Josh Ritter With Amanda Shires And Jason Isbell: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert
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Watch Josh Ritter play "All Some Kind of Dream", "The Torch Committee" and "The Gospel of Mary" at the Tiny Desk.

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Sept. 27, 2019 | Bob Boilen -- Josh Ritter came to the Tiny Desk with the enthusiasm of a young child and the wisdom of an old soul. He arrived armed with a message and musical soulmates, Amanda Shires on fiddle and Jason Isbell on acoustic guitar. Both play on Josh's 2019 album Fever Breaks; in fact, Jason produced the record. This is Josh Ritter's second appearance at the Tiny Desk; his first was on Valentine's Day 2011. On this day, his heart was on America.

Each song was filled with frustrations regarding the treatment of refugees, immigration, politics and our hearts. On "All Some Kind of Dream," he sings, "There was a time when we were them / Just as now they all are we / Was there an hour when we took them in? / Or was it all some kind of dream?" When the song ended, Josh stared into the NPR crowd. "I feel like the big thing that we all have to fight against is this notion that we're not all human beings," he said. "And they're trying to break us in every number of ways, all different little groups, and that we have no power, but we have power!"

Then he, Amanda and Jason launched into another Josh Ritter piece of passion, "The Torch Committee," a song I believe is about evil and complacency. The trio ended with a new song, one I'd not heard before called "The Gospel of Mary." It imagines Joseph, Mary and their child as refugees. Honestly, it was a draining concert with challenges to who we are and who, as a country and a people, we wish to be. As the applause faded Josh hugged his bandmates, thanked the crowd, smiled and said, "America, we love you, but you've gotta change!" Music can do that, and Josh Ritter is an agent for that change.

SET LIST
"All Some Kind of Dream"
"The Torch Committee"
"The Gospel of Mary"

MUSICIANS
Josh Ritter: vocals, guitar; Amanda Shires: vocals, violin; Jason Isbell: guitar

CREDITS
Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Maia Stern, Beck Harlan; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Executive Producer: Lauren Onkey; VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann; Photo: Emily Bogle/NPR

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April 1, 2019 | Robin Hilton -- This is probably the loosest you'll ever see Weezer. Known for meticulously produced — and electric — live shows, frontman Rivers Cuomo and the rest of the band settled in behind the Tiny Desk for an entirely acoustic set without the in-ear monitors, click track or vocal separation they usually employ to stay locked-in and tight for bigger performances. The result is surprisingly intimate, with songs that feel lived-in and rumpled, like an old flannel shirt from the '90s. Weezer opened with one of the band's rarer songs: "Longtime Sunshine," a 1994 track that's only appeared as a Rivers Cuomo home recording on bootlegs and compilations, and on the deluxe edition of Pinkerton. Then the band performed a stripped-down version of its electro-pop song "Living in L.A.," from Weezer's new self-titled "Black Album," followed by another deep cut, "Across the Sea." It's a song Cuomo originally wrote in his early 20s, inspired by a fan letter he'd received from a young woman in Japan. While beloved by many Gen-Xers who'd first heard it on 1996's Pinkerton, the song's lyrics haven't aged terribly well. Weezer returned to its newest material to close the set with "High as a Kite," from the new album. A song of innocence and escapism, Cuomo sings about daydreaming and how he wants to disappear — which is exactly what the band did once the song was over, but not before Cuomo told the crowd, "We are Weezer, from the planet Earth. Have a nice life!" SET LIST "Longtime Sunshine" "Living in L.A." "Across the Sea" "High as a Kite" MUSICIANS Rivers Cuomo: lead vocals, guitar; Brian Bell: guitar, vocals, keys; Scott Shriner: bass guitar; Patrick Wilson: drums CREDITS Producers: Robin Hilton, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Beck Harlan, Kimani Oletu; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Production Assistant: Adelaide Sandstrom; Photo: Amir Alfiky/NPR
98 7 months ago
