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.