"Milk n' Honey"
"St. Bernard's Lily"
I was wondering how the 10 members of The Red River were going to squeeze behind my desk at the NPR Music offices. Where's the arm room for the violist? Where are they going to put two keyboards, let alone drums, French horn and guitars? It turns out Bill Roberts and his band had other plans.
When I met them at their van and they cascaded out like a gaggle of circus clowns, they headed to the NPR office with just a single guitar. I was puzzled, to say the least. But The Red River rose to the challenge, re-arranging four of its tunes by playing body percussion, 10 voices and one guitar.
The California-born band of friends is now based in Portland, Ore., and plays songs about the beauty in the day-to-day. The group sings in praise of the unremarkable, and at times, Roberts' songs are reverent, even religious. This stripped-down performance provides a glimpse into The Red River's simple elegance — captured on Little Songs About the Big Picture, a record that easily made my Top 10 for 2010.