Stephen Kallao

Growing up, my parents would make the drive from Chicago to my grandmother's house in Waukon, Iowa (population: just over 3,000) for visit. While in town, I distinctly remember the only sounds we'd hear in that tiny house: The only radio station played all classic country, all day long.

The first time I heard Katie Pruitt's song "Loving Her," I was taken aback by the very first line you hear: "If loving her's a sin, I don't want to go to heaven." That's a powerful declaration from a singer-songwriter. It's especially powerful coming from a gay artist raised in the South without much precedent and with very few role models to follow.

Kate Bollinger writes smart, melodic indie pop music. It makes for easy listening, but there's real insight in her lyrics. Dig deeper and you'll discover a thoughtful songwriter coming into her own.

For today's session, The Milk Carton Kids plays songs from its latest release, The Only Ones, while standing around one microphone.

Big Thief had a pretty remarkable 2019. The band put out two beautiful albums, U.F.O.F. in May and Two Hands in October. Paired together, these albums present a larger picture of the band at the height of its powers, thinking and performing beyond the traditional album-tour cycle.

Sometimes you have to strike when the iron is hot, and sometimes you have to be patient. For today's guest Jeremy Ivey, that meant recording his first solo album at the age of 41.

The first time I heard Son Little's song "The River" back in 2014, it completely floored me. With a mix of R&B and soul, it simultaneously sounded both timeless and of the moment, much more than a simple throwback tune.

Already one of the biggest bands in the world, The Lumineers did something adventurous on the group's third album, III: The Denver-based group created a record divided into three chapters, telling the story of a family across three generations and how addiction touched those lives.

Who doesn't love a good breakup record? Well, maybe not the person going through it. On Forever Turned Around, Whitney flips the notion of the breakup record on its head. Instead of focusing on the demise, the Chicago duo's record is all about commitment.

Who doesn't love a good dog? Here at World Cafe, we are pro-doggo, and so is our next guest, Anthony LaMarca, who fronts a band called The Building (that is, when he isn't busy playing guitar in the Grammy award-winning band, The War on Drugs).

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