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They call themselves "Gifts or Creatures."

That's Brandon and Bethany Foote with the song "Relicts and Ghosts" off of their new album "Yesteryear Western Darkness," their second album out from Earthwork Music.

The Lansing-based couple joined us today in the studio.

To find out more, visit http://www.giftsorcreatures.com/.

Listen to the full interview above.

Michigan State University

When you think of East Lansing, you probably don’t think about the sounds of Creole Louisiana.

But Etienne Charles might be changing that. A trumpeter from Trinidad, Charles is now an Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at Michigan State University. His latest album, “Creole Soul,” has been described as both “easy to listen to” and “intellectually sound” by The New York Times, blending sounds from the Caribbean, New Orleans and Midwestern R&B.

Despite his rich repertoire of jazz, Charles got a late start to the genre.

Model D

Detroit's hip hop scene was made famous in Eminem's move "8 Mile."

You know the one -- where the white guy from the trailer park shows up the black rapper who went to Cranbrook High School?

It's a representation of the hip hop scene in Detroit in 1995.

Back then, The Shelter below St. Andrew's Hall was the spot where hip hop artists sought to make a name for themselves.

Ever since the city of Detroit's historic bankruptcy filing, there have been accusatory fingers pointed at past mayoral administrations -- black administrations.

On today's show, we talked with Marilyn Katz. She played a leading role in the Students for a Democratic Society demonstrations and has recently penned the piece "Detroit's Downfall: Beyond the Myth of Black Misleadership."

And, the band "Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr." stopped by to talk about the inspiration for their music.

Also, Michigan plans to try experimental "social impact bonds." What are these bonds and what do they mean for the state?

First on the show, as the headlines unfold over the civil war in Syria and whether the United States should or should not take military action against Bashar Assad's regime, there are thousands of people in Michigan watching with the most intense interest.

Syrians first started coming to Michigan at the turn of the 20th Century. Today, the Syrian Community in Michigan numbers about 25,000.

We wanted to get a sense of what this civil war looks and feels like for these thousands of people in Michigan with close ties to Syria.

Dr. Yahya Basha came from Syria to Southeast Michigan in 1972 after graduating from medical school at the University of Damascus. He is a leader in the Syrian-American Community in Michigan.

He joined us today.

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Dale Earnhardt Junior Junior is Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott, both from Metro Detroit. And they’re about to release their sophomore album, "The Speed of Things," which drops October 8 on Warner Brothers Records.

Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott joined us today in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

Dr. John Thomas

The “Banner” Gibson guitar is considered one of the finest acoustic guitars ever made.

Over 9,000 of these Banners were carefully built during World War II.

But Gibson company records show the company had shifted to producing goods for the war effort and not instruments, and most of the men who made those Gibsons at the headquarters in Kalamazoo were off fighting the war.

So who made these guitars that are still prized 70 years later?

That question and his love of guitars drove Connecticut law professor Dr. John Thomas to discover the remarkable answer, which he turned into a book called “Kalamazoo Gals: A Story of Extraordinary Women and Gibson’s Banner Guitars of World War Two.”

On today’s show we explored the differences residents in the UP have as compared with "trolls," you know, residents under the Mackinac Bridge.

How do perspectives about our state change depending on where we live?

And, we got the story behind Banner Gibson guitars in Kalamazoo and the women who made them.

Also, the UP’s own poet laureate joined us to talk about the rise in regional poet laureates, as well as what that honor means to him.

First on the show, as you've likely heard by now, a state election panel will have to decide the official outcome of Detroit's mayoral primary. That's because Wayne County's election board refused to certify the election. It should be noted that the county election board acted on the very last day before the deadline to certify the election.

The controversy centers on some 20,000 write-in votes that may have been incorrectly marked by Detroit poll workers.

Former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan appeared to win the primary handily over Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon.

Despite running as a write-in candidate, Duggan won by about 16 points, according to unofficial results.

But if these almost 20,000 write-in votes get thrown out, the two winners would switch places, with  Napoleon coming out on top, and former Detroit Medical Center Mike Duggan finishing second.

