Great folk music always has a story to tell, and though Brown Bird is far from the first group within the genre to tackle religion, the tales of sinners and confessions found on The Devil Dancing are a refreshingly unique take on the topic. The album's thirteen narratives aren't exactly chapters in a book, but their common themes of penance (or lack thereof) give Devil Dancing the united feel of a beloved short story collection. Front man David Lamb serves as the narrator, brilliantly embodying the troubled psyche of a man beyond salvation, with too much blood on his hands and no water strong enough to cleanse it.
The church cannot save him, so he turns to his guitar, confessing sins with every chord and repenting through every heartfelt word. Lamb's bare bones musings are the core of the group, and would have enough legs to captivate an audience as a solo endeavor, but it's the other four members of Brown Bird that flesh out Lamb's songs and make them inevitably stronger. Backing female vocals, banjos, cellos, foot stomps and handclaps provide a communal and at times orchestral framework for Lamb to best display his art within.
Digging deeper than the standard man and his guitar blues formula, Brown Bird's depth not only makes Devil Dancing more interesting to listen to, but it also make's the album's narrator more likeable. A man can sing of woes and bad decisions all day, but if he has four friends to sing the blues with him, he can't be all bad right? Lamb's sympathizers allow him to sound less "woe is me" and more like a good guy who's flawed just like everybody else. His decision to "put down the bible for a lady and a bottle" isn't spiritually wise, but he makes a hell of an argument for it with a miniature chorus and a climactic cello supporting him. Devil Dancing tells the story of an imperfect man, but its listeners will be quick to forgive, seeing as those imperfections never once detract from the music itself.