March 25, 2019 | Bob Boilen -- I had a surprise for Chill Moody when he arrived at the Tiny Desk: a concealed strawberry shortcake (his favorite) for his 34th birthday. His musical partners, singer Donn T and the rest of his Philly crew known as &More, all brought out the cake and candles, sharing in the celebration. It was a fitting moment to have between the group's performance of inspirational songs. &More's music is often about the experience of being black in America, blending hip-hop and R&B with a motivational message and a Philadelphia flair. The three songs they played are from their debut album Ethyl Bobcat, coming out on April 5. I first discovered &More while sifting through hundreds of Tiny Desk Contest video entries last year. Their standout video was for a song called "WHOA," which is also the third song they played during their visit to the Tiny Desk. It's a song that expresses exasperation at current events, when words just can't be found, and when all one can say is, "whoa!" But despite the intensity of the subject matter, much of what &More, Donn T and Chill Moody play stays positive. You can hear it in the refrain of the song: "The hate you give, won't stop and let you think; the love you save keeps you on the brink." The positivity is infectious. Set List "My Own Light" "Future Come Around'" "WHOA" Musicians &More (Chill Moody & Donn T): vocals; Marlon Lewis: drums; Ty Lemar: vocals; Norwood Long III: bass; Jake Morelli: guitar; Dan Rouse: keys Credits Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kimani Oletu, CJ Riculan, Kara Frame; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Production Assistant: Adelaide Sandstrom; Photo: Amr Alfiky/NPR
66 7 months ago
March 20, 2019 | Felix Contreras -- When Alejandro Escovedo and his backing band known as Don Antonio set up behind the Tiny Desk, their first sounds were blistering loud. That's when we broke the news: We wouldn't amplify Alejandro's voice. We got a slightly sullen look from the band; but despite the toned-down volume, they were all still amped up. The musician, who once opened for the Sex Pistols, obliged with a smile and seemed to appreciate the difference between being pelted with spit and debris by punk rock fans and being showered with loving appreciation in the NPR Music office. Escovedo pulled the three-song set from The Crossing, the most recent chapter in his ongoing odyssey and a typically hard-rocking, literate saga about two teenagers looking for their American Dream of rock and roll and beat poetry. The close quarters of the Tiny Desk allows for a kind of backstage insight into the musical and visual interplay between Escovedo and the veteran Italian band Don Antonio. Lead guitarist Antonio Gramentieri is the perfect foil for Escovedo, who adds a heavy dose of edginess to the sound with his power strumming. Alejandro Escovedo fans are a close-knit group. We've followed his lead and have been treated to various musical aggregations over the years. But as you see in this video, this setup seems to be working just fine and may be his strongest yet. Set List "Teenage Luggage" "Something Blue" "Sonica USA" Musicians Alejandro Escovedo: lead vocal, guitar; Antonio Gramentieri: vocals, guitar; Denis Valentini: bass; Matteo Monti: drums; Nicola Peruch: keyboard; Gianni Perinelli: tenor sax; Franz Valtieri: baritone sax Credits Producers: Felix Contreras, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kimani Oletu, Kara Frame, CJ Riculan; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Production Assistant: Adelaide Sandstrom; Photo: Claire Harbage/NPR
65 7 months ago
March 18, 2019 | Sidney Madden -- In astrology, your Saturn return is the time in life when Saturn goes back to the same spot it was at the time of your birth. As Nao explained during her appearance at NPR's Tiny Desk, "It's about leaving adolescence and going into adulthood." This crossing of the threshold that happens around your late 20s to early 30s is the inspiration for Saturn, Nao's sophomore effort and one of 2018's best albums. When the U.K. singer-songwriter brought her band and cosmic energy to the Tiny Desk — sneaking in her 2015 breakthrough track, "Bad Blood," alongside Saturn standouts — the strength and conviction of her performance had fans in the office strapped in for the emotional ride. While Nao usually performs with synthy, electronic twinkles, her day at the Tiny Desk was stripped down by comparison. At times, her lyrics ring out with just a sparse guitar to carry them. Like a roller coaster of unexpected upheaval, Nao's distinctive vocal range on this four-song set goes from bellowing and husky to soft and coy, often within the same verse. Be it the breezy, Brazilian funk of "If You Ever," the hallowed harmony of "Orbit" (complete with prayer hands) or the valiant soul-searching of "Make It Out Alive," it's almost as if Nao duets with herself, answering her own questions, settling into her own