Whatever the outcome, Duggan and Napoleon will face off in November.

But this drama raises many concerns, including the ability of Detroit poll workers to do their jobs properly, whether there needs to be a recount, and whether---as suggested by Benny Napoleon--the U.S. Department of Justice needs to babysit the big November election.

Jocelyn Benson, interim dean of Wayne State University's law school and an expert in Michigan's constitutional and election law, joined us today to help us sort this all out.

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They're called "The Ragbirds," a five-piece folk-rock-fusion band out of Ann Arbor.

The band has quite an avid following. Fans who are looking forward to seeing the Ragbirds hit the road. But when that happens this fall, the Ragbirds will be packing more than guitars and fiddles and percussion. They're going to be packing diapers and all the myriad supplies that you need to travel with a baby.

Lead vocalist and Celtic fiddler Erin Zindle is due just about any moment now. She joined us today in the studio to talk about the "Brave New Baby" tour.

Listen to the full interview above.

Today we took a closer look at recommendations for statewide standards for evaluating Michigan teachers. How should the job performance of teachers be evaluated?

And, we met a West Michigan man who swims across the Great Lakes and Lake St Clair, raising money for charity.

Also, we spoke with the lead vocalist of The Ragbirds, a band from Ann Arbor that is about to kick off their fall tour with a newborn baby.

First on the show, Detroit's emergency manager Kevyn Orr is looking to hire a group to oversee Detroit's federal grant money.

This comes at the same time that federal officials are searching for ways to offer more aid to Detroit.

Orr visited went to Washington D.C. earlier this month to meet with Michigan Senator Carl Levin and some economists to get ideas about which grants programs would be best for the city.

Detroit News Washington Bureau Chief David Shepardson reported on this in today's Detroit News, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Shirley Collins/American Folklife Center/Library of Congress

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Great Lakes Folk Festival in East Lansing on Sunday will be the first stop of a traveling exhibit celebrating the 75th anniversary of a song collecting tour through the Upper Midwest.

The Lansing State Journal reports that it commemorates a trip that began in Detroit on Aug. 1, 1938, by 23-year-old Alan Lomax. He carried a recorder and movie camera to gather folk music. Lomax was in charge of the Library of Congress's Archive of American Folk-Song.

In the course of three studio albums, Michigan-bred soul singer Mayer Hawthorne has refined his gift for songs that emulate and update his home state's Motown sound.

Julia Field

Michigan is home to a number of nationally renowned music festivals but one of the largest, and perhaps the most colorful, is the Electric Forest Festival.

This past weekend, thousands of music lovers from across the country converged at the Double JJ Resort in Rothbury, Michigan to see over a hundred bands and artists.

While most of the music was electronic dance music, a diversity of music genres were represented in the lineup. There were jam bands, rappers, world musicians, DJs, and even two marching bands.

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Midnight Faces is a music duo consisting of Phil Stancil - he's been playing around Grand Rapids since he was in grade school - and Matt Warn - a product of the Philadelphia music scene who now lives in Washington DC.

The pair has been able to work around that distance between Grand Rapids and D.C. to come up with their debut full-length album and gear up to play dates in the U.S. and possibly Japan.

Phil Stancil and Matt Warn joined us from Grand Rapids.

Their website is midnightfaces.com and their album "Fornication" will be released June 18th. 

Listen to the full interview above.

On today's show: Boondoggles.

We took a look back at some of Michigan's sorriest episodes in government spending.

And, we spoke with the members of the duo Midnight Faces, a Grand Rapids band taking a new approach to music from the '80's.

And, Dr. Amanda Lotz joined us in the studio to discuss the future of television now that services such as Netflix have become increasingly popular.

Also, a campaign has started to bring the summer 2014 X-Games to Detroit. We spoke with the guys responsible for starting the campaign about why they think Detroit should be chosen to host the event.

First on the show, with school out for the summer, state officials are already looking for ways to get more students to show up for classes in the fall. The state Department of Human Services wants to expand pilot programs that put more social workers in schools with high truancy rates.

