Hymns For a Dark Horse

Burly Time

Playing in a folk-rock band myself and getting paired with many similar sounding groups on tour, Bowerbirds have a sound that’s very familiar to me. It’s got quiet and elegant arrangements for acoustic instruments — guitar, banjo, violin, cello, accordion — and a quavering voice like Devendra Banhart or Antony. It’s old-fashioned, but far from dated and contemporary enough to have not yet reached timelessness. Tracks like “In Our Talons” have the strongest communal vibe with soaring vocal harmonies several times over stating “you’re not alone” and a melody from the bellows sure-footed enough to get people dancing. Perhaps the best aspect of the group is they aren’t taking liberties with what constitutes folk music (there are no subtle attempts at modernization via electronic or electric instruments) nor do they rely on old technology to give their songs a false aging. The production is clean and completely lacking in pretense. In this environment the raw, tribal force of the bass drum and tom pounding can shape the rhythms for string melodies to paint dusky hues. It’s campfire music; a nomadic sound that’s not tied to civilization for its power. The disc’s crowning moment is “Olive Hearts” a low rumbling sea shanty that finds joy paying tribute to emotional strength. It’s a wonderfully irony-free statement from a band that’s sure to become an important member of the indie folk community.

Burly Time:

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