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Salt for Salt

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Album Review

The eternal return of self-consciously rootsy/heartland/folky/whatever-you-want-to-term-it music in the American popular context is almost its own self-contained cycle at this point, and initially it seems clear that Brown Bird are part of that. Whether it's the deep demi-twang of lead figure David Lamb, the porch-stomp feeling of the rhythms or more besides, it's part of an alternately loose and self-contained genre as much as metal is, or country or hip-hop or whatever works as a description. But with that in mind, Salt for Salt has its own ace up its sleeve, first evident on "Chairkickers," thanks to Morganeve Swain's slow, mournful cello part that snakes throughout the song, not to mention the cheery waltz feeling set against the darker sentiments of the lyric — if there's a parallel point to be made, it's that there's a sense of theatrical cabaret evident in Brown Bird's work as much as a perceived Appalachia. Thus "Bilgewater" could be something close to a sea shanty; "Come My Way" has a hint of klezmer's energy and elegance; and "Nothing Left" begins with a mournful introduction that has the feeling of a memorial to lost time more than anything else, building up energy throughout the song almost as a reaction but never a full answer. "Shiloh," with its handclap rhythms and focused, strong melodies offset by a distant string swirl and wail, further transforming to a suddenly staccato, even more honed midsection, is a particular revelation, an instrumental piece that feels less like something from the Civil War and more from a centuries-old ritual somewhere in the Middle East. The occasional lead vocal turns by Swain provide a good contrast as well, first evident on "End of Days" as her calmer tones set against a brisker but still hushed arrangement ratchet up the tension in gentle fashion, a whisper in the ear as something approaches.


Formed: 2002 in Seattle, WA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The indie folk ensemble Brown Bird initially formed as a vehicle for lead vocalist and songwriter David Lamb. In 2003, having lived briefly in Seattle, Lamb moved east to Portland, Maine, where he started working on a handful of folk tunes that compared favorably to the spare, rough-hewn work of artists like Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Iron & Wine. Lamb's friends, Jerusha and Jeremy Robinson, were soon brought on board to round out Brown Bird's sound, and the trio self-released their debut full-length,...
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Salt for Salt, Brown Bird
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