Felix Contreras

Fifty years ago, Johnny Cash performed at Folsom State Prison in Folsom, Calif. The January 1968 concert and live album it produced, At Folsom Prison, helped revitalize Cash's career, inspiring him to testify for prison reform and cementing his reputation as a voice for the downtrodden.

Pendejo is one of my favorite words. In the Spanish-speaking world, it's usually used in the context of pointing out someone's challenges to grasp the obvious or is used to just express supreme knucklehead tendencies. The somewhat vulgar word been largely claimed by Mexicans, some of whom can make high art out of applying it to any number of circumstances.

I sometimes wake up with my jaw clenched.

The times are tense and we all feel it. I've been waiting for just the right musical statement to reflect my mood, my hopes and my mal humor. I think I've finally heard it in Living Colour's upcoming album Shade.

Carlos Santana turns 70 years old Thursday. It's difficult to wrap my head around that: To me, as to so many other fans, he'll forever be the just-turned-22-year-old grimacing and grooving at Woodstock in August 1969.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.


The first thing we must note about this album by the Hart Valley Drifters is that it is not the most authentic bluegrass or old-time music. This is not from a long-lost box of tapes found in a dusty closet, not performed by a group of master folk musicians from somewhere in Appalachia.

I've always thought Nina Diaz was fierce.

Dizzy Gillespie once described Charlie Parker as the other half of his heartbeat. They were young men creating something from whole cloth, stretching the limits of their creativity and intellect every time they drew a breath together on the bandstand.

When Jerry Garcia died unexpectedly in August 1995, his Grateful Dead bandmate Bob Weir went right back out on the road to deal with the loss of his friend.

Creedence Clearwater Revival sometimes sounded like a damned good Latin band. The group often nailed the slightly mambo-esque R&B groove that Ray Charles and countless blues bands used to sultry effect. Think "Born On The Bayou" or "Run Through The Jungle," or even the Cuban bolero feel of "Who'll Stop The Rain."

It's often a challenge to find enough inspiration to get out of bed in the morning, let alone try to craft any kind of lasting creative expression. So it's hard to fathom what it's like for guitarist Jeff Beck to go to the well for more than 50 years and still achieve something creative. But he's been able to accomplish just that on his new album, Loud Hailer.

Carrie Rodriguez has been many things: a classically trained violinist turned American fiddler, a duet partner to veteran songwriter Chip Taylor, a successful and popular solo artist in her own right. On occasion, those roles have allowed her Mexican-American roots to bubble to the surface — perhaps in a line sung in Spanish, or through a reference to a classic mariachi song.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.