Top Picks: National Geographic's examination of early Christianity, Eric Clapton's new album, and more

The PBS series 'Mr. Selfridge' fills the 'Downton' void, the free app CoffeeTable lets you save paper by browsing catalogs on your device, and more top picks.

CSM staff /file
Lisa Marie Mazzucco
'Night' by Simone Dinnerstein (at right in photo) and singer-songwriter Tift Merritt
'Old Sock' by Eric Clapton

Stand-alone folk

Classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein and singer-songwriter Tift Merritt collaborate as musical explorers seeking commonality from their different starting points. Classical piano and folk-singing-with-guitar meet in a delightful sonic landscape, creating a tonal world all its own. The album, Night, is released on Sony Classical.

Christianity in Rome

With the arrival of a new pope, Easter week is a good time to brush up on the foundation years of this global religion. National Geographic Channel sheds light on the early years of Christianity after Jesus finished his ministry. In a three-part series, Jesus: Rise to Power, Roman historian Michael Scott and religious scholars trace and illuminate Christianity’s early stages. How did it survive the suppression and persecution of Rome to become the only official religion of that world within 400 years? Answers to this and other questions about the forces that shaped early Christianity are investigated in this series, which debuts on Thursday, March 28.

Cozy Clapton

If Eric Clapton invited some buddies over to jam, it might sound like his new album, Old Sock. Its mix of old jazz standards, a few reggae chestnuts, and two new songs yields more “medium” lights than highlights, but hey – at least he’s not recycling old blues songs for the umpteenth time. Old mates Paul McCartney and Steve Winwood lend a croon and a keyboard noodle or two, and it all feels as warm and fuzzy as an old, well, you know what.

Edwardian fill-in

For those on “Downton Abbey” hiatus, PBS’s “Masterpiece Classic” fills the Edwardian England void with its latest sumptuous, vintage series, Mr. Selfridge. Starring the wonderfully smooth Jeremy Piven, the series shows how Selfridge – part visionary, part con man – invented the modern shopping experience as entertainment consumerism at its most extravagant and launched the iconic British department store that bears his name, Selfridges. It airs Sundays, March 31 through May 19, at 9 p.m. Check local listings. 

Paper-free catalogs

Spring catalog season has arrived. Rather than clutter the house with stacks of mailers destined for the recycling bin, check out CoffeeTable. The free application collects digital copies of more than 200 catalogs, including Crate&Barrel, Paper Source, and L.L. Bean. As you flip through the virtual pages, you can tap on models to find out what they’re wearing, check colors and sizes, and order items from within the app. Available for iPhone and iPad. (We prefer the latter.)

Good night, room

For his series Where Children Sleep, photographer James Mollison captured various images of children and their bedrooms from around the world. Some spaces, such as that of a little girl from Tokyo whose room is filled with huge shelves of dolls, are fun to see; others, such as the bedroom of a boy from the West Bank, which consists of a carpet surrounded by barbed-wire walls, are sobering. Check out his gallery at

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