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6.30.15: Pop Songs, The Steel Wheels & Mountain Men

RubySky Photography

According to a recent analysis, pop music is getting stupider.  Today, we ask a critic whether music has to be smart to be good. Plus, Merril Garbus of tUnE-yArDs offers a firsthand look at what goes into a catchy hook. And, a member of the mountain string band Steel Wheels explains how flatpicking master Doc Watson moved him give up punk music and pick up the banjo. 

Listen to the full show. 

"Are Pop Songs Getting Dumber?"

Chris Wright wrote the article “Are Pop Songs Getting Dumber?” for the Boston Globe Ideas section. He joined us to tell us more about a recent study claiming to have proven that pop songs really are getting worse.

"Are Pop Songs Getting Stupider?"


Song Exploder: Tuneyards

Hrishikesh Hirway is the creator of Song Exploder, a fantastic podcast that looks at how music is made. In this episode, Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs talks about the song “Water Fountain”, from the album Nikki Nack. You can also see tUnE-yArDs perform live on July 1 at the Green River Festival in Greenfield, Massachusetts. 

You can listen to the story again at


The Steel Wheels

There’s some fire, brimstone, a few country waltzes and some barn dancing ruckus on the way to the Prescott Park Arts Festival on July 4, thanks to the band The Steel Wheels. Band members Brian Dickel, Eric Brubaker, and Jay Lapp play alongside our guest, lead singer, guitarist and banjo player Trent Wagler.

The Steel Wheels

Mountain Men

David Burnett authored “Photographing the Revival of the American Mountain Man” for National Geographic. He spent two years among members of the American Mountain Men, documenting a group bent on preserving the art of survival, self-reliance, and a way of life long since passed.

Mountain Men

Photo: @davidb383 | From a story on the Fur Trade Mountain Men re-enactors of the 1820s, in July issue of National Geographic by photographer @DavidB383 - David Burnett - this picture shows Larry “Long Arm” Walker, at a winter camp in the Sierra mountains near Kirkwood, CA. The members of the American Mountain Men spend much of their lives studying, and honing the nearly forgotten survival skills of the mountain men of the early 19th Century in the American West. Beaver pelts were for several decades the material of choice for men’s fine hats, and the trappers supplied the markets from their camps in Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon. #mountainmen #furtrappers #natgeo @thephotosociety A photo posted by thephotosociety (@thephotosociety) on Jun 28, 2015 at 1:00pm PDT

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