Cartoon Saloon

Top Picks: Steven Satterfield's cookbook 'Root to Leaf,' Mark Knopfler's album 'Tracker,' and more

The animated film 'Song of the Sea' will please all ages, the documentary '180 Days: Hartsville' looks at one city that's doing something right when it comes to education, and more top picks.

High-water Mark

Mark Knopfler offers the gruff with the smooth. On Tracker, the songwriter performs 11 roots songs with a burred voice and a buttery guitar sound so recognizable you could pick it out in a blindfold test. Lovely melodies such as “Long Cool Girl,” “Broken Bones,” and “Basil” are too languid for Knopfler to require the sweatband he famously wore when performing as a member of Dire Straits. Yet these affecting tales about a newspaper copy boy, a boxer, and an overlooked novelist exemplify his masterly songwriting craft. 

Get ready for spring greens

Root to Leaf, by Southern chef Steven Satterfield, is a leafy response to the nose-to-tail food movement. At his Atlanta restaurant Miller Union, Satterfield has developed a keen sense of how best to fully use in-season produce, whether it is appreciating the cleansing bitterness of dandelion greens or munching on edible blossoms. There are plenty of familiar staples here, too, in this vegetable-first cookbook. 

Against the odds

The 2013 documentary “180 Days” followed a Washington, D.C., high school over one school year. Now, codirectors Jacquie Jones and Garland McLaurin present 180 Days: Hartsville, which highlights one city that’s doing something right. Hartsville, S.C., is achieving a 92 percent high school graduation rate despite the fact that more than half the students are from low-income families. It premières on PBS on March 17 at 8 p.m.

Joy and release

If bluesman John Lee Hooker had been raised in Mali, he might have made music like this. Gandadiko, by Malian singer/guitarist Samba Touré, is hypnotic, soulful, groovy, and captivating. These 10 songs are more upbeat than his previous album “Albala,” reportedly recorded while radical Islamists punished any musicmaking in his village with public stoning. “Gandadiko” is the sound of joy and release.

Magical animation

Song of the Sea, an Irish animated film inspired by the stories of selkies (magical Celtic creatures), centers on two siblings who embark on a journey and are guided by a magical shell flute that belonged to their mother. A great wash of transcendent imagery floods the screen. It’s easily one of the best children’s films for all ages that’s ever been created. The movie will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 17.

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