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.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Our rock critic, Ken Tucker, has a review of a new album by Ellie Goulding, a 29-year-old British singer who's been much more popular in the U.K. than here. She first became known the electronic dance music genre. But Ken says her new album, "Delirium," represents a shift into mainstream pop and hopefully a bigger U.S. following. (SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE ME LIKE YOU DO") ELLIE GOULDING: ...

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. There's a new sequel to the 1976 album "Have Moicy!," an album that critic Robert Christgau called the greatest folk album of the rock era. The sequel is called "Have Moicy 2: The Hoodoo Bash." The project is headed up by Peter Stampfel and Jeffrey Lewis and features a large assemblage of friends and colleagues. The album is a collection of songs that mix the oldest style of folk, blues...

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . Transcript DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. This year, rock critic Ken Tucker's 10 best list includes nine albums and a book. Though, the musical genres on his list range from hip-hop to country, all the artists have earned Ken's admiration for their songcraft and shrewdly phrased ideas. Here's Alabama Shakes with a song from "Sound & Color," one of Ken's favorite albums. (SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHOEGAZE") ALABAMA SHAKES: (Singing)...

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/ . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Adele's new album, "25," her first in four years, is one of the year's biggest success stories. It sold over 3 million copies the week it was released, and it's likely that "25" will continue to be one of the best-selling albums through the holiday season. Rock critic Ken Tucker has some ideas about the reasons for the British singer's widespread popularity. ...

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/ . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Our rock critic, Ken Tucker, has a review of a new album by the British singer-songwriter known as Wreckless Eric, Eric Goulden. He came to prominence during the punk rock era of the late 1970s, along with his label mates on Stiff Records, including Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. Eric lives in America now with his wife, the singer and songwriter Amy Rigby. His...

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/ . Transcript DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Rock critic Ken Tucker watched the recent Country Music Association Award Show and was mightily impressed with a duet between Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake. He's also been listening to the debut album of the band Old Dominion called "Meat And Candy," and here's the album and that TV appearance as more proof that the definition of country music is...

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/ . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Our rock critic, Ken Tucker, usually reviews new albums. But today, he wants to talk about three songs by three different artists - Elvis Costello, Lana Del Rey and Eleanor Friedberger. (SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I CAN'T TURN IT OFF") ELVIS COSTELLO: Thank you. "I Can't Turn It Off ," take one. (Singing) Basement babies strangling saxophones. They got twisted...

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/ . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Tennessee Ernie Ford was a hugely popular singer in the 1950s and '60s best known for his hit "Sixteen Tons." He was a fixture on television with his own variety show and as a frequent guest on other shows. These days, few people remember Ford. A new five-disc box set called "Portrait Of An American Singer" attempts to introduce Ford to a new audience. Rock...

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/ . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Veteran songwriter and musician Donnie Fritts takes center stage with the release of his new album "Oh My Goodness." Fritts is now 72. During his long career, he's seen his song "We Had It All" recorded by many artists, including The Rolling Stones and Dolly Parton. And Fritts toured for many years as Kris Kristofferson's keyboardist. His fourth solo album...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. The band Los Lobos, which is now in its fourth decade of music making, has a new album called "Gates Of Gold. It's their first studio album since 2010. Rock critic Ken Tucker says this album captures every phase of the band's career, while saluting musical influences and extending their sound in new directions. (SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MADE TO BREAK YOUR HEART") LOS LOBOS: (Singing) It...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. The rock band Grace Potter and the Nocturnals has had a lot of success as a concert act powered by its lead singer's voice. Now Grace Potter has struck out on her own and made her first solo album called "Midnight." Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review. (SOUNDBITE OF GRACE POTTER SONG, "ALIVE TONIGHT") GRACE POTTER: (Singing) In the dark of the desert, I saw a man with a sign. It said...

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/ . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Carly Rae Jepsen has a new album. You might remember that she scored a big hit in 2011 with her song "Call Me Maybe." The video for the song has been viewed more than 700 million times. Rock critic Ken Tucker says the challenge for an artist with a hit single is to channel that popularity into a career that lasts longer than the life of one song. Here's his...

