Being a fan of a band is sometimes akin to riding in the back seat of a fast moving car. Behind the wheel is often times someone who forgets, or doesn't care, that there are passengers being tossed around as long as they arrive at the destination safely. Every trip is an adventure, some more precarious and thrilling than others. Such is the thrill of riding along with Rhode Island's Brown Bird.
In 2011, Brown Bird released their album Salt For Salt, which quickly gained credence as an instant classic of the new Americana genre and for good reason. David Lamb and MorganEve Swain carved for themselves 11 songs that ignored the Americana game-plan enough to create a sound that was wholly their own, yet still paid a Gothic homage to those who had come before. If that album ignored the game-plan, new album, Fits of Reason, throws up the proverbial middle finger at it.
If you came to this album expecting a redux of what you've heard before you are going to leave disappointed. Hell, the album cover alone, filled with mysticism and fits of visual psychosis should give you a heads-up that you're in for something a bit different. However, if you leave this album disappointed then you clearly didn't pay attention at all to what you were hearing. Fits of Reason draws from a deep well of both domestic and international sounds and expands on the band's sound in ways that probably very few of their fans were initially expecting. But Lamb and Swain are so technically proficient and such good story tellers that by the end of the album what your previous expectations were no longer matter. What only truly matters is the experience of it all and it's an enjoyable one at that.
Their bio mentions the band being influenced by various authors, specifically the Persian poet Omar Khayyam. This is a telling point. Khayyam's most famous work is the tome of his poetry collected together under the name, The Rubaiyat. For hundreds of years these verses have been dissected and studied for their mystical enlightenment and beauty. Interpretations of Khayyam's work has led people to label him everything from Muslim to Sufi to agnostic. Regardless it's a tremendously esoteric piece of literature that if read with an open mind can have a profound spiritual impact on the reader. It's as if Brown Bird on this record are asking the listener for the same open-mindedness and attentiveness. Give yourself freely to this album and you too may have some sort of religious experience.
Khayyam's influence could certainly explain the Middle Eastern flair that pops up on many tracks. The band has also experimented with instrumentation this time around, adding electric guitar and electric bass to the mix. They've gone of of their way to deliver an album that's a bit darker, and for lack of a better term "heavier", than anything they've done before. All in all it's still a Brown Bird record and a damn good one at that. But this isn't your daddy's Americana so get in the car and get ready for a wild, wind-swept ride through the deserts. Where you end up though is totally up to you. Paradise awaits the adventurous.
You can listen to the entire album on the Brown Bird Bandcamp page.
*Brown Bird play the Lilly Pad at Toad's Place in New Haven on Tuesday, April 9.