quirks. Saturn return can be marked with new responsibilities, confusion and poison-thorned serendipity. But by creating astral, intentional music through her growing pains, Nao ended up grounding herself. Set List "If You Ever" "Bad Blood" "Orbit" "Make It Out Alive" Musicians Nao: lead vocal; Ariel O'Neal: guitar; Joe Price: keys; Henry Guy: bass; Samson Jatto: drums; Troi Lauren: vocals; Taylor Samuels: vocals Credits Producers: Sidney Madden, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Suraya Mohamed, Patrick Boyd, Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kimani Oletu, Beck Harlan; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Production Assistant: Adelaide Sandstrom; Photo: Amr Alfiky/NPR
78 7 months ago
March 13, 2019 | Bob Boilen -- The expectation upon seeing a banjo hanging is one of rollicking rowdiness, but when Kaia Kater began to strum her five-string, the mood in the office turned plaintive and a bit mournful. The Afro-Caribbean-Canadian singer and songwriter, who studied Appalachian music at West Virginia's Davis & Elkins College, often references the Black Lives Matter movement, within a music form that doesn't exactly snap to mind as being in dialogue with modern issues. These days, Kaia Kater records for Smithsonian Folkways, and some of the songs she brought to the Tiny Desk come from her recent recording Grenades, a record she worked on while exploring her father's home country of Grenada. It's a country that has "experienced a lot of political turmoil," she says. "My father left when he was 16 years old and he came to Canada as a refugee, on his own. It's a story I ran away from for a long time, where I didn't want to reconcile with myself being this kind of hyphenated Canadian." Kaia Kater tries to come to terms with that history on the last song at the Tiny Desk, also the title track of Grenades. "Rain heavy like carpet bombs, sweetgrass, and lemonade / Fold the memory into your arms and whisper it away." The imagery is stunning, her Tiny Desk Concert sublime. Set List "Nine Pin" "Canyonland" "Grenades" Musicians Kaia Kater: lead vocal, banjo; Andrew Ryan: bass; Brad Kilpatrick: drums; Daniel Rougeau: electric guitar, lap steel guitar Credits Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kimani Oletu, Kara Frame; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Production Assistant: Adelaide Sandstrom; Photo: Amr Alfiky/NPR
83 7 months ago
Lake Street Dive first met as students at the New England Conservatory of Music; now they apply that training to craft carefully arranged tunes with tricky harmonies. Watch the band perform "Musta Been Something" from Brooklyn's Retrofret Vintage Guitars with WFUV Public Radio.
86 7 months ago
March 6, 2019 | Robin Hilton -- Meg Myers put out one of 2018's most intense and cathartic albums. Take Me to the Disco raged and threw sonic punches at anyone who'd ever attempted to use or abuse her, from former record executives to past lovers. Dressed in a sparkling blue leotard, Myers re-creates that fire and ferocity behind the Tiny Desk, replacing her album's roaring electric guitars and electronics with a pulsing string quartet, piano and brushed drums. But the most intense part of the performance is Myers herself. The distant, piercing looks she gives during the set's opening cut, "Jealous Sea," are unforgettable and unforgiving as she sings about a rat's nest of feelings — anger, fear, jealousy, desire — over an ex. "Everything's right, everything's wrong / When you call my name," she sings while half-hugging herself. "And I don't think I can stop the jealousy / When it comes, it comes like waves and I can't breathe." Myers follows with a searing version of what she calls "a very lovely, uplifting song" from Take Me to the Disco called "Tear Me to Pieces," a frenzied takedown of liars, buried secrets and "wicked temptations." She then dials back the fury and indignation to close with a surprising version of "Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush. Myers is a longtime fan, and often gets compared to the British singer. But Myers tells the audience she fell in love with the song for its meaning. "It's about men and women and the differences between them, and learning to have empathy for each other." At the end of it all, standing behind the desk, Myers seems to finally exhale and let go of the fury as she paws playfully at her band, grateful to have gotten through it together.
83 8 months ago
Feb. 28, 2019 | Rodney Carmichael -- The Lord works in mysterious ways. It might sound cliché, but there's really no better way to describe the circumstances that led to prolific producer Zaytoven's impromptu Tiny Desk.
