This week: we're bidding 2016 adieu with a few highlights from our season thus far, a few from the past three-hundred and sixty five, and a few from even farther back in the vault. We'll have music from Paul Simon, Jack White, Angelique Kidjo, Ben Folds, Brandi Carlile, Trey Anastasio, Marcus Mumford, Gillian Welch, Väsen, Nickel Creek, and Punch Brothers, and comedy from Aparna Nancherla. Plus: a look back to Chris Thile's first appearance on the show in 1996, when he joined us along with Michael Cleveland for a young artists show; even more tunes from our friends Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O'Donovan; and scripts, scenes, and sponsors from our Royal Academy of Radio Actors. Prep those resolutions, dust off the noisemakers, and join us on the radio this Saturday evening to ring in the new year.
  • Paul Simon

    Paul Simon has been a major force in contemporary music since his days as half of the duo Simon and Garfunkel. "We are all connected on this very basic emotional level by rhythm and harmony," he has said. And he's certainly proved the point, drawing on a wide range of styles, from doo-wop and folk to Latin and mbube. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including 12 Grammys, a Kennedy Center Honor, and induction into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
  • Jack White

    A few years ago, the New York Times Magazine called Jack White "the coolest, weirdest, savviest rock star of our time." Could be. From The White Stripes to The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, not to mention his solo work, he has left his singular mark on music of the past couple of decades. Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016, a double CD/LP compilation of his music, is just out on Third Man Records. Dominic Davis, bass; Lillie Mae Rische, fiddle and mandolin; and Fats Kaplin, lap steel, fiddle, mandolin.
  • Ben Folds

    Singer-songwriter-producer Ben Folds first found mainstream success as the leader of the critically acclaimed Ben Folds Five. The versatile pianist has gone on to have a highly successful solo career -- live and studio albums, music for film and TV, and numerous collaborations with artists from Sara Bareilles to William Shatner. For his latest recording, So There (New West Records), he teamed up with the inventive chamber ensemble yMusic.
  • Brandi Carlile

    In her teens, singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile sang backup for an Elvis impersonator, but when she got her first guitar -- a broken and abandoned Harmony Sovereign -- she was soon playing coffeehouses, parties, and restaurants in the Seattle area. Since she released her first album more than a decade ago, her fan base has mushroomed. Her latest recording is The Firewatcher’s Daughter (ATO Records). Brandi is joined by Phil Hanseroth and Tim Hanseroth.
  • Angelique Kidjo

    Decades ago, Angelique Kidjo fled to Paris from her native Benin, after being pressured to perform for that country's repressive regime. Now this world-renowned singer-songwriter is a UNICEF International Goodwill Ambassador and was honored as an Amnesty International 2016 Ambassador of Conscience. Her Batonga Foundation seeks to improve access to education for African girls. Its motto: "Transforming Africa one girl at a time." Earlier this year, she won her third Grammy, for Sings (429 Records), a collaboration with the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg. Dominic James (guitar), Magatte Sow (percussion), Ben Zwerin (bass), Yayo Serka (drums).
  • Trey Anastasio

    Trey Anastasio may be best known as co-founder and frontman of the rock band Phish -- whose 13th studio album, Big Boat, is just out on the JEMP label. But the guitarist-composer has also garnered acclaim as a solo artist; his 10th recording, Paper Wheels (Rubber Jungle/ATO), came out last year. He has performed with the Vermont Youth Orchestra and the Grateful Dead, Oysterhead, and Dave Matthews & Friends. And he collaborated on the music for the Tony-nominated Broadway musical Hands on a Hardbody. In 2003, he landed on Rolling Stone's list of 100 Greatest Guitarists -- no surprise to his myriad fans.
  • Marcus Mumford

    Marcus Mumford is the lead singer of the British band Mumford & Sons. Since forming in 2007, the group's fusion of rock and traditional music has won over fans worldwide. They have released three full-length studio albums to date, the last two of which debuted at No. 1 in both the U.K. and the U.S. Among their honors are Grammys, BRITs, Billboard Music Awards, ARIAs, the Juno, the Ivor Novello Award for International Achievement, and more. Recent recordings include Wilder Mind and a five-song EP, Johannesburg, both on the Glassnote label.
  • Gillian Welch

    In the early 1990s, Gillian Welch met Dave Rawlings at the Berklee College of Music in Boston while the two were students waiting to audition for the country-band class. Over the past two decades, they have carved out a highly successful career, with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americana Music Association and recordings that include Welch's Grammy-nominated The Harrow & The Harvest and the Dave Rawlings Machine release Nashville Obsolete (Acony Records).
  • Vasen

    Since forming more than 25 years ago, Väsen has become Sweden's leading acoustic trio, taking their exciting brand of music to far-flung corners of the globe. As one reviewer quipped, "This music could be the most significant Swedish export since the Vikings." With Olov Johansson on nyckelharpa, Mikael Marin on viola, and Roger Tallroth on guitar, the group was named 2015's "Band of the year" at the Folk & Världsmusikgalan (Folk and World Music Gala) in Stockholm. Their most recent album is Vasen Live pa Gamla Bion (NorthSide).
  • Nickel Creek

