© 2022 90.5 WESA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Damien Jurado: Tiny Desk Concert

We've recorded more than 120 concerts at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen, featuring artists ranging from the queen of Malian desert rock to the godfather of go-go music to a master of the Colombian jazz harp to freaking Tom Jones. They've come in virtually every configuration, but it's hard to match the simplicity and intimacy of a singer with an acoustic guitar in that space — there's no hiding, no faking, no frills.

A few days ago, our own Mike Katzif took a break from editing the video he'd shot of Damien Jurado at the Tiny Desk, and he walked over to my workspace to marvel at the footage. "Sometimes," Mike said, "there's just nothing like a big dude playing sad songs." We agreed that this one is special: Jurado has spent the last decade churning out albums of raw, time-worn, authentically graceful music, and he's always possessed a seemingly innate gift for capturing the intricacies of human behavior. The guy once released a record, Postcards and Audio Letters, which contains no songs — just wrenchingly intimate messages he'd found left on old thrift-store tape recorders — and it plays like a mission statement for his music, like the movie for which he'd been providing a soundtrack all along.

Though Jurado throws in a fantastic unreleased song here ("Newspaper Gown"), this material comes from a 2010 album called Saint Bartlett. And, as marvelous as these pieces sound in their official form, it's hard to top how they come off at the Tiny Desk — it's just a big dude playing sad songs, his eyes pinched shut as if to make it easier to be alone with the music, but the performance is perfect the way it is.

Set List

  • "Cloudy Shoes"
  • "Newspaper Gown"
  • "Arkansas"
  • "Beacon Hill"
  • Credit

    Filmed and edited by Michael Katzif; photo by Abby Verbosky

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)