Arriving just eight months after the whistling bard's sixth studio album, 2012's Break It Yourself, the eight-track companion piece Hands of Glory forgoes its predecessor's predilection for quirky, albeit homey, slabs of stately, professorial indie folk-pop in favor of a more authentic and rootsy approach. Produced in the same Luddite fashion as Break It Yourself (old pals, old barn), Hands of Glory takes that austerity one step further by recording all of the proceedings on a single microphone, resulting in a set that sounds both out of time and incredibly immediate. The immersion lends itself well to new originals like the spooky, hymn-like "Three White Horses," the drought-provoked "Something Biblical," and the Carter Family-inspired "Railroad Bill," all three of which swap Bird's more experimental tendencies for a foundation that's firmly rooted in tradition, be it country, folk, or gospel. A bluesy, Morricone-informed rendition of the Handsome Family's "When That Helicopter Comes" introduces a nice Calexico vibe into the mix, while covers of "Spirograph" (Alpha Consumer) and "If I Needed You" (Townes Van Zandt) bring with them the warm winds of Laurel Canyon, but it's the headliner's deft, gentle reworking of Break It Yourself's "Orpheo Looks Back," simply called "Orpheo" here, and the expansive, ornate, nearly ten-minute closer "Beyond the Valley of the Three White Horses" that most successfully bear their master's mark, steeped in the dust and cobwebs blown from the glass of an old bay window, yet firmly espoused in modern vernacular.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger