Tiny Desk

Tarrus Riley

Tarrus Riley: Tiny Desk Concert

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/126537167/126670110" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

For a variety of reasons, we don't often schedule Tiny Desk Concerts at 10 o'clock on Monday mornings — though the last time we did, for Raphael Saadiq, the result was spectacular. But in that calm-before-the-storm part of the day and week, reggae singer Tarrus Riley, saxophonist Dean Fraser and guitarist Lamont Savory showed up and began soundchecking.

It was immediately apparent that this was to going to be special. A crowd began to gather as Riley's voice rolled down the hallways. The group opened with "It Will Come (A Musician's Life Story)," a song about the conversation between a woman who wants her man to get a regular job and a man who insists that the irregular hours and low pay of a musician will pay off for them both eventually. Telling a recognizable story and smiling sweetly at the mostly gentle barbs we lob at our partners every day wrapped the assembled crowd around Riley's finger.

Riley explained a bit about his faith as a preamble to "Lion's Paw," which he said is not so much about the strength of his belief in Jah as it is about the strength of Jah's belief in him. Riley laughed and danced so much, he almost left mic range, so much did he endeavor to pull his audience into the song. Fraser and Riley hit every harmony, stretching out smiles on people's faces and provoking at least two false protestations of allergy-related eye issues.

But my favorite — the song I'd told the band had been stuck in my head for days — was "She's Royal," Riley's hit from the summer of 2007. It's a song for the women out there, especially on the days when you're having a hard time working through to a day of rest. It's crazy catchy, and it had men all over the building teasing the women, calling us queens for the rest of the day. We know they know, but it's nice when they say it out loud.

Set List
  • "It Will Come (A Musician's Life Story)"
  • "Lion's Paw"
  • "She's Royal"

Frannie Kelley and Bob Boilen (cameras); edited by Michael Katzif; photo by May-Ying Lam

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Jun Tsuboike/NPR

Tiny Desk

Ben Folds

Performing solo, Folds performs three songs from his new album and two old favorites.

Tiny Desk Concert with Chelsea Wolfe. Ariel Zambelich/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Ariel Zambelich/NPR

Tiny Desk

Chelsea Wolfe

Wolfe takes three songs from the metallic Abyss and makes them howl by their lonesome.

Tiny Desk Concert with Car Seat Headrest. Jun Tsuboike/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jun Tsuboike/NPR

Tiny Desk

Car Seat Headrest

Will Toledo is a wordsmith with a vision, as well as a DIY sound that's still finely crafted.

Tiny Desk Concert with EL VY. NPR hide caption

toggle caption NPR

Tiny Desk


The National's Matt Berninger and Menomena's Brent Knopf team up in an intimate setting.

Tiny Desk Concert with The Arcs. Jessica Mowery/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jessica Mowery/NPR

Tiny Desk

The Arcs

It's our 500th show at the Tiny Desk, featuring The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and his new band.

Tiny Desk Concert with Wolf Alice. NPR hide caption

toggle caption NPR

Tiny Desk

Wolf Alice

The band's music can be noisy and primal, but at the Tiny Desk it showed a different side.

Tiny Desk Concert with River Whyless. Jun Tsuboike/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jun Tsuboike/NPR

Tiny Desk

River Whyless

The North Carolina band fills its rootsy music with unexpected instruments and clever ideas.

Tiny Desk Concert with Benny Sings. Morgan Walker/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Morgan Walker/NPR

Tiny Desk

Benny Sings

The Dutch singer layers R&B, jazz and pop over hip-hop beats in his first-ever U.S. appearance.

Tiny Desk Concert with Natalie Merchant Jun Tsuboike /NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jun Tsuboike /NPR

Tiny Desk

Natalie Merchant

The singer-songwriter gives a warmhearted performance of two new songs, an old favorite and a hymn.

Tiny Desk Concert with Mariachi Flor De Toloache Jun Tsuboike/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jun Tsuboike/NPR

Tiny Desk

Mariachi Flor De Toloache

While on tour with The Arcs, the powerhouse mariachi band performs live in the NPR Music offices.

Back To Top