This week on the podcast, we’re still talking about TIDAL, questionable streaming service Grooveshark bites the dust, and DC finally has their very big-time music festival. Will Landmark save the mall or unleash hordes of angry custies upon our nation’s capital? PLUS!!! We review the heartbreaking final album from Rhode Island’s Brown Bird, and take a trip into the surreal with the latest from sax-man Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld (Arcade Fire). It’s the only podcast you’ll hear this that features a Henrietta Porkchop – it’s Episode 115 of ChunkyGlasses: The Podcast.
While Brown Bird may not have been around for a century, the sounds they’ve released into the world over the past few years have delved into straight-up old school bluesy Americana circa the 1920s - 1940s, relying on acoustic instrumentations, uniquely talented vocals, and the lyrical sensibilities of band founder David Lamb. With their newest release Fits of Reason, Lamb and partner MorganEve Swain blow that foundation upward and outward with a trip around the globe to gather additional influences, and the result is an eleven song collection that highlights why Brown Bird is a band you should invest your time in getting to know, even while they are attempting to depress the hell out of you.
At first listen the opening track and lead single “Seven Hells” could fit on a prior work, but a second run through reveals that everything has grown a plug – gone are the songs built on Lamb banging away at an acoustic guitar while Swain whacks an upright bass. “Nine Eyes” plays out with circling melodies and slightly off-kilter harmonics, and the intentional off-key harmonies show up throughout the album’s run. Evocative of Andrew Bird’s headier Bowl of Fire days, the song revolves around a dervish of electric guitar work, introducing a Middle Eastern, East Indian, and gypsy flair to the song and the album as a whole.
In “Bow for Blade,” Swain demonstrates her sultry violin skills, but more impressively pours her vocals through a voice loop, allowing her to harmonize with herself. Despite her obvious background in traditional bluegrass, the harmonies sound less like an Emmylou Harris/Allison Krauss duet than like the Andrews Sisters from the 1930s. “Barren Lakes” revisits the achromatic harmony well and comes close to pushing into the realm of on-edge teeth grinder, but “The Messenger” then breezes through with a sashay and a hip toss, and despite bleak lyrics it serves to lighten up the album again.
2011 was a huge year for the Newport Folk Festival. By playing fast and loose with the "folk" part of its name, the organizers put together a stellar lineup that joined artists both old and new in a giant celebration of music, and the payoff was that for the first time in the festivals HISTORY it SOLD OUT! So how do you follow up what many consider to be the best year in the festivals history?
GO BIGGER of course.
This year heavyweights like of My Morning Jacket, Alabama Shakes, Dawes, The Head and The Heart, Conor Oberst and JACKSON FREAKING BROWNE sit on top of the bill - not to mention WILCO if you want to throw in the fests expansion to include a Friday night show. But you already know this. Again this year, you bought up every last ticket to be had. You're already planning on seeing Punch Brothers, Tune-yards, and Charles Bradley. You've got your run of Deer Tick, Sharon Van Etten and Iron and Wine mapped out down to the minute. But that's just one side of the weekend.
In a large part it is the smaller bands that make this festival. Newcomers, oldcomers...it doesn't matter. These are artists that might float under the general publics radar, but its safe to say, nobody makes it to the Newport stage without good reason. With that in mind, here's a few of the "little guys" that we think are well worth your time checking out this weekend when you get the chance.
Last years Salt for Salt was one of the more criminally underrated releases, but you wouldn’t know it by the performance that this duo delivered 2011’s Newport Folk Festival. With a sound that lies somewhere between a darker vision of American, prog rock and METAL (yes you read that right), they stunned the crowd at the Alex and Ani tent in 2011. This year the group makes the well deserved move up to the main stage, so make sure you get there early, because our money is on David [Lamb] and MorganEve [Swain] to provide one of the most talked about sets of the weekend. No pressure guys.
It’s taken over week, but we’ve finally got our thoughts in order (you can see all of our pics here) concerning 2011’s Newport Folk Festival. Before we dive in and try to break down each days experience though, I’d like to let you in on a little secret: Without exaggeration, The Newport Folk festival is possibly the best festival running in the country right now.
Sure it’s smaller (only 10K people this year…which was a sell out for the first time in the festivals history) and sure you may not see the biggest, most hyped new favorite band there. But what you will see is music created for people who truly love music BY people who truly love music. You see, unlike other larger festivals that often end up feeling more like a showcase for whatever band is being pushed at the moment than an actual meeting of the musical minds, at Newport the musicians simply came to play.
Sit in’s with other bands abounded and backstage partnerships were made hourly. There was a sense of community, a “we’re all in this together”-ness that permeated each and every set of the weekend, and made for a thrilling 2 days of music. Even better, if a band wasn’t playing, they could often be found watching as part of the audience, and aside from the occasional pat on the back or handshake and congratulation on their set, they were able to simply carry on like any other Festival attendee.
For two days this past weekend, Fort Adams State Park in Newport, RI, became an impromptu community of musicians and fans coming together to celebrate the thing that they hold most dear: MUSIC.
Just saying that this festival is special doesn't even begin to do it justice and we will have our take on the whys and hows in the coming days. Until then, we've put together a collection of shots from the weekend that we think will give you a pretty good idea of how everything went down on Saturday and Sunday at one of the most legendary festivals in the entire country.
In case you haven't noticed, all week we've been showcasing some of the lesser known artists that will be performing at the Newport Folk Festival this year. Today being no exception we bring you Providence's own Brown Bird.
One listen and it'll be pretty clear why they're performing this year, but there's more at work than just traditionalism. There's a complexity and a darkness to this group's music that captivates as much as it occasionally creeps you out. It's dark, lush and intelligent, and I for one can't wait to see what they do in front of a s@#load of people first thing Sunday Morning.
If you're going to Newport, meet us at the Harbor Stage at 11:30, for what is sure to be a fantastic performance. If you're not, why not check out the opening track from their forthcoming album Salt for Salt (out 10/18 on Supply & Demand) and ask yourself some hard questions about why you are missing the Newport Folk Festival this year.
Brown Birds - Fingers To The Bone