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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1:40pm

Mon December 16, 2013
Music Reviews

A Former Girl-Group Singer Goes 'All Or Nothing'

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 2:33 pm

With new songs and covers, La La Brooks' All or Nothing isn't just an attempted career comeback.
Jacob Blickenstaff Courtesy of the artist

A half-century on, La La Brooks still sings about boys and girls falling in love. At an age when other veterans of first-generation rock movements are thinking about retirement or oldies tours, Brooks has come up with a fresh, energetic collection that doesn't deny her past, but also refuses to succumb to mere nostalgia.

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12:08pm

Fri November 15, 2013
Music Reviews

Two Sides Of Holiday Cheer From Kelly Clarkson, Nick Lowe

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 2:57 pm

Kelly Clarkson's new holiday album is titled Wrapped in Red.
Courtesy of the artist

12:06pm

Thu October 31, 2013
Music Reviews

Brandy Clark Tells The 'Stories' That Are Tough To Hear

Originally published on Mon November 18, 2013 9:12 am

Brandy Clark's new album is titled 12 Stories.
Becky Fluke Courtesy of the artist

12:22pm

Tue October 22, 2013
Music Reviews

It's A Family Affair On Linda Thompson's 'Won't Be Long Now'

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 3:58 pm

Linda Thompson's new album is called Won't Be Long Now.
Annabel Vere Courtesy of the artist

Linda Thompson is probably best known for the albums she recorded with her husband Richard Thompson in the '70s and early '80s. They divorced, and Thompson has maintained a sporadic solo career. Her new album is a family affair, featuring some accompaniment by her ex-husband, and some songs written with her son, the singer-songwriter Teddy Thompson.

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12:03pm

Mon October 14, 2013
Music Reviews

'The Blow' Puts An Artsy, Electro-Pop Spin On Attraction

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 11:04 am

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Our rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of the new album, "The Blow" by the music and performance are duo called The Blow which was conceived by its singer, Khaela Maricich. Melissa Dyne plays a more behind the scenes role, arranging, mixing and co-producing much of this new collection. The music made by The Blow can be broadly labeled as electro pop, but Ken says it goes further than that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A KISS")

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11:14am

Thu October 10, 2013
Music Reviews

Two Bluegrass Truths From James King And Alan Jackson

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 1:13 pm

James King.
Julie Lilliard King Courtesy of the artist

1:27pm

Wed October 2, 2013
Music Reviews

On 'Days Are Gone,' Three Sisters HAIM It Up

Originally published on Wed October 2, 2013 1:28 pm

HAIM.
Tom Beard Courtesy of the artist

1:40pm

Mon September 30, 2013
Music Reviews

Don't Feel Too Bad For Sad-Sack Bob Schneider

Originally published on Mon September 30, 2013 3:40 pm

Burden of Proof is Bob Schneider's third album.
Dan Winters Kirtland Records

12:34pm

Tue September 24, 2013
Music Reviews

Lucy Schwartz Is In Love With Her Own Voice, And That's OK

Originally published on Tue September 24, 2013 3:16 pm

Lucy Schwartz.
Tierney Gearon Courtesy of the artist

The first thing you notice about Lucy Schwartz's Timekeeper is the singer's voice — both her physical voice, which is at once ringing and adroit, and her writer's voice, which is precise yet elusive. When Schwartz sings "Ghost in My House," the production renders her tone in an echoing manner that signifies spookiness. It also suggests a metaphor — memory as a ghost, the haunting of someone who's no longer in her life. In general, Lucy Schwartz is in love with the sound of her own voice, and for once that phrase is not meant as a criticism; I think she has good reason to be.

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11:16am

Thu September 19, 2013
Music Reviews

Robbie Fulks: Exhilarating And Bitter On 'Gone Away Backward'

Originally published on Thu September 19, 2013 2:06 pm

Robbie Fulks' new album is titled Gone Away Backward.
Courtesy of the artist

Robbie Fulks has been recording since the mid-'90s, making music that's difficult to categorize. He's written country songs about how compromised most country music is, and while he's fond of folk and bluegrass, he pleases concert audiences with covers of hits by Michael Jackson and Cher. Fulks' new album, Gone Away Backward, is one of his most sustained and subtle efforts.

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2:00pm

Tue September 10, 2013
Music Reviews

Bob Dylan's 'Self Portrait,' Now In Vivid Color

Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 2:36 pm

Bob Dylan in 1970, the year he released his 10th studio album, Self Portrait.
John Cohen Courtesy of the artist

In the late 1960s, it wasn't just that Bob Dylan's music was eagerly anticipated — it was music that millions of people pored over: for pleasure, for confirmation of their own ideas, and for clues as to the state of mind of its creator. In this context, the double-album Self-Portrait arrived in 1970 with a resounding, moist flop. I don't mean it was a commercial flop; it sold well.

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1:57pm

Thu September 5, 2013
Music Reviews

On Its New Album, Superchunk Makes The Downtrodden Sound Upbeat

Originally published on Fri September 6, 2013 1:53 pm

Superchunk's new album is titled I Hate Music.
Jason Arthurs Courtesy of the artist

"I hate music, what is it worth? / Can't bring anyone back to this earth," the band Superchunk sings. It's the kind of sentiment you'd imagine someone blurting out with bitter spontaneity, but it's not really music the band hates; it's the despair and grief to which their music bears witness. Superchunk's new downbeat-but-upbeat album, I Hate Music, is dedicated to a close friend who died last year.

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10:48am

Thu August 22, 2013
Music Reviews

Robin Thicke: Smirky But Sincere On 'Blurred Lines'

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 1:57 pm

Robin Thicke on the cover of Blurred Lines.
Courtesy of the artist

Robin Thicke exudes a kind of oily charm that is, with the right material, by no means off-putting. A prime example is the single "Blurred Lines," which gives you the complete Robin Thicke Experience. The song is a come-on, because basically all Thicke does in his music is try to put the make on women. What prevents him from being too creepy is that he's also genial, even gentlemanly and debonair, when the object of his lust shoots him down.

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12:39pm

Tue August 13, 2013
Music Reviews

Valerie June Wants To Be On Your Mind

Originally published on Tue August 13, 2013 1:32 pm

Valerie June.
Susan Riddle Duke Photography Courtesy of the artist

Valerie June wants to be on your mind; to get inside your head. She writes or co-writes songs that mix blues, gospel, folk and soul, and which describe emotional isolation, financial deprivation and insecurity about her place in the world. She's unafraid to proclaim her neediness — perhaps because, possessed of a powerful voice, she knows that her vulnerability isn't likely to come off as passive or self-pitying on Pushin' Against a Stone.

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1:35pm

Mon August 5, 2013
Music Reviews

Vince Gill And Paul Franklin Ain't 'Foolin' Around' With Bakersfield Sound

Originally published on Mon August 5, 2013 2:21 pm

Vince Gill (left) and Paul Franklin.
Courtesy of the artist

Country-music star Vince Gill and steel guitarist Paul Franklin have teamed up to record a new concept album called Bakersfield. Their idea is to cover hits from the 1960s and '70s by two artists who helped define the Bakersfield, Calif., country sound: Merle Haggard and the Strangers and Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. But this is no nostalgia-fest — it's a vital testament to music that retains energy and innovation.

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