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.
- "Cloudy Shoes"
- "Newspaper Gown"
- "Beacon Hill"
Filmed and edited by Michael Katzif; photo by Abby Verbosky