Brown Bird inhabits a dark territory, a sonic outlier in the contemporary folk genre, singing saloon songs for the road-weary. This is to say, Salt for Salt, their latest LP is eerie, sparse, spooky, suspenseful and simply superb – an antidote to cliche-ridden muck miring within the burgeoning folk genre.
In many ways, Salt for Salt (released Oct. 18, via Supply & Demand) is an ideal autumn album. The lyrics and tones touch on hard-earned lessons of New England determinism (“Fingers to the Bone”), steadfast maritime swells (“Bilgewater”) and foot-stomping, devilish rebellion (“Blood of Angels”).
The folk duo from Rhode Island are able to touch upon a nerve that’s equally understandable and undesirable. You wouldn’t want to live the lives of most of David Lamb’s characters. Which is not to say the music is without beauty. Many of the album’s finest moments come when the pair prance into antiphonal choruses and off-kilter, off-key but memorable melodies.
Morgan Eve Swain’s multi-instrumental prowess on the strings (she helms upright bass, cello and violin with equal gusto) has seemingly leaped into the stratosphere in comparison to the group’s earlier The Devil Dancing. Even her vocals, which at times seemed timid, now command attention. Lamb remains the steadfast baritone ballast, providing percussion, winding guitar lines and creatively constructed melodies.
In between albums, Brown Bird trimmed three members and it was a natural curiosity to see how the Darwinistic duo would replicate group’s earlier atmosphere. They ended up getting more from less. The sparse, distilled arrangements only amplify the dark aesthetic where Brown Bird dwells and excels, conjuring images of candle-lit, dust-covered discussions of where the next meal is going to come. In the meantime, pass the salt.