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Stephen Thompson

The last band to open for Levon Helm before his death earlier this year, Brooklyn's Spirit Family Reunion crafts a sweetly ramshackle Americana sound that's part secular gospel revival, part folk ramble.

Since expanding from a duo into a sextet, Blind Pilot has given its warmly catchy, charmingly delicate folk-pop a bit of a propulsive kick: For all the band's sweet, easy-going grace, it's a special pleasure to hear it apply a percussive jolt to songs like "We Are the Tide." Released last year, the album of the same name is consistently engaging, but Israel Nebeker's songs about nature and desire sound best when Blind Pilot puts some muscle behind them.

The word "uneven" gets tossed around in critical parlance to signify artists whose fingers stray from the quality-control button — to suggest that they don't know their own genius when they hear it.

We call her the Typhoid Mary of the Tiny Desk.

This Sunday will mark the 16th annual installment of "Chicken Bowl," my Super Bowl party, which doubles as a grand fried-chicken-eating contest. As many as 80 friends, coworkers, enablers and hangers-on will cram into my long-suffering house for this noble occasion.

But even with all the extravagances I've cobbled together to keep them happy — large TVs, vintage arcade machines, working toilets — there has never been a shred of doubt that chicken is king.

This session, from Sept. 2, 2011, is part of our Vintage Cafe series, in which we revisit some of our best studio performances.

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