Matthew Sweet - After cutting his teeth as the guitarist with Oh-OK and Lloyd Cole, Nebraska native Matthew Sweet emerged in 1991 as the leading figure of the American power pop revival. Sweet began with the traditional pop song craft of bands like The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Byrds, and added post-punk guitars and flourishes of country-rock gleaned from Big Star and Neil Young. His breakthrough release, 1991's "Girlfriend," quickly became a critical and commercial favorite - as well as a touchstone for a decade of power pop artists. His 1995 release, "100% Fun," reached gold status. Sweet describes his tenth and current release, "Sunshine Lies," as "power-pop-folk-rock-psychedelic-melodic-singer-songwriter-type stuff."
Todd Snider - Outspoken, East Nashville-based songwriter Todd Snider burst on the scene with "Talkin' Seattle Grunge Rock Blues," a folk-rock song that poked fun at alternative bands. Since then, his songs, filled with harmonies, melodic hooks combine a keen sense of reality with scathing humor. After releasing "The Devil You Know" in 2006, Snider contributed to tribute records for Kris Kristofferson, Peter Case and Kinky Friedman. His current release, the politically charged "Peace Queer," contains eight politically-bent songs.
The Bridges - This Alabama-based quintet features four siblings - Natalie, Stacey, Isaaca and Jeremy Byrd - and cousin/lead vocalist/songwriter Brittany Painter. The group's debut "Limits of the Sky," released on the Verve Forecast label, was produced by Matthew Sweet - a natural pairing given the band's penchant for rich harmonies and catchy pop melodies. The group began as an acoustic trio called Long Short Story, which included Brittany, Natalie and Stacey. In 2005, younger siblings Isaaca and Jeremy joined to make the group an amplified five-piece. The Bridges have toured with Rooney and the Bangles.
Chris Velan - After earning a law degree he began work in environmental protection and international human rights. But his career took a different turn when he accompanied two filmmaker friends to West Africa to serve as musical director for the documentary "The Refugee All Stars." This is a story of six Sierra Leonean musicians who formed a band* while living as refugees in the Republic of Guinea. The film won numerous awards at international film festivals. This Montreal-based artist returned home to record his solo debut, 2003's "It's Not What You Think" and produced The Refugee All Stars' "Living Like A Refugee," which was released in the U.S. in 2006. His music is inspired by singer/songwriters such as Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Jackson Browne as well as Jamaican roots reggae bands of the 70s. The songs on his latest album, "Twitter, Buzz, Howl" weave themes of social injustice into folk pop with a reggae accent. Velan performed at the 2006 Montreal Jazz Festival as well as shows on both sides of the border.
Jim Boggia - Born blind in one eye and with limited vision in the other, singer/songwriter Jim Boggia grew up with a fascination for classic LPs like the Kinks' "Village Green Preservation Society," "Nilsson Sings Newman" and Stevie Wonder's "Innervisons." Those influences are apparent on his third release "Misadventures In Stereo" with "Chalk One Up for Albert's Side" co-written by Tony Asher (lyricist of the Beach Boys' landmark "Pet Sounds") and "Listening to NRBQ" featuring former NRBQ guitarist Big Al Anderson. Blackberry selected one of Boggia's tracks for a new ad campaign and his songs have been featured on MTV's "Real World" and ABC-TV's "Men In Trees."
* The Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars appeared on Mountain Stage in October 2006.
This program is scheduled for distribution by NPR on December 5, 2008