Alan Sparhawk, Gaelynn Lea
Photo: Eddy Gilmore

If you’ve followed NPR Music’s Tiny Desk contests, you may remember that the first winner was Oakland’s own Fantastic Negrito. One year and two months later, we in the Bay Area are getting a wonderful opportunity to get to know the 2016 Tiny Desk Contest winner Gaelynn Lea in an intimate show on Wednesday with Low‘s Alan Sparhawk.

The first time I heard the song that Lea performed in her Tiny Desk video, “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun,” I honestly couldn’t find words to describe the mood it created. I’m a sucker for deep feelings, but the performance was so spellbinding, it just left me speechless. That seems to be the consensus for a lot of people, even the judges for the Tiny Desk Contest. The default response is to just cry, and at her eventual Tiny Desk Concert (at the famed Tiny Desk), “there was hardly a dry eye.” It’s something like a twist of lovelorn longing and painful nostalgia.

Because of her brittle bone disease, Lea creatively plays her fiddle something like a cello: upright from her lap with the bow played horizontally. She’s also a big fan of utilizing loop pedals during performances. She’s been playing music for almost 20 years, since a young age, and also teaches violin and fiddle lessons. In fact, it was a few of her students who urged her to enter into the Tiny Desk contest. Good on them!

Her friendship and musical collaboration with Alan Sparhawk started out as a surprise even to her: After seeing her play at a farmer’s market in Duluth, MN, where they both live, he reached out to her to write music together. They call their project The Murder of Crows, and they perform a couple of their songs in Lea’s Tiny Desk Concert; Sparkhawk plays guitar and sings backing vocals and the occasional solo. You can watch the full performance below.

It’s a delightful collaboration that plays on their shared love of rich, sparse music, and it’ll be a wonder to see how they play a full show together. They’re hitting the Starline in Oakland this Wednesday.

Alan Sparhawk & Gaelynn Lea play The Murder of Crows
Starline Social Club
May 11, 2016
8pm, $15