When Tom Jones performed at the NPR Music offices in 2009, it felt like an exercise in cruelty: His Tiny Desk Concert took a larger-than-life icon, a superstar for whom intimacy is implied but impossible on a huge stage, and shrunk him to where every bead of sweat could be seen. Young English folksinger Laura Marling, on the other hand, lives for that sort of intimacy. A performer who once held a series of unplugged and unrecorded concerts in a near-empty room, each consisting of a single song performed for two strangers at a time, Marling thrives on connection in confinement.
Though still only 22, Marling is an industry veteran with six years of accumulated gravitas: Twice nominated for Britain's Mercury Prize, she's made three gripping albums that helped popularize modern English folk music while fitting comfortably on a continuum spanning generations. Here, two pieces from her newest record, 2011's A Creature I Don't Know, bookend a gorgeous new song called "Once." She'd never even recorded "Once," let alone released it, so consider this performance a premiere of sorts.
- "Don't Ask Me Why"
Producer and Editor: Bob Boilen; Videographer: Michael Katzif; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; photo by Nick Michael/NPR