At the same time, DHS has a new statewide policy that threatens to take away welfare benefits from families with kids who persistently miss school.

But, critics say that still means too few families are getting the support they need to avoid losing their cash assistance.

Michigan Public Radio's Jake Neher gave us the full report.

theharmonyhill.com

It was 2007 when then-Governor Jennifer Granholm launched Michigan's film incentive program.  It led to a burst of big-league movie makers coming here, making films like Ides of March, Real Steel, Red Dawn and OZ-The Great and Powerful. And that led to a growing group of Michigan workers building careers in the film industry, from casting to grips, assistant directing, extras, actors and more.

But Governor Rick Snyder made good on his promise to cap those film incentives, believing they were not a good investment of state dollars. And as many of the movie-makers pulled up stakes, the Michigan workers were forced to either follow them out of state or build new careers here.

Johannah Scarlet, Ray Moran and Aaron Mohr chose to search for a new opportunity and stay in Michigan. They have now switched gears from making movies to hosting live music events in the tiny village of Farwell in Clare County. Their new music venue is called Harmony Hill, and coming up this Saturday there will be a big outdoor music festival called "Oh Hill Yeah," featuring Michigan bands such as Frontier Ruckus.

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Building and strengthening ties all throughout Southeastern Michigan one song at a time - that's the mission of the Community Chorus of Detroit.

It has only been on the scene since 2010, but in that comparatively short time the chorus has attracted singers from over 35 zip codes. They converge on Detroit to bring choral music to audiences in that area.

The Community Chorus of Detroit’s Executive Director and Board President, Diane Linn and the Artistic Director and Conductor, Dr. Edward Maki-Schramm joined us in the studio.

Follow the link below to listen to two samples of their music.

http://www.communitychorusofdetroit.com/audio-video

Listen to the full interview above.

Photo courtesy of Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth

Every once and a while, our State of Opportunity team receives a story pitch from someone in the community who's trying to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged youth. This is one of those stories. It’s a piece about boys, girls, and the universal language of music.

Jessica Stilger / Berkley High School communications

When older generations die, there’s always the fear that we’ll lose their stories.

But in metro Detroit’s Jewish community, they’re trying to keep history alive…through music.

And they’re doing it thanks to Anne Frank, her chestnut tree, and a stressed-out high school orchestra in metro Detroit.

Specifically, the Berkley High School orchestra.

He once was a little known folk singer who had to make ends meet working construction. But after the Academy Award winning documentary "Searching for Sugar Man," Detroit's Sixto Rodriguez has stepped out of obscurity and into the spotlight. Wayne State University bestowed Rodriguez with an honorary degree yesterday.

user Monsieur Gordon / Flickr

We’re always glad to hear from Stateside listeners, to get your ideas and suggestions for stories we should share with everyone!

So, when we got an email from Lansing musician Ben Hassenger, asking us to take a closer look at the upcoming music festival he’s hosting this Friday and Saturday, we bit!

Especially when we discovered it’s a celebration of the ukulele - called "MIGHTY UKE DAY!"

What’s not to love?!

Ben Hassenger joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

His name is Matt Jones. He's 35 and he's based in Ypsilanti. He's been writing songs and performing around Michigan for the past 15 years. He has growing audience of fans and has received more critical acclaim.

And his story is one of overcoming personal demons and finding salvation in the thing he loves best: making music.

Matt joined us in the studio today to talk about his music.

Click the link above to hear Cyndy's conversation with Matt.

Matt also performed for our "Songs from Studio East" series. You can check out that performance here:

You can check out more of Matt's music here: http://mattjones.bandcamp.com/

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Ypsilanti's Matt Jones has been writing songs and performing around Michigan for the past 15 years. The 35-year-old has been receiving more critical acclaim and has a growing fan base. His story is one of overcoming personal demons and finding salvation in the thing he loves best: making music. 

Matt Jones and Misty Lyn Bergeron performed for us in Michigan Radio's Studio East.

