Jason Isbell, down southeastern in New Orleans

The songwriter headlines two nights at The Joy Theater Oct. 22-23
Jason Isbell's "Traveling Alone," from the Alabama songwriter's acclaimed 2013 album Southeastern, compares a worn-out clunker steering life on the road to the husk of a man without a partner, the kind of metaphor Bruce Springsteen could wrap around a song about cars — that's really about mending a broken heart. Springsteen himself called it a "lovely record" on NPR in 2014, and a few months later, backstage at a tribute to Dr. John at the Saenger Theatre, Isbell met Springsteen, who sang it back to him.

Andrew Bird and the imitation game

The artist on the science of Are You Serious
"I wake up every morning and I think, maybe today I can finally crack the code," Andrew Bird says. "Maybe today I'll write the perfect song."

Joanna Newsom’s diving lessons

The songwriter on Divers, harp and her live transformation
There's one harpist within traveling distance to New Orleans, who also happens to own a Lyon & Healy harp and reliably gets that harp into the hands of Joanna Newsom. Rachel Van Voorhees of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra is that harpist.

Breaking the Banks: rap “underdog” Alfred Banks

The New Orleans rapper tears away at mental health stigma on his rise in hip-hop
On "March 20, 2014," Alfred Banks recreates a phone call with his mother, unleashing an avalanche of emotions and grappling with his brother's schizophrenia and suicide.   "Everything was going super smooth," he raps in the song's opening line, setting up the inevitable.

Neko Case and the making of super trio case/lang/veirs

The singer-songwriter performs with k.d. lang and Laura Veirs at The Joy Theater
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Cream, Blind Faith, Broken Social Scene, Monsters of Folk and The Traveling Wilburys are all supergroups by virtue of their members being stars before the new bands formed.   Case/lang/veirs deserves the supergroup title.

Great expectations: Young Greatness and a life of grinding

Young Greatness follows his “Moolah” success with I Tried To Tell Em 2
Young Greatness has enough time to sleep, wake up and do it all over again. From New Orleans, he leaves for Atlanta, then Sacramento, California.

The beautiful ones: 10 rising stars at the 2016 Essence Festival

The festival is July 1-3 at the Superdome
This year's Essence Festival arrives under the shadow of Prince, whose magical, explosively purple headlining appearance at Essence's 20th anniversary is remembered among the festival's best and, following his death in April, among its definitive moments.   The 2016 Essence Festival — with headliners Mariah Carey, Ciara, Kendrick Lamar, Maxwell and Puff Daddy, among others — is July 1-3 at the Superdome, with speeches and seminars from writer/director Ava DuVernay, Tyra Banks and many others at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

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