Gwen Thompkins

Host of Music Inside Out

Gwen Thompkins is a New Orleans native, NPR veteran and host of WWNO's Music Inside Out, where she brings to bear the knowledge and experience she amassed as senior editor of Weekend Edition, an East Africa correspondent, the holder of Nieman and Watson Fellowships, and as a longtime student of music from around the world.

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Shannon Brinkman

The only thing more fun than talking to Shannon Powell is listening to him play. Powell is one of the most charismatic drummers to ever grace a stage. His secret? "I'm happy," Powell tells Music Inside Out. "I was a happy child. I'm a happy spirit."

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Any piano player worth his fingers in New Orleans has been influenced by Professor Longhair. C. R. Gruver was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA and moved to the city six years ago. He now plays piano for a band called, The New Orleans Suspects.

At Gruver's house, above the antique upright piano, are portraits of the Professor and two of his most gifted disciples — James Booker and Mac Rebbenack, a.k.a. Dr. John. It's a modern-day triumvirate of piano talent. Here's a lesson Gruver gave reporter  Gwen Thompkins on the related styles of the three players.

On the tough side of Terpsichore Street in New Orleans stands a duplex — a two-story, wood-framed building with wood floors, high ceilings and a nice fireplace. But this old house is empty: no furniture, no walls, no electricity, no toilet. Iron bars hide the windows; there's a lockbox on the door. The facade is three different shades of blecch, blurgh and blah.

Irma Thomas returns to Music Inside Out for a whole new, fresh, hot buttered and yummy conversation. The Queen of New Orleans Soul pays her respects to some of her musical influences and talks about the bottom line of a Grammy Award. Turns out, there's a reason why they call it show business.

Jason Saul / American Routes

Go ahead, we DARE you. Try listening to this week's re-broadcast of Music Inside Out with Deacon John Moore and NOT enjoying yourself.

As a guitarist, band leader and showman, Deacon John has been delighting crowds for more than half a century. This year, he's played the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and the White House. He's just that irresistible.  

When jazz trumpeter Jeremy Davenport got off the road to take a lengthy engagement at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New Orleans, he said no one seemed more surprised than his former boss — Harry Connick Jr. Davenport had traveled the world in Connick's band, which was and remains, hot stuff.

Allen Toussaint says he'd rather let his piano do the talking. Lucky for us.

Toussaint's fingers have done the talking on song after song for more than 50 years, defining the modern-day New Orleans sound. He's written, produced and arranged chart-topping hits for scores of artists. And lately, Toussaint has been performing his catalog more often around the world.

This week, Allen Toussaint has plenty to say to Music Inside Out. Check out his major chords. And the minor ones too.

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James Booker

Rick Olivier

 

More than six billion people live on the planet, and yet relatively few human voices are recognizable to the naked ear.

Irma Thomas has one of those voices.

For more than 50 years, Thomas has written, recorded and lent her voice to some of the most precious songs that Louisiana has ever produced. Now music lovers all over the world know the contralto that she calls, "Irma's sound." This week, Music Inside Out with Gwen Thompkins makes way for the Queen of New Orleans Soul.

Keep it down, y'all. Miss Irma is speaking.

 

Jason Saul / WWNO

When John Boutté commits to a song, he tailors it like a suit from Savile Row, breaking down the lyrics then building them back up again to say exactly what he means. If a Paul Simon song conjures the image of early Americans sailing to the New World on the Mayflower ship, Boutté will sing the same song and mention early Americans who sailed on the slave ship Amistad. If Dave Bartholemew writes that the grass looks greener somewhere else, Boutté will sing that the grass is greener right here at home.

Vicky Sedgwick / Flickr

Susan Cowsill is one of the great harmonizers in the music business. Just ask Hootie and the Blowfish or Jackson Browne or her old bandmates in the Continental Drifters. The proof is on their recordings.

Harmonizing is a skill Cowsill learned as a tomboy back in the 1960s, when she was trying to win a place in her brothers' band. She got in. And The Cowsills went on to great success on the national charts and on television.

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