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Design By Humans
Published On: Mon, Aug 25th, 2014

Andrew Bird: Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of…

andrew bird thingsAndrew Bird
Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of…
(Wegawam Music Co.)

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Andrew Bird is one of the most fascinating talents on the American music scene today. With his skill at the violin, he’s able to deftly combine folk, indie, and chamber pop elements to create a sound all his own. After back-to-back releases in 2012, he’s returned with yet another surprising twist: a collection of covers of songs by his friends and collaborators, The Handsome Family.

Brett Sparks’ voice is much deeper than Bird’s own, so each cover gains a bit more levity than the original. Bird’s band, featuring his own violin, transforms these tracks from Americana to a more polished folk or old-fashioned country. The duet quality of the husband/wife duo is preserved with guest vocals by Tift Merritt, whose voice is well suited to mimic Rennie Sparks.

Under Bird’s supervision, “Tin Foiled” becomes an almost manic, tender folk track. “The Sad Milkman” sounds like a plaintive country song that could have been performed by Roy Orbison rather than a modern act. “Frogs Singing” replaces the Handsome Family’s guitar with beautiful bow work, as though translating the song from a city version to country.

The most recognizable track on this collection is the closer, “Far From Any Road (Be My Hand).” Fans of the HBO show True Detective will recognize this as the song from the opening credits. Without Sparks’ deep delivery, the song becomes less haunting and more beautiful, even with its dark, bloody imagery. Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of… is a labor of love, clearly one man honoring the creativity and talent of friends he admires. Fans of either act should be pleased by the result.

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Andrew Bird: Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of…