Top Picks: An HBO documentary on public art, Otis's daughter Cassie Taylor's new album, and more
Ben Harper teams up with Dixie Chick lead singer Natalie Maines for Maines' solo album, the app Heads Up is a fun party game, and more top picks.
Global art project
“Stand up for what you care about and together we turn the world inside out.” Thus begins the HBO documentary Inside Out: The People’s Art Project. Led by French artist JR, the initiative invites people from Paris to the Middle East to the United States to reexamine preconceptions about race, politics, and the ability of humanity to change course by creating giant black-and-white photo portraits of ordinary folks and pasting them up in public spaces. It airs May 20.
Cassie Taylor spent her teens playing bass for her dad, progressive bluesman Otis Taylor, before going solo. Like father, like daughter? Not quite. The young artist favors a more polished, traditional sound on Out of My Mind, a stylistically varied set that spans New Orleans jazz, rock, and trance blues. Ms. Taylor’s voice – by turns sassy and tender – eschews melisma for soul. You won’t get “Out of My Mind” out of your mind.
What do you get when you combine the grit of California’s Inland Empire with the smoky lament of Chicago? You get a fast-moving blues train powered by the multitalented Ben Harper on slide guitar and legend Charlie Musselwhite on his wailing harmonica. Feeling down never felt so buoyant. Their raucous album, Get Up!, has both an old-soul depth as well as Mr. Harper’s signature boldness – a combination that will keep you playing this album over and over.
Chick out of Dixie
Ben Harper has also teamed up with Dixie Chick lead singer Natalie Maines to produce her solo album, Mother, her first since the Dixie Chicks broke out of Nashville in 2006 with Grammy-winning “Taking the Long Way.” But there are no signs of bluegrass on this emotive rock album. Somewhat uneven tracks include songs by Mr. Harper, Patty Griffin, Eddie Vedder, and others. It’s tempting to hear political defiance in the chosen lyrics, but Maines’s own “Take It On Faith” comes across as a worthy search for a fresh start.
The new 99-cent app Heads Up plays essentially like the party game Celebrity or the old TV show “Pyramid.” Hold the iPhone to your head so that everyone but you can see the word on the screen. The rest of the room then acts out the secret word until you correctly guess the celebrity, movie, animal, or accent (our favorite). Additional decks of words cost an additional 99 cents.
What’s on PBS?
Three shows of note: First up, watch how The Ghost Army – young artists using inflatable tanks, sound effects and impersonation – fooled Hitler’s armies during World War II (May 21). Next, tune into Rebel (May 24) for a fascinating documentary about Loreta Velazquez, one of about a thousand women who secretly served as soldiers during the American Civil War. Finally, the National Memorial Day Concert airs live from the US capital on May 26 at 8 p.m., featuring the National Symphony Orchestra and military bands.