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.

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Music Reviews
10:39 am
Mon May 6, 2013

Caitlin Rose: A Singer Grounded In The Details Of Yearning

Caitlin Rose's newest album is titled The Stand-In.

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 2:20 pm

"Pink Champagne," a song on Caitlin Rose's second album The Stand-In, presents Rose's voice in its sparest purity and veiled shrewdness. She sends her voice skyward, the notes as buoyant and light as the bubbles of the pink champagne she's singing about. Her high trills could, with only a slight shift in tone and attitude, become self-conscious with a Betty Boop coyness, as they do once or twice on The Stand-In. But most of the time, Rose keeps her music grounded in the details of yearning, heartache and a welcome sense of gratefulness and enthused energy.

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Music Reviews
10:52 am
Wed April 17, 2013

Brad Paisley's 'Wheelhouse' Of Good Songs — And Intentions

Brad Paisley's new album is titled Wheelhouse.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed April 17, 2013 1:15 pm

Brad Paisley's Wheelhouse is yet another very good album from a singer, songwriter and guitarist who's made a bunch of them in a row. It features a slew of shrewd songs about finding pleasure and comfort in a frequently unpleasant, uncomfortable world. The music includes a bone-cracking song about domestic violence written from a woman's point of view, one that praises Christian values from the perspective of a jealous skeptic, and one that samples the great Roger Miller as deftly as any hip-hop production.

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Music Reviews
1:46 pm
Tue April 2, 2013

Kacey Musgraves: Country's Blunt And Poetic New Voice

Kacey Musgraves' "Merry Go 'Round" was one of NPR Music's favorite songs of 2012.
Kelly Christine Musgraves Courtesy of the artist

Kacey Musgraves is something of an anomaly. A Texas native in her mid-20s, she fits most easily into the contemporary "country" category, but the work she co-writes with a variety of collaborators is really a throwback to an earlier era of singer-songwriters — as much influenced by rock and folk as by country.

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Music Reviews
12:17 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

Justin Timberlake Returns To Music With Enthusiasm And 'Experience'

The 20/20 Experience is Justin Timberlake's first album since 2006.
Tom Monro RCA

Originally published on Tue April 2, 2013 9:03 am

The orchestral swirls, the transition to a soul-man groove, the falsetto croon — there you have some of the key elements to Justin Timberlake's album The 20/20 Experience. The title implies a certain clarity of vision, even as any given song presents the singer as a starry-eyed romantic, bedazzled by a woman upon whom he cannot heap enough compliments, come-ons and seductive playfulness.

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Music Reviews
11:52 am
Mon March 11, 2013

Tegan And Sara Reach Out To New Audiences With 'Heartthrob'

Twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin have been writing songs since they were 15 and independently released their first full-length album in 1999. Since then, they've produced seven studio albums.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon March 11, 2013 5:06 pm

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Music Reviews
11:33 am
Thu March 7, 2013

David Bowie Awakens To 'The Next Day' Of His Career

After a 10-year hiatus, David Bowie has just returned with The Next Day.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu March 7, 2013 2:30 pm

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Music Reviews
11:37 am
Tue March 5, 2013

Ashley Monroe Is 'Like A Rose,' Briars And All

Jim Wright Warner Nashville

Originally published on Tue March 5, 2013 1:14 pm

The high lonesome sound of Ashley Monroe's Tennessee voice in "Like a Rose" serves as a clear signal that she's working within a tradition that extends back well beyond her twentysomething years on Earth. One of Monroe's collaborators in that song was Guy Clark, a seventysomething Texas country veteran who's often too tough-guy romantic for his own good.

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Music Reviews
11:24 am
Mon February 25, 2013

Guards: Anthems With Gravitas

Guards just released its debut album, In Guards We Trust.
Olivia Malone Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 12:38 pm

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Music Reviews
12:23 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

Richard Thompson's New Album Examines 'Electric' Love

Richard Thompson's new album is titled Electric.
Pamela Littky Courtesy of the artist

Delicate phrasing, with both voice and guitar, has always made Richard Thompson a musician worth hearing — and sometimes even liking on a personal level. For a man who can make such pretty music, it's to his credit that he prefers to show his thorny, stubborn, cranky, even mean side in many of the songs in his solo career.

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Music Reviews
11:51 am
Wed January 30, 2013

Paloma Faith's 'Fall To Grace' Is A Keeper

Singer-songwriter and actress Paloma Faith's new album is titled Fall to Grace.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed January 30, 2013 3:22 pm

In culling through albums released late last year that I still play with pleasure, Paloma Faith's Fall to Grace was a real keeper. In contrast to my joy, Faith was singing about her agony: her broken heart, her wracked sobs about ruined affairs, her choked goodbyes to lovers who'd left her. She made all this sound tremendously intense and exciting. Not for nothing did she title her previous album Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?

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