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/ . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. The singer and songwriter Iris DeMent has a new album in which she set to music a collection of poems by the Russian writer Anna Akhmatova, who lived from 1889 to 1966. DeMent was born in Arkansas and is a longtime resident of Iowa. The melodies she wrote for this album derive from her long-standing interest in folk and gospel music. Rock critic Ken Tucker has...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Daniel Romano is a Canadian musician and graphic artist who specializes in country music that's a throwback to a bygone era. His new album, "If I've Only One Time Askin'," features arrangements that recall a Nashville production style for in the 1960s. But rock critic Ken Tucker says Romano isn't indulging in mere nostalgia. (SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'M GOING TO TEACH YOU") DANIEL ROMANO: ...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Ashley Monroe, a country singer still in her '20s, has just released her third studio album "The Blade." She also cofounded the group the Pistol Annies with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley. Rock critic Ken Tucker says Monroe's new album "The Blade" is a collection of deceptively pretty songs that cohere as a strong, serious piece of work. (SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I BURIED YOUR LOVE...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. The singer and songwriter Miguel has just released his third album, called "Wildheart." He was born in LA, is still in his 20s and has cited influences ranging from Prince to Van Morrison. Rock critic Ken Tucker says "Wildheart" is Miguel's most ambitious attempt yet to combine a wide variety of pop styles to express his various moods and ideas. (SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAVE") MIGUEL: ...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This FRESH AIR. Jason Isbell has a new album, his first since his widely praised 2013 record, "Southeastern." Since that time, Isbell has toured the country extensively with his band, the 400 Unit, and his wife, Amanda Shires, a violinist, singer and songwriter. Rock critic Ken Tucker says "Something More Than Free" finds Isbell exploring a wider range of subject matter and musical styles. (SOUNDBITE OF...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Since her last album two years ago, Kacey Musgraves has won a couple of Grammy awards and become a symbol of country music rebellion. Rock critic Ken Tucker has listened to Musgraves's new album, "Pageant Material," and says it's less about rebellion than connecting to country music history. (SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FAMILY IS FAMILY") KACEY MUSGRAVES: (Singing) They're there for your first...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Growing up in Fort Worth, Tex., Leon Bridges started out listening to and making hip-hop music. But the singer, who's in his mid-20s, went through a change a few years ago, connecting to R&B music from the past and challenging himself to give it a contemporary sound. You can hear the results on his major label debut, "Coming Home." Rock critic Ken Tucker has this review. (SOUNDBITE OF...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Our rock critic Ken Tucker says the debut album by Shamir is one of the year's most striking albums, full of energy and optimism. Shamir is Shamir Bailey, a singer and songwriter in his early 20s from Las Vegas. Here's Ken's review of Shamir's album "Ratchet." (SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DEMON") SHAMIR BAILEY: (Singing) The honor roll was all I'd known 'til you took me over to the dark side....

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Joanna Gruesome is a five-piece band from Cardiff, Wales, that has just released its second album called "Peanut Butter." The band's 2013 debut album, "Weird Sister," was released to positive reviews and won last year's Welsh Music Prize. Rock critic Ken Tucker says "Peanut Butter" is an even tighter, more exciting album. (SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JEROME - LIAR") JOANNA GRUESOME: (Singing)...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Nellie McKay's new album, "My Weekly Reader," is a collection of covers of songs made famous in the 1960s. The range of material is wide, from the Beatles's "If I Fell" to Frank Zappa's "Hungry Freaks, Daddy." Rock critic Ken Tucker says McKay never succumbs to mere nostalgia. (SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUNNY AFTERNOON") NELLIE MCKAY: (Singing) The taxman's taken all my dough and left me...

Over the course of Sound & Color , Alabama Shakes messes with what had already, after its first album, become its signature sound. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker has this review. Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. The band Alabama Shakes has a new album - their second - called "Sound & Color." The quartet, led by singer-guitarist Brittany Howard, made a splash with its 2012 debut "Boys & Girls," which was hailed for...

Dwight Yoakam has been making music that mixes country with rock 'n' roll since the 1970s. Working out of Los Angeles rather than Nashville, he's built a career that has also included a solid acting career, appearing in movies like 1996's Sling Blade and the recent TV series Under the Dome . Yoakam's new album is called Second Hand Heart , and Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says it's one of Yoakam's most stylistically diverse. Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/....

The Mountain Goats have a new album called Beat The Champ . It's unusual in that it is a concept album about professional wrestling, based on the interest in that sport band leader John Darnielle has had since he was a boy. Darnielle is also a prose writer whose novel Wolf in White Van was nominated for a 2014 National Book Award. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker has this review. Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. The...

Kendrick Lamar made a big impact for his storytelling skills on his 2012 major-label debut Good Kid, M.a.a.d City , and won two Grammys in February for the song "i." That song appears in Lamar's latest album, To Pimp A Butterfly , which Fresh Air music critic Ken Tucker says has an excitingly adventurous sound. Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Kendrick Lamar made a big impact with his story-telling skills on his 2012...

Courtney Barnett is an Australian singer-songwriter in her late 20s who's just released her first full album. It's called Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit . Barnett fills her songs with details about things she observes around her, everyday details that Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says she somehow manages to infuse with a freshness rare in any songwriter, let alone one this young. Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST:...

Brandi Carlile is a singer-songwriter who has cited influences as various as Elton John, Patsy Cline, and Queen's Freddie Mercury. Carlile has been releasing albums for the past 10 years, and Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says her new one, called The Firewatcher's Daughter , is her best yet. Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Brandi Carlile is a singer-songwriter who has cited influences as various as Elton John,...

Complicated Game is James McMurtry's first new studio album since 2008. The Texas-born singer-songwriter, now based in Austin, is known for songs with strong narratives and a blend of country, blues, and rock melodies. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says Complicated Game demonstrates a new range of style and subject matter for McMurtry. Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of ...

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