Taylor Haney

The Morning Edition Song Project, where we ask musicians to write an original song about the COVID era, continues today with Lila Downs. The artist grew up splitting her time between Minnesota and Oaxaca, Mexico, and says that she always felt pulled between three different cultures — Indigenous Mixtec, Mexican national and American. So when she agreed to contribute to the series, her tricultural identity played a role.

President-elect Joe Biden is set to restore a bipartisan norm upon moving into the White House: presidential dogs. The Bidens have two German shepherds, Champ and Major.

Major, in particular, has a "wags to riches" tail.

He'll soon be the first dog to go from a shelter to the White House. That shelter, the Delaware Humane Association, plans to "indogurate" Major on Sunday in a virtual ceremony. (People and pets alike are invited to attend.)

Brandy Clark is known for her vivid character sketches. The Nashville artist put out an album in March 2020, right when the pandemic was starting to shut everything down. After her tour got canceled, Clark started seeing people less — a real problem for someone who likes to write about other people.

Chris Stapleton may be offbeat for Nashville — big beard, old style, more personal lyrics — but he's still the kind of songwriter who can churn out an album in a couple of weeks. Before he blew up as a solo artist five years ago, he was already writing hits for artists like Kenny Chesney and Luke Bryan. It was the 2015 CMA awards, where he performed a medley with Justin Timberlake, that took his career to another level.

The Morning Edition Song Project, in which musicians compose an original song about the COVID-19 era, returns this week with multi-genre singer-songwriter Thao Nguyen, leader of the band Thao & the Get Down Stay Down. Early this September, the San Francisco-based musician stepped onto her porch to find polluted air and falling ash — the fallout of the wildfires raging on the West Coast.

Makaya McCraven calls himself a beat scientist, so it's no surprise when you ask about his childhood, you hear he was pretty much surrounded by rhythm.

"Rehearsals at our house, banging on drums since I was able to hold a drumstick, sleeping in my dad's bass drum," he recalls. "There was no front head, and a little pillow in there. And you could just kinda go in and lay down if you're small enough."

Phoebe Bridgers is the first to admit that she's not reinventing herself on her new album. "There's nothing avant-garde about it," she says of Punisher, her second solo record and fourth major musical project in the last three years. Even so, there's a quiet, assertive power to Punisher.

The shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic hit musicians hard, with concert halls and rehearsal spaces shuttered and silent. But a new music initiative from the Library of Congress embraces the constraints of COVID-19. The series is a collection of 10 videos of 10 different original compositions that will premiere online starting Monday, June 15. It's called the Boccaccio Project.