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.

Cassie Taylor's Out of My Mind
Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite on Get Up!
Mother by Dixie Chick lead Natalie Maines

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.

Next-generation blues

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.

Kindred souls

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. 

Party game

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.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Top Picks: An HBO documentary on public art, Otis's daughter Cassie Taylor's new album, and more
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today