Ken Tucker

Ken Tucker reviews rock, country, hip-hop and pop music for Fresh Air. He is a cultural critic who has been the editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, and a film critic for New York Magazine. His work has won two National Magazine Awards and two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards. He has written book reviews for The New York Times Book Review and other publications.

Tucker is the author of Scarface Nation: The Ultimate Gangster Movie and Kissing Bill O'Reilly, Roasting Miss Piggy: 100 Things to Love and Hate About Television.

Pages

1:28pm

Wed June 4, 2014
Music

Miranda Lambert's 'Platinum' Has Backyard Swagger

Miranda Lambert's new album is called Platinum. Lambert has become one of the best-selling artists in country music, and one of the most critically acclaimed. Rock critic Ken Tucker says her new album continues Lambert's ongoing project to create songs about women who are complex, fun-loving, and assertive.

Read more

1:09pm

Mon June 2, 2014
Music Reviews

John Fullbright's Uneven 'Songs' Finds A Way To Fascinate

John Fullbright's new album is called Songs.
Courtesy of the artist

John Fullbright's Songs is the most interestingly uneven album I've heard in a while. The work of a smart young man, it's also the work of a self-conscious young man who's prone to mistaking articulate melancholy for wisdom. Fullbright's debut album contained bold melodies and told stories about daydreamers and offbeat people. On Songs, Fullbright opts for pure mood-setting, sounding morose in an attempt to signal subtle passion, but that's not really how it plays out.

Read more

12:03pm

Mon May 26, 2014
Music Reviews

Two New Items From Hank Williams

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 9:46 am

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Read more

3:02pm

Tue May 13, 2014
Music Reviews

Ray LaMontagne Finds The Bright Side On 'Supernova'

Ray LaMontagne's new album is called Supernova.
Samantha Casolari Courtesy of the artist

11:43am

Mon May 5, 2014
Music Reviews

tUnE-yArDs: Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing

tUnE-yArDs.
Holly Andres Courtesy of the artist.

12:44pm

Wed April 23, 2014
Music Reviews

For Jessica Lea Mayfield, Sometimes Sanity Is The Better Option

Jessica Lea Mayfield.
LeAnn Mueller Courtesy of the artist.

2:57pm

Thu April 17, 2014
Music Reviews

A Duo's Debut Album: A Collaboration From 'The Both'

Originally published on Thu August 21, 2014 7:51 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Read more

10:53am

Fri April 4, 2014
Music Reviews

Carlene Carter Carries The Heavy Burden Of History Lightly

Carlene Carter.
Marina Chavez Courtesy of the artist

12:54pm

Wed April 2, 2014
Music Reviews

Jon Langford Sings Our Impulse To Destroy

Jon Langford with Skull Orchard.
Courtesy of the artist

3:35pm

Thu March 20, 2014
Music Reviews

Sara Evans: Country Power Ballads With A Punch

Sara Evans.
Robert Ascroft Courtesy of the artist

11:31am

Tue March 11, 2014
Music Reviews

Angel Olsen: A Voice Of Confounding Power

Angel Olsen.
Zia Anger Courtesy of the artist

Angel Olsen begins the song "Hi-Five" by paraphrasing Hank Williams, admitting she's so lonesome she could cry. She goes on to say she just wants someone who believes in love as urgently as she does. The twanging guitar throbbing beneath these sentiments suggests that it's going to be a long, lonely search. Over a matter of minutes, Olsen has created the landscape she'll inhabit for an entire album.

Read more

12:38pm

Thu March 6, 2014
Music Reviews

Pharrell Williams: Just Exhilaratingly Happy

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 2:03 pm

Pharrell, sporting more conventional headwear.
Mimi Valdés Courtesy of the artist

Pharrell Williams, who frequently goes by just his first name, is the sort of pop star whom many people would like to view as a friend. Emerging from hip-hop, he makes charming recordings that suggest a deep appreciation of pop, soul and R&B music extending at least as far back as the 1960s. To hear Pharrell on his new album G I R L, you'd think his world consisted of grooving on catchy beats and flirting with women. It's a lightweight image that draws gravitas from his prolific work ethic and a shrewd deployment of those influences.

