April 12, 2021

Nathaniel Rateliff on NPR’s Tiny Desk


I grew up on roots music. The earliest music I can remember was folk and Celtic songs that my Dad played for me from a reel to reel tape player. Dad also listened to country and even southern rock back in the 70s. I learned to love John Denver when it was decidedly not cool for a teenager to like country or what we now call Americana. From those roots grew my love of roots rock and Americana. Thanks Dad.

One of the best roots singers today is Nathaniel Rateliff. His blend of gospel, blues, country, Americana, and folk is just a joy to listen to. His gravelly voice lends an authenticity to his music that firmly ensconces it in the roots revival world. Rateliff is timeless.

He recently did an NPR Tiny Desk Concert on the NPR Music channel that is too wonderful to keep to myself. The Tiny Desk concerts, for those unfamiliar with them, were traditionally recorded before a small audience at NPR headquarters, literally in front of Bob Boilen’s desk. They are intimate and personal mini-concerts that often showcase the performers as well as their music.

Since the start of the pandemic, it has been too risky for musicians to fly to Washington D.C. to record in front of an audience. The Tiny Desk Concerts have, therefore, been temporarily dubbed the Tiny Desk (Home) Concerts. Artists record their performance at a place that is comfortable for them, ranging from their living rooms (such as Sylvan Esso and Meg Myers) to home recording studios, to empty clubs and theaters. Nathaniel Rateliff chose the latter providing the atmosphere of a small club experience. This enhances the performance even more, as he plays emotional and intimate songs that are better suited to the small space.

Watch Nathaniel Rateliff play 4 songs on NPR’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concert series.