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Mama's Broke: Tiny Desk Concert

A couple of chairs, a small room and a cozy crowd describes the last eight years of tour stops for Mama's Broke. Having performed in intimate venues including homes and cabins, as well as stages, being at the Tiny Desk may have felt right at home for the Canadian duo. Lisa Maria Bates and Amy Lou Keeler make powerful songs with haunting harmonies and a mesh of fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar. You'll hear unique rhythms as Amy takes her chopsticks to Lisa's fiddle and Lisa takes her heels to the floorboard.

Elements of Appalachian folk, Celtic ballads, Nova Scotian traditions and Ukrainian folk from Lisa's grandfather's collection are woven into the duo's music. The frantic pace of touring came to a halt for Amy and Lisa when the COVID pandemic started, like it did for much of the world, and they had some time to write tunes and try out new tunings. The opening song, written in Lisa's uninsulated Nova Scotia cabin in the throes of the first pandemic winter, is filled with poignant resignation:

Just pick one, it'll hurt some if it needs to 

I know weakness is a sickness and a virtue

And cold bitter winds are never-ending

So just pick one, it's a season, it'll run through.

The songs come from Mama's Broke's new album, Narrow Line, and its 2017 debut, Count The Wicked. There are moments of hope in this set of somewhat dark songs: "What Can May Come" is one of those moments, and also, in the final tune "The Ones That I Love," where Amy and Lisa put down their instruments and send love through those perfect harmonies.


  • "Just Pick One"
  • "Wrecking Need"
  • "What Can May Come"
  • "Even Though"
  • "The Ones That I Love"

  • Lisa Maria Bates: vocals, fiddle, foot board, mandolin
  • Amy Lou Keeler: vocals, guitar, banjo, fiddlesticks

  • Producer: Bob Boilen
  • Director/Editor: Maia Stern
  • Audio Engineer: Alex Drewenskus
  • Audio Mix: Josh Rogosin
  • Series Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Videographers: Joshua Bryant, Maia Stern, Sofia Seidel
  • Audio Assistant: Josephine Nyouani
  • Production Assistant: Jill Britton
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills, Kara Frame, Ashley Pointer, Pilar Galvan
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
  • Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.