Skip to main content

Watch Yasmin Williams put on a technical and melodic display for the ages in breathtaking NPR Tiny Desk performance

Yasmin Williams performs at the Avalon Theater in Easton, Maryland on August 13, 2021
(Image credit: Kyle Gustafson/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

For our money, Virginia native Yasmin Williams is one of the best acoustic guitarists in the world right now.

Those wondering where to start with Williams would do well to check out her sophomore record, this year's mesmerizing Urban Driftwood, and/or watch her brand-new NPR Tiny Desk performance, which offers an incredible window into Williams' unique approaches to the acoustic guitar.

The four-song set – comprised of Urban Driftwood stunners Juvenescence, Through the Woods and After the Storm, and the deceptively melancholy On a Friday Night, which is taken from her 2018 debut, Unwind – shows Williams fingerpicking, tapping (with her fingers and sometimes a mallet hammer), sliding and knocking her way through effervescent, catchy melodies, and hypnotic instrumental passages.

You can check out the full performance below. 

In an interview with Guitar World this summer, Williams – who often transitions from playing upright to laying the guitar on her lap within the same song – encouraged other guitarists to expand their technical approaches to the instrument. 

“Don’t think of your guitar just as a stringed instrument; think of it in percussive terms, too, and as a melodic instrument – something you can bow or tap on," she said. 

"Don’t just look at it as this thing to play four chords on. Guitars are multi-dimensional, they’re not just for campfires. They’re like eight instruments in one." 

Aside from releasing Urban Driftwood in January, Williams also premiered a new song, Virga, in August. Recorded as an Amazon Original, the exquisite instrumental was accompanied by a performance video filmed at Third Man Records in Nashville.

Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at guitarworld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.