My favorite Tiny Desk Concert moments come when the NPR staff gathers around the desk for an artist they've never heard and walk away wanting more. I wasn't surprised to see that happen with Kishi Bashi — he is, after all, the one musician out of the 1,300 songs or so we previewed for All Songs Considered that we all agreed was a must-see at SXSW. He didn't disappoint.
The Harrisonburg, Va., band The Steel Wheels embraces a hand-hewn quality in its music, which is a collection of American sounds reaching from mountains to fields. The group's first album, Red Wing, showed more of the grain and rougher edges, but Lay Down, Lay Low has been buffed to a high polish. The new album is stronger in its use of the band's vocal talents, reminiscent of the four-part singing of the Mennonite communities where several of them once lived.
I remember so clearly when Paul Simon headed to South Africa. His trip there was controversial in the midst of growing boycotts surrounding apartheid. I imagined with odd certainty that somehow Paul Simon would be killed. I spent the better part of a weekend listening to his music, sad and scared. Fortunately, nothing happened — only my love for his music became stronger.