Check it out here:

Of the many things made in Michigan that have become part of the fabric of American culture — the auto industry, Motown — punk rock is often overlooked. In 1967, years before The Sex Pistols performed incendiary anthems, Iggy Pop and his band The Stooges created an explosive new sound in Detroit that would influence generations of musicians.

Pantanal Center for Education and Research

Ethan Shirley and Alex Carney both hail from the University of Michigan and are co founders of the Pantanal Music Exchange.

Shirley founded the Pantanal Center for Education and Research is a non profit organization that focuses on science, technology and sustainable community development.

Last summer, Shirley and Carney were setting up some science and technology workshops at the Nazaré orphanage in rural Brazil when the director of the orphanage mentioned in passing that there was a room full of unused instruments.

Wikipedia

As the old saying goes, "everything old is new again."

Case in point, the cassette tape.

Those of us who were music consumers in the 70's and 80's remember those cassettes rattling around in your glove compartment.

They were so much smaller than those clunky eight-track tapes and no skipping or gunk on the needles like your vinyl records.

Many people went through the cassette era  making their own mixes, working from a dual-tape unit and sharing them with friends, family and significant others.

Then came the CD, into prominence in the mid to late 80s. It was great to be able to jump right to the spot you wanted -no more fast forward and rewind.

Soon after the CD, the mp3 became popular and that is when the cassette tape became, for all intents and purposes, extinct.

But recently, the cassette tape is being revived and a Michigan-based recording label called 'Already Dead Tapes' is right out in front of this revival.

The label is run from Kalamazoo by Sean Hartman along with his Chicago-based partner Joshua Tabbia.

Sean and Joshua have said they don't think of Already Dead Tapes as a business because it's a "passion project."

Here is a video of Already Dead Tapes via the Chicago AV Club:

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

We’ve all heard the term “comfort food”. Well how about some “comfort music”?
 
Red Tail Ring  is a duo from Kalamazoo serving up American roots music that harkens back to gentler days, and it’s music that soothes and wraps around you like a shawl.
 
Red Tail Ring is Michael Beauchamp and Laurel Premo and they join us here in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

bgsu.edu

This weekend an international heavy metal conference for academics and researchers is happening in Bowling Green, Ohio. It's called "The Heavy Metal & Popular Culture Conference," and organizers say it's the first of its kind in the U.S.

It will feature presentations by heavy metal scholars from around the world about race and gender in the genre, and about its growing popularity in places like Finland and Puerto Rico.

Preschool-age boy practicing writing his name at a table in a Head Start classroom.
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Update 2:17 p.m.

“The Superintendent is receiving calls from arts groups all over the state saying, ‘Why are you cutting the arts?’” says district spokesman Bob Kolt. “But it’s just not true…we’re contracting out those services to community artists.”

Kolt says the district will bring in about 10-20 “contractors” to help elementary classroom teachers with art, music and gym instruction.

Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys

When you think of good bluegrass music and good bluegrass musicians, you might think of folks coming from the mountain hollows of West Virginia or Kentucky.

That is where bluegrass began - taking the music brought by Irish, Scottish and English settlers - maybe mixing in some elements of African-American music - and producing a wonderful American music.
 
But today we met some pretty incredible  musicians who can serve up some great bluegrass and lots of other styles of music.

They come from all corners of the Great Lakes State.

This is Bluegrass Michigan-style as served up by Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys.

Husband and wife Lindsay Lou and Joshua Rilko joined us in the studio today. Lindsay Lou is a singer/songwriter and Joshua plays mandolin and sings.
 

This indie-soul group is getting a lot of attention around the Michigan music scene. Their new album Tarantula Manson comes out this fall.

Listen to the full interview above to hear about Hernandez's path to becoming a singer-songwriter, band manager, and female force in the Detroit music scene.

The group performs at Saint Andrews Hall in Detroit on Friday, March 22nd. For more information visit their website. But, for now check out an acoustic performance from band members in Michigan Radio's Studio East.

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