We here at the Yak like to bring you some very talented yet underrated artists that deserve not only more recognition, but also more exposure. One of the greatest places to find such artists is over at NPR, yes, the same one that is currently fighting for funding in Washington. Many people in America don’t have any idea of the vast content provided by NPR, mainly because the media only seem to focus on their News shows or Sesame Street. Just for a moment, forget all that. Put aside what you have been told, over and over, about NPR. Forget the news stories, forget the politics.
NPR is possibly a music revolution. So many “unknown” artists after being featured on NPR, whether in first listen, Studio Sessions, or Tiny Desk Concerts, have gone on to win top awards and become fan favorites. Arcade Fire and Esperanza Spalding were featured there, and went on to win top Grammy’s this year.
So, whatever your opinion about NPR funding and it’s politics, we would like to present to you yet another underrated and exceptional performer, featured recently in an NPR Tiny Desk Concert. Press play, sit back, and enjoy. Oh, and turn it up.
She hasn’t yet broken out commercially in a big way, but singer Lizz Wright has long seemed poised to follow in the platinum-selling, Grammy-festooned footsteps of Tracy Chapman, Norah Jones and other contemporary singers who infuse elements of blues and folk music with jazzy, smoky soul. Raised on church music in Georgia, Wright is well-versed in the freedom songs of Sweet Honey in the Rock, without whom none of the music here would exist; “I Remember, I Believe” is by that group’s leader, the great Bernice Johnson Reagon, whose daughter Toshi Reagon (Wright’s best friend) co-wrote “Hit the Ground.”
In this short but satisfying two-song set at the NPR Music offices, the ever-evolving Wright channels the gospel of her past (as she does on last year’s Fellowship) while remaining coolly understated. It helps, of course, that she’s got a subtly crafty band with her: guitarist Robin Macatangay, bassist Nicholas D’Amato and drummer Brannen Temple, who MacGyvers some Tiny Desk-friendly percussion instruments out of an upturned wastebasket and a pizza box, among other detritus. The result is a sweet surprise: as spiritually uplifting as it is graceful, grounded and unmistakably cool.
Let us know what you think about Ms. Wright in the comments below!