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.

Pages

12:33pm

Thu March 7, 2013
Music Reviews

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

Originally published on Thu March 7, 2013 3:30 pm

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

12:37pm

Tue March 5, 2013
Music Reviews

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

Originally published on Tue March 5, 2013 2:14 pm

Jim Wright Warner Nashville

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.

Read more

12:24pm

Mon February 25, 2013
Music Reviews

Guards: Anthems With Gravitas

Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 1:38 pm

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

12:39pm

Thu February 14, 2013
Music Reviews

Richard Thompson's New Album Examines 'Electric' Love

Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 1:23 pm

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.

Read more

12:51pm

Wed January 30, 2013
Music Reviews

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

Originally published on Wed January 30, 2013 4:22 pm

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

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?

Read more

10:54am

Wed January 9, 2013
Music Reviews

'Nashville' Soundtrack Stands On Its Own

Originally published on Wed January 9, 2013 2:08 pm

Connie Britton (pictured) and Hayden Panetierre star as country singers of different generations on the ABC series Nashville.
Courtesy of ABC

"Telescope," the fictional hit single by the fictional country star Juliette Barnes on Nashville, is sung by the actress who plays Juliette, Hayden Panetierre. If it didn't become a real-life hit when the song was released a few months ago to country radio stations, it wasn't for lack of catchiness, courtesy of producers T-Bone Burnett and Buddy Miller.

Read more

12:03pm

Tue December 18, 2012
Best Music Of 2012

Ken Tucker's Top 10 Albums Of 2012

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 9:25 pm

Dan Monick

1:13pm

Wed December 12, 2012
Music Reviews

A 'Warrior' Looking For Legitimacy

Originally published on Wed December 12, 2012 4:53 pm

Ke$ha's new album is titled Warrior.
Yu Tsai Courtesy of the artist

Ke$ha uses a dollar-sign instead of an "s" in the middle of her stage name. It's one of those gestures that's meant to bait her detractors — suggesting before anyone else does that she's only in it for the money. It turns out, though, that like pop stars ranging from Madonna on back to Chuck Berry, Ke$ha wants it both ways: mass-audience success and artistic acknowledgment. For Ke$ha, that's what her album title Warrior means: She's fighting a war on multiple fronts.

Read more

1:17pm

Fri November 30, 2012
Music Reviews

Tracey Thorn: 'Secular Carols' For The Holidays

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 2:24 pm

Tracey Thorn, famous for her work in Everything but the Girl, has a new solo album of seasonal tunes called Tinsel and Lights.
Edward Bishop Courtesy of the artist

Tracey Thorn's interpretation of "Maybe This Christmas," by the Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith, is typical of her new holiday album, Tinsel and Lights: It's simply arranged, emphasizing Thorn's lovely, delicate voice and bolstered by a firm intelligence; it avoids the fatty treacle that weighs down lots of Christmas albums. Tinsel and Lights mixes familiar songs with new ones, such as the title song written by Thorn.

Read more

2:34pm

Wed November 28, 2012
Music Reviews

'Buddy And Jim': Friends In Life And Songwriting

Originally published on Wed November 28, 2012 6:04 pm

Musicians and friends Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale team up on a new album of country duets called Buddy and Jim.
Michael Wilson photo/Paul Moore design Courtesy of the artist

Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale are singer-songwriters who've each written hits for country and rock acts, and have enjoyed extensive solo careers as performers and producers. Buddy and Jim is their first collaboration, a mixture of original songs and covers from earlier decades of country, rock, folk and soul music.

Read more

12:35pm

Wed November 14, 2012
Music Reviews

An Unlikely Tribute: Jamey Johnson Covers Hank Cochran

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 5:41 pm

Jamey Johnson's new album pays tribute to songwriter Hank Cochran.
Courtesy of the artist

Jamey Johnson, one of the most popular country singers of recent years, has just released an album titled Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran.

Read more

12:22pm

Fri November 9, 2012
Music Reviews

Cody ChesnuTT Contains A Universe On 'Hundred'

Originally published on Fri November 9, 2012 1:52 pm

Cody ChesnuTT is the best sort of egomaniac: On Landing on a Hundred, he's preachy but delightful.
Courtesy of the artist

Cody ChesnuTT is the best sort of egomaniac. He places himself at the center of his musical universe; he contains that universe within him. On his new album, Landing on a Hundred, he sings one song in the voice of the entire continent of Africa.

Read more

1:34pm

Mon November 5, 2012
Music Reviews

Taylor Swift Leaps Into Pop With 'Red'

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 5:44 pm

Taylor Swift's Red challenges her diehard fans while inviting naysayers to give her music another try.
Courtesy of the artist

12:49pm

Fri October 19, 2012
Music Reviews

Gary Clark Jr.: A Raucous Blues Shout

Originally published on Fri October 19, 2012 10:49 pm

Gary Clark Jr.'s Blak and Blu is an eclectic romp through the blues.
Frank Maddocks

On his major-label debut Blak and Blu, you can hear the roar in Gary Clark Jr.'s blues guitar, and in his vocal throughout "Bright Lights." It's one of the few straight-up blues songs on what is essentially an introduction to one of the most highly praised young blues guitarists in recent times. While Clark comes out of a blues tradition, he's also a twentysomething who's taken in all of contemporary music.

Read more

10:14am

Wed October 10, 2012
Music Reviews

Iris DeMent's Emotionally Complex 'Sing The Delta'

Originally published on Thu October 11, 2012 3:21 pm

Sing the Delta is Iris DeMent's first album of new songs in 16 years.
Courtesy of the artist

Iris DeMent possesses one of the great voices in contemporary popular music: powerfully, ringingly clear, capable of both heartbreaking fragility and blow-your-ears-back power. Had she been making country albums in the '70s and '80s and had more commercial ambition, she'd probably now be considered right up there with Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette.

Read more

Pages