Longtime host Garrison Keillor may have stepped down earlier this year, but the music plays on for public radio staple “A Prairie Home Companion.” Now that new host Chris Thile has taken the reins, the weekly variety show has begun mining a rich vein of contemporary artists for its weekly broadcasts. The show has announced its first 2017 guests, The Shins and Regina Spektor, who join the broadcast from Seattle’s Paramount Theatre on Jan. 7. Future guests include Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, who appears Jan. 14 at the Symphony Center Chicago, and Ryan Adams, who highlights the Jan. 21 broadcast from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, Calif. Ticket information can be found on the show’s website.
Created in 1974 by Keillor, “A Prairie Home Companion” became an outlet for the host’s purposefully anachronistic blend of storytelling, cheeky advertisements and acoustic music, as well as news from Lake Wobegon, an almost mystical town that exists in a simpler, more innocent time. Keillor’s departure this year paved the way for Thile, a mandolin player best known for his membership in Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers. Thile first appeared on the show in 1996 and had served as guest host in Keillor’s absence on a number of occasions.
“That thing that (Garrison) created, like most truly great works of art, it’s immortal. … We’ll all keep using the template he created to tell each other stories and to escape from our daily cares, but also to celebrate the daily cares,” Thile told Minnesota Public Radio in April. “Of course, the show will change to reflect the fact that its new host is not a writer but a musician.”
A more musically inclined “Prairie Home” has been evident from Thile’s first episode, which featured Jack White and Lake Street Dive. Since then, the show has welcomed a diverse collection of artists that includes Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Esperanza Spalding, Dawes, Ben Folds, Brandi Carlile, Angelique Kidjo, Trey Anastasio, Mumford & Sons’ Marcus Mumford, Corinne Bailey Rae and Nick Lowe.
Despite the Herculean task of replacing the beloved Keillor, Thile’s day gig as a touring musician shows no signs of slowing down. He’s set to embark on a monthlong European solo tour in March before returning stateside for a run of dates with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer, kicking off April 21 at Boston Symphony Hall. The group is set to explore the trio music of Johann Sebastian Bach, with pieces originally written for organ or viola da gamba adapted for cello, bass and mandolin.