Ed Sheeran: The X Factor

what Ed Sheeran’s massive success shows is the endurance of the acoustic guitar in popular music—not just in the singer-songwriter or country-bluegrass realms, but also in the pure, unadulterated, teen-loving pop world. For this 2014 package first published in Acoustic Guitar magazine, I talked to Sheeran and others about his music and guitars, and he delivered a stirring, stripped-down performance of “Thinking Out Loud.”

Ani DiFranco: Return of the Righteous Babe

Early on in what’s come to be slandered by the right as “cancel culture,” Ani DiFranco angered fans by planning an artist retreat at a former plantation. The irony was stunning: Here’s a woman who’d spent her entire career as a stanch political ally, not just of Black Americans, but of all people of color, all gender identifications, the poor — basically, all people marginalized by the dominant culture. DiFranco survived the controversy with her fanbase intact.