Whenever I imagined a St. Vincent Tiny Desk Concert, it was always going to be loud and electric. But I didn't see this coming – the brilliant guitarist arrived at NPR with one steel string acoustic guitar and without a warm-up or soundcheck. Annie Clark stood at my desk, in front of a few hundred-plus NPR employees and close friends, and hit us hard with her un-amplified voice, unplugged guitar, her checkered wardrobe and most importantly, her songs.
We've been recording Tiny Desk concerts for nearly a decade, and in that time, a few artists have come back for encores — folks like Wilco, Chris Thile and the inspiration for the series, Laura Gibson. One band, The Oh Hellos, came back after a year to favor us with a holiday set. But we've never, until now, asked anyone to return later the same day.
In this session we welcome JD McPherson, the Oklahoman who made retro rock sound modern with "North Side Gal." There's a reason his new album Undivided Heart & Soul sounds different. McPherson uprooted his family from Oklahoma to Nashville, Tenn., and ended up making the new album at the historic RCA Studio B — whose walls have soaked up music from major country acts for decades. Elvis, Charley Pride, Floyd Cramer: They all recorded there. In fact, the studio is a museum in the daytime.
“So much of its original identity is gone because of the Christianization that has happened. If you look around my house, every book that says Choctaw on it, anything about songs … it’s just Christian hymns being sung in the Choctaw language. There were definitely songs my great-grandpa was singing before they started singing whatever Christian hymns were being [sung].”