Top Picks: Dave Rawlings, Simon & Garfunkel, 'Crazy Heart,' and more recommendations

Dave Rawlings latest CD 'A Friend of a Friend,' Simon & Garfunkel's spring tour reunion, 'Crazy Heart' on DVD, and more top picks.

Courtesy of Harper Perennial
Courtesy of Acony
Mary Altaffer/AP

Solo and sublime

Guitarist Dave Rawlings, Gillian Welch's longtime harmony partner, takes a turn in the solo spotlight with his newest album, "A Friend of a Friend." Showing a bit more spunk and variety than the typical somnolent Gillian Welch outing, it features Rawlings's appealing huckleberry vocals, this time with Welch enthusiastically assuming the role of harmony singer. Standouts are a nearly 10-minute pairing of Conner Oberst's epic "Method Acting," which segues smoothly into Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer," and the winsome "Sweet Tooth." Now where's that long-overdue Gillian Welch album?

Poetic absence

Austin Kleon absent-mindedly took a black permanent marker and began to cross out words in The New York Times until a poem stared back. A stalled-out short story writer and now a Web designer, Kleon practiced his new creative passion on his bus ride to work until he had a pile of newspaper poems that he posted on his blog. The poems drew a following and then became a book, "Newspaper Blackout" ($12.99, Harper). Kleon even teaches readers how to make their own newspaper blackout poem, such as "children/ play/ to keep/ sane."

Buddha's universe

Since little was recorded about the man who became known as Buddha until half a millennium after his death, what is known comes from tales and shared stories passed down over the ages. But what intriguing and compelling stories they are. The PBS series "The Buddha," which weaves these narratives together with perspectives from historians, poets, and religious figures, arrives on DVD April 27.

More sounds of silence

They said it couldn't be done, but a Simon & Garfunkel North American spring tour reunion will launch in Vancouver, British Columbia, April 29. The iconic duo who wrote the soundtrack of a generation will sing songs from their joint and solo careers and partake in their first-ever jazz festival appearance in New Orleans.

Old song, fresh honesty

"Crazy Heart" is about a boozy, washed-up country-and-western star, and if you think you've seen it all before, you haven't. That's because Jeff Bridges, a great actor, plays the singer. Newly out on DVD, "Crazy Heart" pulls us inside Bad Blake's moment-by-moment heartbreaks as he plays run-down honky-tonks and then meets a starry-eyed feature writer, Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal).

Turn if off

Put down your phone and listen up. The fight against "the deadly driving habits that kill nearly 6,000 Americans a year" has a new ally in Oprah who, in partnership with national organizations and local activists, has declared April 30 a "No Phone Zone Day." Tune into the live show that afternoon and check for events in your city.

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