117 8 months ago
Feb. 18, 2019 | Bob Boilen -- Scott Mulvahill has been trying to win the Tiny Desk Contest for each of its four years. He's always been one of our favorites, though he's never been our winner. The double bassist entered his song, "Begin Againers" in 2016 and though it wasn't the winning entry, we all loved it so much, I invited him to my desk to perform his extraordinary song. He opened the Tiny Desk with it, only this time he was joined by bandmates Jesse Isley and Josh Shilling who shared vocal harmonies.
148 8 months ago
Feb. 13, 2019 | Bob Boilen -- Mountain Man is the perfect band for a Tiny Desk concert. These three women make the most intimate music; and behind the desk, the voices of Amelia Meath, Molly Erin Sarlé and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig were the stars. Adorned by only light, rhythmic acoustic guitar, they sing songs that conjure a simpler life: dogs, friends, moonlight, sunlight, skinny dipping, beach towels and sand.
169 8 months ago
Feb. 11, 2019 | Bob Boilen -- There's a magical aura that surrounds Lau Noah as she sits behind my desk and embraces her guitar with one foot propped unnaturally high on a stool. As melodies pour from the strings, she sings these words in Spanish: "On the verge of the soul, there is a red petal, attached to the skins of mortals." A few lines later in the song she continues, "a fragile petal that drinks the water of the most cruel stories: children who have never heard a fairytale, lovers who love, dressed in regret." This is the sort of poetic tale that captured my heart amongst the thousands of entries I watched during the Tiny Desk Contest in 2018. Her song she submitted for the contest is called "La Realidad." Lau Noah's journey as a songwriter and guitarist occurred by happenstance. She was born in Reus, Spain barely a few hours drive from Barcelona. She speaks and now sings in Catalan, Spanish, English and sometimes Hebrew. She'd played piano growing up (never guitar) and left Spain for New York City five years ago while in her late teens. On a visit to Montreal in 2016, Lau hoped to go to a Patrick Watson concert with friends. But the performance sold out and she was left alone in an apartment while her friends went to the show. Then a snowstorm ensued. The apartment had two guitars and, with nothing else to do, she picked one up and began to play. She wrote her first song, "Pequitas," which means "Little Freckles." Now, not too many years later, her creativity on both classical guitar, her narrative poetry and the singing of that poetry make the musician Lau Noah a unique spirit. Before she played her final song, "Red Bird," at the Tiny Desk, she quoted Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, from his novel Don Quixote: "When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies," Lau said, reading from her notes. "Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams is madness. And maddest of all: to see life as it is and not as it should be." Lau Noah herself writes the kinds of story-songs that provoke that sort of thought, so we've included translations for you to fully enjoy her vision. Set List "El Jardinero (The Gardener)" "La Realidad (The Reality)" "L'Adéu (The Goodbye)" "La Belleza (The Beauty)" "Red Bird" Credits Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kimani Oletu; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Photo: Amr Alfiky/NPR
85 8 months ago
Feb. 6, 2019 | Bob Boilen -- Kurt Vile exudes a casualness at the Tiny Desk in his style and body language that is so unlike most anxious artists who come to play behind my desk. Sure, he's done this Tiny Desk thing before, with Courtney Barnett. But even then, I remember thinking that he's got something else on his mind — and it made me laugh this time around when Kurt played his opening tune, "Bassackwards," and sang these words: "I was on the beach but I was thinking about the bay / Got to the bay but by then I was far away." That idea of being one place and thinking about another, for me, also connects to the way he plays guitar. He seems distracted, yet the complex guitar lines he so nonchalantly plays, along with his musical mate Rob Laakso, are effortlessly beautiful and lyrical. After they played two new tunes from Kurt Vile's latest record, Bottle It In, Kurt goes solo on an older, self-described "juvenile" song from long ago, recently revived during his Courtney Barnett collaboration last year. "Peeping Tomboy" has its own schizophrenic issues as Kurt sings, "I don't wanna change but I don't wanna stay the same / I don't wanna go but I'm runnin' / I don't wanna work but I don't wanna sit around / All day frownin'." On the surface, it all can seem just chill. But there's a lot of rumination in these songs — and even when he's gazing into the overhead office lights, I think he got his mind on the stars and the world at large. Set List "Bassackwards" "Loading Zones" "Peeping Tomboy" Musicians Kurt Vile - vocals, guitar Rob Laakso - guitar Credits Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kaylee Domzalski; Production Assistant: Brie Martin; Photo: Cameron Pollack/NPR
