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We've come up with many excuses to have artists come in and perform Tiny Desk Concerts at the workspace of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen. Some are too quiet to be well-served by traditional live concerts, while others are little-known staff favorites who wouldn't ordinarily receive a large-scale webcast presentation. Usually, it's just an opportunity to bring in artists who, for one reason or another, haven't gotten as much NPR Music exposure as we'd like to give them.
In the case of Shearwater, however, we just got greedy. We streamed and archived a full live concert and a studio session by the band just a few months ago. I've written about Shearwater on Song of the Day and yammered about it on Morning Edition and All Songs Considered. All Songs producer Robin Hilton and I even sneaked out of an NPR Music webcast at SXSW in order to see the group this past March, so it's not as if we've been deprived of Shearwater in 2008.
But we're not fools, either: Given a chance to soak in the swooning majesty of the band's soaring, evocative rock, we seized it. We'd initially been told to expect a bare-bones incarnation of Shearwater — namely, singer Jonathan Meiburg, with some additional percussion and instrumentation from Thor Harris. (As a side note, if his name weren't Thor, people would call him Thor anyway.)
We were instead treated to an expanded version of Shearwater: Meiburg, Harris, bassist/keyboardist Kimberly Burke and multi-instrumentalists Kevin Schneider and Jordan Geiger, who trotted out banjos and auto parts to go with Harris' homemade "waterphone" and hammered dulcimer. It all added up to a glorious four-song set that was at once pristine and ramshackle — equal parts clarity and clatter — not to mention one of our best Tiny Desk Concerts yet.
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