36 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

Shakey Graves, Lucinda Williams And Sturgill Simpson Lead Americana Awards Nominees

Shakey Graves performs at the Americana Music Association Showcase at Gatsby's during SXSW 2014 in Austin, TX.
Erika Goldring Courtesy of the artist

The nominees for the 2015 Americana Honors and Awards were announced today at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. This year's slate shows how the definition of Americana is gently expanding to include more generationally, racially and stylistically diverse stars, while remaining grounded in its country-leaning, singer-songwriter-dominated definition of roots music.

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The Record
1:00 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

Iris DeMent To Release New Album, 'The Trackless Woods'

Iris DeMent recorded The Trackless Woods at her home in Iowa.
Courtesy of the artist

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All Songs TV
1:39 pm
Mon May 11, 2015

First Watch: Gangstagrass, 'Banks Of The Ohio'

A scene from the animated video for the Gangstagrass song "Banks Of The Ohio."
Courtesy of the artist

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Songs We Love
11:39 am
Sat May 9, 2015

Songs We Love: Prince, 'Baltimore'

Prince, seen here speaking during the Grammys, will perform May 9 in Baltimore.
Kevork Djansezian Getty Images

Originally published on Mon May 11, 2015 9:00 pm

In a sly way, Prince has always been a political artist. Like Marcel Duchamp upending the art world with his readymades, he stormed the pop scene courting controversy, but always with a wink.

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All Songs TV
12:34 pm
Mon May 4, 2015

Ashley Monroe, 'On To Something Good'

Ashley Monroe in a scene from her new video for the song "On To Something Good."
Courtesy of the artist

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First Listen
11:13 pm
Sun May 3, 2015

Review: Buffy Sainte-Marie, 'Power In The Blood'

Buffy Sainte-Marie's new album, Power In The Blood, comes out May 12.
Matt Barnes Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 12, 2015 4:18 pm

It's tempting to mythologize Buffy Sainte-Marie — to call her a folk-music mother of dragons, or at least a shaman calling up lost spirits in her music. It's easy, after all, to exoticize individualistic women, especially women of color; doing so can even feel like offering a compliment. But on Power In The Blood, her first studio album since 2008, the 74-year-old firebrand defies categorization, as she has throughout a half-century of recording.

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First Listen
11:13 pm
Sun April 26, 2015

Review: Chris Stapleton, 'Traveller'

Chris Stapleton's new album, Traveller, comes out May 4.
Becky Fluke Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 5, 2015 3:58 pm

Even the most seemingly organic contemporary country albums — the ones by often-awarded "authentic" artists like Miranda Lambert and Eric Church — can sometimes show evidence of a checklist.

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First Listen
11:04 pm
Sun April 26, 2015

Review: Torres, 'Sprinter'

Torres's new album, Sprinter, comes out May 4.
Shawn Brackbill Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 5, 2015 3:57 pm

"Confessional" is a term often tossed around in discussions of singer-songwriters, but it's also one of the most misunderstood. In a recent interview, Mackenzie Scott, who makes music under the name Torres, called it "a four-letter word," common and pejorative, and overapplied to women in particular.

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The Record
12:16 pm
Tue April 14, 2015

Spirit Family Reunion's Unbroken Circle

Brooklyn's Spirit Family Reunion released its new album, Hands Together, on Tuesday.
James Weinheimer Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 1:40 pm

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First Listen
11:03 pm
Sun April 12, 2015

Review: Alabama Shakes, 'Sound & Color'

The Alabama Shakes' new album, Sound & Color, comes out April 21.
Brantley Gutierrez Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 11:27 am

In the six years I've lived in the region, I've developed a mantra: Southern freaks are the best freaks. For me, the word "freak" can be both positive and downright spiritual. It describes serious individualists who are tolerant of others whose own paths may diverge from their own; people whose ways of thinking connect to form an antidote to the deep conventionality that often surrounds them.

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All Songs TV
9:34 am
Wed April 8, 2015

John Moreland, 'Cherokee'

John Moreland.
Kris Payne Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 1:42 pm

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All Songs TV
12:00 pm
Mon April 6, 2015

Anderson East, 'Satisfy Me'

Anderson East.
Courtesy of the artist

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First Listen
11:03 pm
Sun April 5, 2015

Review: Dwight Yoakam, 'Second Hand Heart'

Dwight Yoakam's new album, Second Hand Heart, comes out April 14.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue April 14, 2015 11:56 am

When Dwight Yoakam was making his first demos in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, a producer told him that his sound was "so hillbilly, they're going to call it rock 'n' roll." He was pointing to both the rawness in the Kentucky native's sound and its wicked precision, grounded in the great virtuoso art of bluegrass; and the depth of lyrics balancing the plainspokenness of Ohio Valley people who raised him and their eloquence, born of Bible reading and family-transmitted ballads and tales. "I've done a lot of miles on hillbilly highways.

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All Songs Considered
1:14 pm
Thu April 2, 2015

The National, 'Sunshine On My Back'

Dierdre O'Callaghan Courtesy of the Artist

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 1:44 pm

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The Record
1:23 pm
Wed April 1, 2015

How To Be Alone: Musicians Confront Solitude

Sufjan Stevens' album Carrie & Lowell is out this week.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu April 16, 2015 1:15 pm

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Songs We Love
3:58 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

Torres' 'Sprinter' Is A Portrait Of Potential Running Wild

Torres.
Shawn Brackbill Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 2:09 pm

Walk America's motor-mown playing fields on a Sunday afternoon, past baseball diamonds that look like half-hewn crop circles and running tracks cut in dirt or clay. See the swarms of children neatening themselves into game formations, each one trying to tamp down nervous energy and make her talent behave. Skinny legs protrude from nylon shorts quickly pulled on after the church clothes come off. Mothers sit and knit on the sidelines in collapsible chairs. Fathers stand, ready to go to the snack bar or sneak a cooler beer; ready to yell. This is fun?

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Songs We Love
10:49 am
Tue March 17, 2015

Buffy Sainte-Marie, 'It's My Way'

Matt Barnes Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu April 9, 2015 3:40 pm

Sometimes the simplest declarations echo most forcefully through time. Repeated, growing and shifting to fit different contexts, phrases like I am somebody or give peace a chance or fight the power define and support the core experience of being human. So much can be communicated in just three or four words: self-respect; the connection between individual freedom and communal well-being; the determination to survive even in hard times; undying hope.

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