147 8 months ago
Feb. 4, 2019 | Robin Hilton -- Most artists who play the Tiny Desk are at least a little nervous. Performing in broad daylight in a working office full of staring faces is outside the comfort zones of most people. But Chan Marshall, the unforgettable voice behind Cat Power, seemed especially uneasy when she settled in for her set. Rather than taking center stage, close to the audience, she stepped back and to the side to be closer to her pianist and friend, Erik Paparazzi, for much of the performance. She intermittently steadied herself by resting a hand under her chin while clutching a cup of tea, and she ran through three songs without a break, making her set sound more like a Cat Power medley than a series of distinct songs. Regardless, the music was arresting and beautifully orchestrated, with simple piano lines and brushed drums backing a voice that could only be hers. Opening with "Wanderer," the title track to Cat Power's latest album, Marshall sang of restless love and yearning with a nod toward motherhood and her 3-year-old son: "Twist of fate would have me sing at your wedding / With a baby on my mind, now your soul is in between." She followed with "Woman," another track from Wanderer — originally recorded with Lana Del Rey — before closing with "The Moon," from her 2006 album The Greatest. As the band played out its final notes, Marshall leaned on her pianist with a look of relief, as if to say, "We got through it!" But she was all smiles afterward, lingering long after the performance to chat warmly with friends and fans — particularly a small group of young children who'd attended with their parents. It was a sweetly endearing end to a memorable afternoon. Set List "Wanderer" "Woman" "The Moon" Musicians Chan Marshall, vocals; Erik Paparazzi, piano; Adeline Jasso, guitar; Alianna Kalaba, drums Credits Producers: Robin Hilton, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kaylee Domzalski, CJ Riculan, Beck Harlan; Photo: Jenna Sterner/NPR
167 8 months ago
Jan. 29, 2019 | Bob Boilen -- This Blood Orange Tiny Desk is a beautifully conceived concert showing off the craft and care that has made Devonté Hynes a groundbreaking producer and songwriter. It's a distillation of themes found on Dev Hynes' fourth album as Blood Orange, titled Negro Swan. Themes of identity, both sexual and racial, through the eyes of a black East Londoner (now living in New York) run through this album and concert. Dev Hynes is a composer who fits as comfortably in the worlds of R&B, gospel and electronics as he does in the classical world of someone like Philip Glass. The opening song at the Tiny Desk, "By Ourselves," features Dev Hynes on piano, Jason Arce on saxophone, Eva Tolkin and Ian Isiah on vocals along with a powerful spoken word performance by Ashlee Haze. Ashlee's story is a tale of finding herself and her identity in the words and music of Missy Elliott when she was, in Ashlee's own words, an eight-year old, "fat black girl from Chicago" who discovered "she could dance until she felt pretty" and "be a woman playing a man's game." "Jewelry," the second song performed, welcomes Mikey Freedom Hart on piano while Dev moves on to electric guitar and vocals reminiscent of a languid Jimi Hendrix, with soul-baring lyrics of pride. The group then offers a rendition of "Holy Will," inspired by the Detroit gospel group The Clark Sisters, as singer Ian Isiah takes this song of praise to a whole new level. Blood Orange ends as a trio on the final song, "Dagenham Dream." Eva Tolkin and Ian Isiah are on vocals; Dev Hynes works an organ sound while singing about being beaten and bullied as a school kid in his hometown of Dagenham in east London. The power of each of these songs is magnified by the way Blood Orange has woven this performance together. He's a rich, rare and caring talent we first met 11 years ago in a grassy field in Austin, Texas back when he still used the moniker Lightspeed Champion. Now his thoughts are deeper, his message of finding one's place in this world more deep-seated, with a clarity few artists ever achieve. Set List "By Ourselves" "Jewelry" "Holy Will" "Dagenham Dream" Musicians Devonté Hynes - Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Keyboards Ashlee Haze - Spoken Word Eva Tolkin - Vocals Ian Isiah - Vocals Jason Arce - Saxophone, Bass clarinet Mikey Freedom Hart - Piano, Keyboards Credits Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineers: Josh Rogosin, Patrick Boyd; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kaylee Domzalski, CJ Riculan, Kara Frame; Production Assistant: Brie Martin; Photo: Heather Kim/NPR