Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire


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This is a hybrid of music from the first half of this century, with a heavy influence from the brooding Weimar era of Weill and Brecht. It comes on the heels of Marianne Faithfull's dark and ultra-heavy but stunningly done 20th Century Blues. This is an eccentric collection of a wide variety of influences from that era -- think of Django Reinhardt, Fats Waller, Brecht, Stephane Grappelli, and maybe Tom Waits' voice, with a New Orleans sensibility, and you have a starting point for this disc. The production at once sounds like a vintage recording and yet at the same time contains a striking clarity, sounding as if it were recorded live in the studio using very few microphones in an effort to imitate the production style of that time. But the true focus here is the violin playing of Andrew Bird. This 25-year-old most definitely has done his homework and gotten down the licks of the music he so obviously loves. His singing is more than adequate, and his ear for the nuances of the music enhances the sound he is striving for; he also wrote and arranged most of the songs here. There are some tunes credited to Bird that have too-familiar refrains, but overall, this is a worthy endeavor that deserves marks for breaking the rules and taking chances.

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