Benjamin Booker has a deeply tender voice that, at times, can feel like a whisper But it always cuts to the heart. “Believe,” his opening number at the Tiny Desk has a yearning for something to hold on to, something to understand. It’s a timeless desire which can be about the personal or the political. But on the second song, “Witness,” the title track to his 2017 album, the 28-year-old New Orleans-based singer bears witness to both the racism he’s experienced and the hatred still prevalent in our culture and reflected in the daily news.
The title cut is sung here with Saundra Williams (you may recognize her singing alongside the late Sharon Jones on a previous Tiny Desk Concert). The song reflects on two main questions: Will we be a witness to the wrong in the world and is that enough?
It’s a potent message that questions the meaning of Booker’s own life, but also asks listeners to question the meaning of theirs. The music bears the same sensitivity as the message and that’s felt most powerfully in the restrained guitars that punctuate this heartfelt performance.