The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.
Shirley Collins is a legend — a humble one, but undoubtedly a transformative voice in traditional folk music. It's truly a miracle to hear her voice at this Tiny Desk (home) concert. At 85, Shirley Collins is seated in the living room of her cottage in Lewes, East Sussex, accompanied by guitarist Ian Kearey. Her life story took the sort of twists you hear in the songs she sings, in her case, a broken heart, a painful divorce, and the loss of her voice. For 30 years, she couldn't sing.
Now, here she is playing songs from Heart's Ease, only the second album she's made in the past 40 years. You hear her sing of a young sailor boy who saves his ship from robbers and is promised by his captain both gold and his daughter's hand in marriage. The lad sinks the robber's boat, only to be left to drown by that very same captain.
These unimaginable tales and that unadorned voice have influenced both British and American folk music since the 1960s, from Fairport Convention's Sandy Denny to The Decemberists' Colin Meloy. These tales of woe and whimsy are as timeless as Shirley Collins.
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