Oklahoma music

"The essence of the Bob Wills sound, and the reason he picked and did what he did, is that it was dance music — period."

Kelsey Stanger / WXPN

To hear JD McPherson say it, he heard Little Richard and there was no turning back. That pioneering hero and the music of Buddy Holly form the basis of the sound of the records McPherson has gone on to make. His song "North Side Gal" caught a lot of attention for his first album, which was made in a bit of a vacuum with nobody having many expectations.

That's not so true for his new one, Let The Good Times Roll. McPherson worked hard to not make the same record again. We'll talk about that process, let him expound on some of his favorite music and mostly hear some fabulous performances from the stage of World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.

Neil McCarty

Welcome to Sample Size, where KOSU's Ryan LaCroix and LOOKatOKC pop music columnist Matt Carney team up each week to discuss music news and new music releases.

Today, we look at the poignant songwriting of Courtney Barnett, the title track from the upcoming John Moreland album, and a new dance-pop track from Grimes.

Follow Matt & Ryan on Twitter at @OKmattcarney and @KOSUryan.

BRONCHO, 'NC-17'

Mar 2, 2015

Welcome to Sample Size, where KOSU's Ryan LaCroix and LOOKatOKC pop music columnist Matt Carney team up each week to discuss music news and new music releases.

Today, we look at music from three Oklahoma acts—a concept album from Beau Jennings, a slight shift in sound for Other Lives, and a strong new album from JD McPherson.

Follow Matt & Ryan on Twitter at @OKmattcarney and @KOSUryan.

JD McPherson says there's no contest for the best record ever made: Little Richard's "Keep A-Knockin'." With that as his touchstone, it's no wonder that McPherson's latest album, Let the Good Times Roll, sounds the way it does — and yet there's something besides homage going on in the music. The roots rocker says that for his sophomore release, he wanted to make what he calls "'50s psychedelic."

Jim Herrington/Courtesy of the artist

Two stretched concepts made the rock 'n' roll coming out of Sun Studios in the 1950s unlike other music of its kind: time and space. In a shabby little room near downtown Memphis, Sam Phillips gave the men and kids he recorded all the room in the world. "Spontaneity" was Phillips' mantra, which was particularly potent for the youngest Sun cats. Following it, Elvis and all the other rockabillies shambled their way toward coherence, made mistakes, got wild and kept tweaking country music and the blues until the sound hitting Sun's wooden walls turned new. 

  • Stream JD McPherson's new album on NPR.org.

 It's sad, then, that so many musicians who've tried to revive the Sun spirit reject spontaneity the way they'd turn down a Gap knock-off of an authentic vintage bowler's shirt. That's what makes JD McPherson stand out: Though his music honors mid-century sounds with laser precision, the Tulsa bomber takes so many little chances in his songs that they never sound like mere replicas. McPherson's first album, Signs & Signifiers, burned through the wall of its own references — to Elvis and Eddie Cochran, Little Richard and Big Joe Turner — on the strength of the singer's kerosene tenor and his band's masterful looseness. Working with a new producer, Mark Neill, on Let The Good Times Roll, McPherson goes one step further, finding that genre-defying mix that made early rock 'n' roll the sexiest thing on the radio.

Jeremy Charles / Courtesy of the artist

Sometimes you don't know that you've missed something, like an old friend or a recipe tucked away in a cookbook, until it reappears just when it's needed. In August, I went to see Unwed Sailor's set in Washington, D.C., partly out of nostalgia.

Jimmy Sutton / Courtesy of the artist

After all the time we've spent looking back at the best music of 2014, it is finally time to explore some of the releases we can look forward to over the first few months of 2015.

NPR Music's pop critic Ann Powers keeps her eyes on wide range of music; she helps us understand the middle and explore the edges. Her picks for the new year include songs from Oklahoma's retro-rocker JD McPherson, Seattle's female hip-hop duo THEESatisfaction and a brand new country duo from Nashville called Striking Matches

The Spy's Ferris O'Brien combs through hundreds of albums every year. Below are his ten favorite albums of 2014.

10. Morrissey - World Peace Is None of Your Business

Full disclosure: I'm a huge fan! But I'm also extremely critical of any Moz output. World Peace is lyrically on point, laden with wit and hooks. Easily his best since 2004's You Are the Quarry, plus it contains quite possibly one of Mozzer's best songs in years: "Staircase at the University."

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