Lalah Hathaway’s NPR Tiny Desk Performance…

The gifted Lalah Hathaway has been busy touring this year in support of her late 2017 album Honestly. During a recent visit to Washington, D.C. the soulful songstress paid a visit to the NPR offices to share her talents with the staff for their acclaimed “Tiny Desk” concert series.

The purple haired singer brought along a 3-piece band consisting of Lynnette Williams (keys), Eric Smith (bass), and Varo Johnson (drums). Her three song set list included “Change Ya Life,” “Boston,” and “Honestly.”

Read NPR’s Felix Contreras’ personal description of Lalah’s performance below.

Hathaway’s appearance behind the Tiny Desk pulls back the curtain a bit for a close-up encounter with her powerfully expressive voice. The lower registers always draw me in, and in ‘Change Ya Life,’ Hathaway’s dusky contralto paints an exciting portrait of blissful cohabitation — but on her terms. She draws on a tradition of romance and sensuality in the best soul music, but with a feminist twist that eschews old-school, male-centric lyrics and attitudes.

Lyrics alone do not convey that kind of spirit. It’s in Hathaway’s delivery — self-assured yet vulnerable. ‘Boston,’ her ode to her second home (she’s from Chicago), is a meditation on self-discovery and longing. The band — electric piano, bass, drums — perfectly straddles slow-jam R&B and a jazz-ballad sensibility.

So much of the most powerful music from the Civil Rights Era wasn’t about literal accounting of injustices; many of those songs enshrouded morality plays in the guise of romantic longing. Hathaway introduces the set-closing title track of her new album ‘Honestly’ as an explicit reflection ‘of my country at this time.’ If you heard it for the first time without the introduction, it comes across as a lover’s lament. But Hathaway’s soaring vocals infuse it with the passion of resistance to bring her set to a close on a hopeful, joyous note.”

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