    Seven years ago, genre-bending group Nickel Creek called an "indefinite hiatus," and bandmates Chris Thile, Sara Watkins, and Sean Watkins embarked on separate careers. The Southern California trio first formed in 1989, when two of the three were barely into grade school, and went on to release a half-dozen recordings and garner a boatload of honors, including a Grammy and couple of IBMA Awards. This year's reunion tour will no doubt add new fans to their legions of old ones. A Dotted Line, their brand-new album, is just out on Nonesuch Records.
  • Punch Brothers

    It's hard to put a label on Punch Brothers. These five virtuosic musicians have been pushing boundaries as performers, recording artists, composers, interpreters, technicians, and stylists, since they first came together in 2006. That's when they made the album How to Grow a Woman from the Ground, which earned them a Grammy nomination. Suffice it to say, Chris Eldridge (guitar), Paul Kowert (bass), Noam Pikelny (banjo), Chris Thile (mandolin), and Gabe Witcher (fiddle) are stirring things up with their extraordinary sound. Their new album is The Phosphorescent Blues (Nonesuch).
  • Aparna Nancherla

    You'll find Aparna Nancherla on Variety's 2016 list of 10 Comics to Watch (and on lots of other best-of lists too). You might also find her in the cast of Comedy Central's Inside Amy Schumer, on the panel of NPR's Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me! or hosting the long-running popular underground New York comedy show Whiplash. She has written for Late Night with Seth Meyers and performed her stand-up comedy in venues coast to coast. Her new album is Just Putting It Out There (Secretly Canadian).
  • Michael Cleveland

    Michael Cleveland is fifteen years old and has been playing the fiddle for a more than a decade. He began classical violin lessons when he entered kindergarten at the Kentucky School for the Blind in his hometown: Louisville, Kentucky. The classical music didn't appeal to him, but he liked the violin-so he incorporated the techniques that he learned in school as he played along with bluegrass music at home. Cleveland's grandparents had been taking him to bluegrass festivals since he was an infant, and some of the bluegrass pickers began to show him some of their techniques. By the time Cleveland turned 13, he had captured several fiddle championships. In 1990, he appeared at Bill Monroe's renowned Bean Blossom Festival. A few years later, Alison Krauss welcomed him onto the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Cleveland also is known for his expertise on the mandolin and guitar; he has recently begun to play the banjo. His most recent album is One for Mac, dedicated to Kentucky fiddler Mac McBane, who has encouraged and inspired Cleveland over the years.
  • Chris Thile

    Chris Thile, A Prairie Home Companion's new host, made his first appearance on the show in 1996. He was 15 and had already been playing mandolin for a decade. He'd also started Nickel Creek with Sara and Sean Watkins, and released his first solo recording, 1994's Leading Off. This Grammy winner now collaborates with many musicians in myriad styles and leads acoustic quintet Punch Brothers. Thile's solo albums include Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1 (Nonesuch).
  • Richard Dworsky

    Keyboardist, composer, arranger, and longtime Prairie Home Companion music director Richard Dworsky has collaborated with such diverse musicians as Yo-Yo Ma, James Taylor, Brad Paisley, Kristin Chenoweth, and Sheryl Crow. He has provided music for documentaries on HBO and PBS, and has released many recordings of original material, including his latest, All In Due Time.
  • Sarah Jarosz

    Sarah Jarosz is a gifted multi-instrumentalist (mandolin, octave mandolin, guitar, banjo), an expressive and distinctive vocalist, and an accomplished songwriter. The New England Conservatory of Music grad has carved out a solid niche where contemporary folk, Americana, and roots music intersect. She's been nominated for multiple Grammys, including two for her album Build Me Up From Bones and three for her latest recording, Undercurrent (Sugar Hill).
  • Aoife O'Donovan

    With her ethereal voice and substantive songwriting, Aoife O'Donovan captivates fans and critics alike. She was lead singer of the string band Crooked Still, and was a featured vocalist on The Goat Rodeo Sessions, the Grammy-winning album by Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile. Her own recordings include 2016's In the Magic Hour, follow-up to her critically acclaimed solo debut, Fossils. Her most recent release, Man In A Neon Coat: Live From Cambridge, is a collection of original songs and covers, recorded live at The Sinclair.
  • Serena Brook

    After she picked up her diploma from the University of Minnesota Duluth, actress, voice-over artist, and Eagan, Minnesota, native Serena Brook was off to New York City, where she spent five years performing in Off-Broadway shows and with national and regional touring companies. Now living in the Twin Cities, she has worked with Chanhassen Dinner Theatres and 7th House Theater.
  • Tim Russell

    Mild-mannered Tim Russell one minute -- Obama, Trump, or myriad others the next. It's almost impossible to stump this man of many voices. Says fellow Prairie Home Companion actor Sue Scott, "He does a better Ira Glass than Ira Glass." A well-known Twin Cities radio personality and voice actor, Tim appeared in the Robert Altman film A Prairie Home Companion and the Coen brothers' A Serious Man.
  • Fred Newman

    Sound effects man Fred Newman is an actor, writer, musician, and sound designer for film and TV. Turns out, no one is more surprised than Fred that he's made a career out of doing what he used to do behind the teacher's back -- crossing his eyes, making sounds, and doing voices. He readily admits that, growing up, he was unceremoniously removed from several classrooms, "once by my bottom lip."