When a performer has an exceptional night, we sometimes say he or she "left it all on stage" — the "it" being effort, energy, passion, sweat. To close a concert with a raw throat and a rumpled appearance signifies full disclosure, proof that the person on stage has held absolutely nothing back. Diane Cluck's performances, at their best, take a near-opposite approach: unfolding melodies of winding complexity without the barest hint of strain or struggle.
There was a haze over Jake Bugg when he arrived at the Tiny Desk. He was expressionless and quiet. That all changed when he strummed fast and fierce on his acoustic guitar and began a flow of words reminiscent of Greenwich Village in the '60s, not modern Clifton in England's East Midlands, where he grew up.
It's hard to convey the sound of two people in love, but Lowland Hum does that effortlessly. Daniel Levi Goans and Lauren Plank are now Daniel and Lauren Goans; they met a few years ago and spent much of their first married year on the road, singing together on small stages and at house concerts across the country. Daniel was a folksinger in North Carolina, while Lauren had aspirations to sing but mostly did it privately. She has a passion for making things with paper, and you'll see that in the little black book of lyrics she hands out at shows.