Each year at SXSW, a few emerging artists become the talk of the festival. This year, Cautious Clay — the far-reaching and breezily soulful project of singer and multi-instrumentalist Josh Karpeh — appears to be one of the names on attendees’ lips. As luck would have it, Karpeh appeared at NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Family Hour on Tuesday night, and this was the way to witness the band do its work: before a reverent crowd, in a reverent setting, with impeccable sound to bring out the richness and depth in Karpeh’s voice.
Cautious Clay performed five songs at Austin’s Central Presbyterian Church, one of SXSW’s best settings. They spanned Karpeh’s short but fruitful career, with an emphasis on tracks from his upcoming Table of Context (which is due out at the end of March), and gave him the opportunity to trot out a few of the twists for which he’s become known.
In “SIDEWINDER,” from Table of Context, that meant letting a mid-tempo, falsetto-fueled jam take one of the night’s finest hairpin turns: a flute solo that made the packed house smile, then gape in wonder.