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Billy Bragg: Tiny Desk Concert

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21 min 14 sec

June 17, 2013 One of the world's finest folksingers channels the spirit of Woody Guthrie at the NPR Music offices. As he has throughout his long career, Bragg finds a way to blend politics and music with grace, charm and a rough edge.

OK Go helped us move the Tiny Desk from our old building to NPR's new headquarters, and The National performed the first full new-building Tiny Desk Concert we posted to the site, but Billy Bragg gave us the first full Tiny Desk Concert we actually recorded in our new office.

Bragg, one of the world's finest contemporary folksingers, appropriately sang "Handyman Blues" as his first tune — and was quickly met with lot of hammering on our rooftop by some real handymen as they put the finishing touches on NPR's new home.

Bragg, along with Dobro player C.J. Hillman, also channeled the spirit of legendary American folksinger Woody Guthrie, with whom Bragg collaborated — albeit posthumously, in Guthrie's case — when he took Guthrie's unsung words and set them to song with the help of Wilco. Here, he takes a song Guthrie himself co-opted and altered: a gospel tune ("This World Is Not My Home") he'd turned into an anthem against inaction.

In "I Ain't Got No Home," Bragg follows in the folk tradition by altering the song to address the issue of universal health care. It's a rare talent to make it work, but Bragg, as always, finds a way to blend politics and music with grace, charm and a rough edge.

Set List
  • "Handyman Blues"
  • "I Ain't Got No Home"
  • "Sexuality"
  • "No One Knows Nothing Anymore"
Credits

Producer: Bob Boilen; Editor: Denise DeBelius; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Denise DeBelius, Gabriella Garcia-Pardo; photo by Marie McGrory/NPR

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