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Oct. 24, 2018 | Bob Boilen — He came to the Tiny Desk with friends, a lot of friends. In fact, Josh Karpeh, best known in the music world as Cautious Clay, put together a backing vocal ensemble of friends he’s known since his days as a music student at The George Washington University here in D.C. And so, with five singers – along with a drummer, keyboardist and a bassist – Cautious Clay brought a warm, thoughtful and chill vibe to the Tiny Desk.

I was first struck by Cautious Clay’s charismatic spirit at a sold-out show in D.C. earlier this year. And while I was already captivated by his seemingly effortless singing, with hints of James Blake and Sampha, when he picked up his saxophone and, later, a flute, I was won over by his rich sound-palette. Here at the Tiny Desk, Cautious Clay opens with “Cold War,” a song that I interpret to be about commitments within relationships. The line, “In it for the monetary growth and power / But we divided at the bottom of this whiskey sour” shows the humor and insight that I love in his lyrics.

There’s good reason why I’m so certain that this little-known artist will be well-known in the coming year: he’s a bright talent, exploring music with a curiosity and invention that is genuine, without pretense and with intentions that aren’t aimed at fame but rather meant for friends.

Set List
“Cold War”
“Call Me”
“Stolen Moments”

Josh Karpeh (Guitar/vocals/Saxphone/flute), Chris Kyle (Guitar/bass guitar), Francesco Alessi (Drums), Eric Lane (Keyboard/keybass), Sanna Taskinen (vocals), Marianne Khattar (vocals), Sam East (vocals), Claire Miller (vocals), Michael Ferrier (vocals)

Producers: Bob Boilen, Maia Stern; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Maia Stern, Bronson Arcuri, Kara Frame, Kaylee Domzalski; Production Assistant: Brie Martin; Photo: Emily Bogle/NPR