NPR Tiny Desk Concert


Ralph Stanley:

"October 19, 2009 - The Tiny Desk Concert series almost always brings out the lighter side of both the artists who perform and the staff of NPR Music. When Tom Jones or the band Dr. Dog shows up, for example, it can feel like a child's birthday party or a field day from school, with lots of joking from a bunch of people glad to have a break from their normal routine. But when Dr. Ralph Stanley strolled in to give this Tiny Desk Concert, the office fell silent with the kind of reverence appropriate for a living legend.

That's not to say that Stanley was humorless. Standing at Bob Boilen's desk, in front of one of the largest crowds we've had at a Tiny Desk show, he held up a copy of the new autobiography he's been promoting, Man of Constant Sorrow, and told the audience, "I'd like to sell around a thousand of them today, here." When Bob asked if the book had every detail of the singer's life, Stanley said, "I didn't leave out a thing. And may have added some stuff." Later, when he sang an abbreviated version of "Amazing Grace," he told the audience, "I only know but the one verse," grossly understating his position as the dean of bluegrass and old-time gospel music. But, as he writes in his new book, "I'm just an old hillbilly, and proud of it, too. Plain as an old shoe."

Ralph Stanley's Tiny Desk set was shorter than most, but deeply moving. He didn't play his trademark clawhammer banjo, and no one accompanied him as he sang three songs a cappella: "Gloryland," "Turn Back, Turn Back" and "Amazing Grace"."

Click here for: The Tiny Desk Concert (video)

Rodrigo Y Gabriela:

"October 10, 2009 - I can't think of a better way to describe the music of Rodrigo y Gabriela than with three words: "heavy metal flamenco." And yet the duo doesn't play heavy metal — its members perform instrumentals on nylon-string guitars — nor does it play Spanish dance music. But the term fits because the pair's fierce guitar riffs feel powerfully electric, and because Rodrigo y Gabriela's rhythmic style showcases a frenetic strum that conjures the energy of flamenco.

A Mexican duo living in Dublin, Rodrigo y Gabriela just released an album called 11:11, which pays tribute to the pair's heroes — Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, Astor Piazzolla and Pantera's Dimebag Darrell among them. It's quite a stretch to travel from the bruising heavy metal of Pantera to the tango of Piazzolla, but it all works. What flies from those fingers wouldn't even seem human had I merely seen it on YouTube. But I got to see them play live at my desk, and I can say that it's not only real, but also magic."

Click here for: The Tiny Desk Concert

-The J-man


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