Brown Bird Jan 2012
It’s challenging to describe the combination of blues riffs, country twang and Eastern European musical scales that pervade Salt for Salt. The effect, though, is easy to understand: It’s music that’s exciting and heartbreaking at the same time, especially in that opening track. “Fingers to the Bone” tells a story about working hard, dealing with life’s challenges and asking for help that never seems to come.
“We’d like to end with a cover, in the spirit of the festival and to honor the folk that came before us,” said Dave Lamb, the shaggy singer for the folkish duo Brown Bird, at the end of its Sunday afternoon set at the 51st annual Newport Folk Festival. MorganEve Swain plucked out a hot beat on her stand-up bass and the pair’s voices intertwined as the audience whooped and hollered.
Lamb and Swain, who are 33 and 26, respectively, are a couple, not that you’d need to be told if you’ve ever seen them together. On stage and off, they impart a quiet but smoldering chemistry, and not just in their complementary nature of playing. Sometimes their mutual admiration seeps into performance.
Rhode Island folk duo Brown Bird’s Salt for Salt is an extended spiritual rave-up of folk and blues which rages darkly on, expressing the eternal human battle to remain relevant through conflict and challenge. This is the folk album for people who love folk music and want it to remain devoid of anything commercial, a blistering testimonial recorded live to tape, capturing the band’s emotionally rich, honest musical missive. Though you may think I’m bubbling over with unnecessarily florid praise, a listen to Salt for Salt in full will convince you I’m speaking truth.
David Lamb makes his mission clear at the start of “Bilgewater”, which stands as the album’s most thoroughly original work of folk gold: “When every day is like a war between the will to go on and a wish that the world would spiral into the sun / Turn your head toward the storm that’s surely coming along”. It’s hard to top that line for sheer force of will, but the album is full of great lyrical moments like that one, as the music— a rich wall of guitar, banjo, violin, double bass, cello and bass drum—combine to form a rich aural palate via which Lamb and MorganEve Swain choose to paint.