CD reviews for Bowerbirds
"Hymns for a Dark Horse"
June 27, 2008
There are 10 achingly beautiful songs on the rerelease of Bowerbirds’ debut album.
Out of those songs – out now on the Dead Oceans edition of “Hymns for a Dark Horse,” originally released in 2007 by the tiny Durham, N.C., record label that came into existence to make sure other people could hear this music – “The Ticonderoga” is the most engaging. This is present-day folk music at its entry level, stripped down to bare emotions and canny instruments, and to an insistence that accordion makes pastoral music more personal.
Everything on “The Ticonderoga,” and everything throughout any Bowerbirds song, is deliberate. The tambourines are somberly well placed, the guitar lines simply and purposefully plucked. And the lyrics about a musical relationship gone wrong are amazingly literate and alarmingly honest: “Old friend, give me back my hands / I’m the crutch that’s missing, and you’re the crippled little lamb / Those claws will get you, those teeth will take your life / But you won’t know what’s missing, this gift ain’t giving / This wolf ain’t worth the fight.”
The Dead Oceans edition of “Hymns” offers two new tracks; both are consistent with Bowerbirds’ original sound, but both serve more as a bonus than a logical ending.
Still, this is modern folk music at its loneliest and its best, and it’s now available to more than the “eight or so record stores in the whole United States” referenced on the Bowerbirds’ Web site. And that’s good for everyone.
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