The adage "don't judge a book by its cover" exists for good reason‚ but a discriminating eye can learn a lot about Fits of Reason simply by examining its album art. At a glance‚ the Arabic scrawl on the wall and Ravi Shankar record on the floor of the album's cozy‚ cluttered living room portrait would suggest that Fits of Reason is Brown Bird's token Middle Eastern album. Similarly‚ on first listen‚ tracks like "Nine Eyes‚" "Barren Lakes‚" and "Iblis" feel continents removed from the confines of the folk genre. But another look at the photo reveals longhorn logos from albums past personified‚ along with a wealth of instruments both classical and modern that the duo has become renowned for swapping on previous albums. Ultimately‚ David Lamb and MorganEve Swain haven't abandoned any of the distinct traits that made fans fall in love with them in the first place; if things sound different this time around‚ it's because they've added more.
The eleven tracks on Fits of Reason are birthed from the same folk foundation and ceaseless work ethic depicted on 2011's Salt for Salt‚ but Lamb and Swain's decision to quit their day jobs and create music full-time has afforded them the time to add more nuanced richness to their sound than ever before. Lamb's lyrics‚ always nimble and poetic‚ have clearly been informed by the copious amounts of reading he's been doing since becoming self-employed. In "Hitchens‚" the preacher's son continues the spiritual searching that has spanned his entire career while considering the works of the late Atheist author that the song is named after. "Hitchens‚" shows that year after year‚ Lamb's chops as a songwriter still provide fresh takes on previously explored topics. And the alliteration-rife "The Messenger" exemplifies Lamb's mastery of creating vivid imagery while still allowing generous leeway for interpretation.
Previously‚ Brown Bird has taken the form of a solo project‚ a trio and a quintet‚ switching lineups almost as often as its members switch instruments. But for the second album in a row‚ Swain has partnered with Lamb‚ and it's now impossible for me to imagine Brown Bird existing without her. While continuing to flesh out arrangements with violin‚ cello and upright bass‚ Swain also incorporates electric bass on Fits. But it's her standout turn as lead vocalist on "Bow for Blade" that best captures how integral she has become to Brown Bird's identity.
Throughout all of its previous incarnations‚ a feeling of restlessness has always been a common thread in Brown Bird's music. Lamb and Swain have found a way to channel that restlessness into growth‚ and Fits of Reason is their impeccable byproduct.
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