Read more

11:35am

Mon March 3, 2014
Music Reviews

Chuck Mead: Gleefully Sinister Country Serenades

Originally published on Mon March 3, 2014 12:25 pm

Chuck Mead.
Courtesy of the artist

In "Reno County Girl," Chuck Mead serenades us with a tale about a young woman with whom his narrator fell in love. It's a loping country song, Mead's version of cowboy music, but as its pretty melody unfurls, you realize that its scenario is bleak: Mead's character urged her to leave home despite the objections of her father, and it turns out Daddy was right — this guy leaves her all by her lonesome much of the time.

Read more

12:15pm

Mon February 24, 2014
Music Reviews

Vertical Scratchers: Slashed Chords, Fractured Poetry

Vertical Scratchers.
Joseph Amario Courtesy of the artist

The members of Vertical Scratchers don't have to pretend: They are free spirits, making music that is at once tightly composed, whimsical and anarchic.

The vocals on a Vertical Scratchers song tend to be high-pitched and yearning. John Schmersal creates harmonies from his vocal tracks that have a keening romanticism. His guitar lines are a series of slashed chords — vertical scratching, and thus the band's name. At the same time, there's a compressed intensity to the tunes, which uncoil with a snap, again and again.

Read more

2:13pm

Wed February 12, 2014
Music Reviews

Lake Street Dive: 'Portraits' Of Heartache

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 8:21 am

Lake Street Dive.
Jarrod McCabe Courtesy of the artist

Lake Street Dive is powered by the voice of Rachael Price; it's what hits you first when you listen to this quartet. It's a ringingly clear, strong voice, a sound that's at once beseeching and in control. Price regularly harmonizes with the other members of Lake Street Dive — bassist Bridget Kearney, drummer Mike Calabrese and Mike Olson, who also plays guitar and trumpet. But most of the songs on Bad Self Portraits are showcases for Price's surging vocals.

Read more

11:41am

Mon February 10, 2014
Music Reviews

Hangin' Tuff: Eric Church Takes A Chance On 'The Outsiders'

Eric Church.
John Peets Courtesy of the artist

Eric Church is working on a level that few other country artists of his generation can touch. Now, one of the things I mean by that is that Church is willing to take big chances such as "The Outsiders," the title track from his fourth album, and clearly a manifesto he's proud of.

Read more

11:36am

Wed January 29, 2014
Music Reviews

Don't Pigeonhole Me, Bro: New Country Albums On The Borderline

Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 2:20 pm

Jon Pardi.
Courtesy of the artist

12:45pm

Thu January 23, 2014
Music Reviews

On 'Hard Working Americans,' Songs For The Ordinary Joe

Originally published on Thu January 23, 2014 2:39 pm

Hard Working Americans.
James Martin Courtesy of the artist

10:55am

Tue January 14, 2014
Music Reviews

Uneven But Vital, Bruce Springsteen Has 'High Hopes'

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 12:04 pm

Bruce Springsteen's 18th album is titled High Hopes.
Danny Clinch Courtesy of the artist

High Hopes is a different sort of release for Bruce Springsteen. It features original and cover songs that had been performed live over the years, some never recorded in a studio setting, as well as a few older songs reconceived with new arrangements and musicians.

Read more

10:29am

Fri January 10, 2014
Music Reviews

Rosanne Cash: Seeking A 'Thread' Through Southern History

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 12:30 pm

Rosanne Cash.
Clay Patrick McBride Courtesy of the artist

For the past two decades, Rosanne Cash has lived with her family in Manhattan, but in 2008, she was asked if she wanted to help with a project to restore the childhood home of her father, Johnny Cash, in the small town of Dyess, Ark. She agreed and went down there to do some fundraising — and in the process, she and her husband, producer-songwriter-guitarist John Leventhal, took some car trips throughout the South, soaking up history and music.

Read more

Pages