Wednesday, April 3, 2013

brown bird "Fits of Reason" album review

I was first introduced to brown bird at a dive I used to haunt (and play at quite often), called Porter Belly’s in Brighton Center a couple years back. Hard to believe I caught them here and they would be playing the Newport Folk Festival and all over this fine country a few months later, but perhaps it is a testament to the duo as true lovers of the music and will play anywhere they will be heard. Needless to say, I have been a fan ever since that evening in my favorite cozy local pub and their new record “Fits of Reason”, doesn’t give me any reason to ever feel any differently. The band puts forth 11 fresh new tracks with that unique driving force of upright bass, archtop guitar, thumping kick drum and vocal harmonies that makes brown bird, well, uniquely brown bird. Plus they added some other pieces to the board too... 

The duo of David Lamb and MorganEve Swain manage to stir up something I can’t quite put words to, but without fail, every time I put on one of their records I find myself stomping my feet but at the same time, actually paying attention to the words behind the music. Usually it’s one way or the other. I either want to just hear music I can nod my head to a bit, while losing myself in work or a long haul drive or (on the other end) sit and meaningfully contemplate what a songwriter is trying to tell me. The combination of Swain’s driving bass rhythms and ever-present tranquil harmonies with Lamb’s profound lyrical work (I should mention that Swain also writes some pretty great songs...and plays a bunch of other instruments), tasty guitar lines and pulsing foot percussion do just that. The music is fun and upbeat, yet deep and meaningful in its content. Something that is purely brown bird, something that is purely excellent and something I just don’t understand the equation of, but am extremely envious of and grateful this band does it so well. The band somehow, makes sad/somber themed songs fun.
The first track launches with a flamenco-ish feel, the duo begin to sing in unison while the rhythm section of bass and tambourine coerce the words along, the chorus section picks up and you are now fully invested and will most likely listen to this record all the way through...multiple times. MorganEve and David complement each other in such a seamless fashion it’s almost like they are in each others head and know what the other is feeling and thinking next. Swain takes the lead vocal duties on Bow for Blade and her almost otherworldly voice laces its way through the “indie rock polka-waltz” feel of the tune. All together the tracks are familiar and sound like the band as fans love them, but they have also strayed a bit outside of the box and tried new and exciting things with this effort. The closing track, ‘Caves’ opens up with an almost medieval dance of instrumental string parts quickly followed up with Lamb’s slightly raspy vocal. There is something about his voice that tells you he has seen a thing or two in his day, but there is a deep, purposeful and clean soulfulness to it as well. The record is clearly brown bird, but strongly displays the growth of the band into areas previously untapped. Additions of new instrumentation (or more frequent use of certain parts throughout) and venturing into different sounds and musical textures make this project indicative of the bands staying power and proves they are only getting better with time.
Head on over to their site, buy the new record, and if you don’t already have them, but the entire back catalogue of their music. You won’t regret it!

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