Andrew Bird: Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of... (Wegawam) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Andrew Bird

Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of…


Jun 18, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

That Andrew Bird has chosen to record an album entirely of Handsome Family covers will surprise very few. The Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist may not fit the profile of a natural iconoclast, but he’s hardly known for playing things by the book. For the most part, he does whatever he feels like, whenever he feels like it.

This instinct has already taken him far: from soundtracking the latest Muppets movie to collaborating with inventor Ian Schneller on sonic installations in Chicago and New York. In between his artistic excursions he’s also found time to record an album or two, all bearing the remarkable standard of song and execution he’s become renowned for.

Album number 11 may not be of his own writing, but there’s no mistaking that it sounds like an Andrew Bird recording. Where The Handsome Family’s acoustics tend to border on a ramshackle aesthetic, Bird takes his more gossamer approach to the husband/wife duo’s fare, creating a series of 10 personal cuts that he makes his own mark on.

Those hoping for Bird’s instrumental acrobatics may be disappointed. Many numbers here, such as “Drunk By Noon” and “Giant of Illinois,” are slow-paced canticles guided by sliding acoustic guitar, Bird’s tender coo and the occasional cowboy whistle. It’s simple, yes, but Bird massages each with enough sleight of hand to make it work.

Some may recoil at the country-tinted nature of the record. But “Drunk By Noon” is deceptively titled, with its tender, ghostly refrains creating a soft and striking lament. Better still, “The Sad Milkman” is a fragile, elegiac effort of rich beauty, while “Frogs Singing” is capable of filling the driest tear-ducts with its brittle fiddle-led tapestry.

It’s not all smooth sailing though. The likes of “My Sister’s Tiny Hand” and “Don’t Be Scared” don’t quite achieve the haunting splendor Bird tries to weave. Yet, in the spacious chasm of “Free From Any Road (Be My Hand)” Bird nails these ambitions, caressing the violin to create one of his finest, most striking moments on record to date.

Recording an entire album’s worth of covers by a little known New Mexico outfit does put an intriguing spotlight on Bird’s approach to music. Rather than attempting to rehash what’s at his disposal, he prefers to mould each song into his own sonic creation. And while it’s not perfect, it is a fascinating and, at times, emotional listen. (

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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