Winston Yellen didn't start singing until he was 18 — he's 23 now — but he's already got one of 2013's most arresting new voices. As the singer for the country-rock group Night Beds, Yellen often performs a cappella, with tremendous soul and nuance.
We thought Yellen might show up for this Tiny Desk set by himself — all the better to show off that amazing voice, with maybe just his own guitar as backup. But he opted to go all-in with the full Night Beds touring band, including lap steel and keys. The resulting performance was both lighthearted and deeply affecting.
Fortunately, you still get a chance to hear Yellen's voice in the clear: The group kicked off its four-song set with "Faithful Heights," the a cappella opening track from Night Beds' full-length debut, Country Sleep. The song segues seamlessly to "Ramona," followed by "22," before the set closes with with "Hide From It," an unreleased song.
As Night Beds' members were packing up after their performance, I asked Yellen if he ever has to work on his voice or if he was just born with it — I'd assumed the latter. "I actually just started taking voice lessons," he said. "I knew I could be so much better before heading out for this tour."
It's hard to imagine it sounding any better.
- "Faithful Heights"
- "Hide From It"
Producer: Robin Hilton; Editor: Denise DeBelius; Audio engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Lizzie Chen, Denise DeBelius, Gabriella Garcia-Pardo; photo by Marie McGrory/NPR