When: Wed., Sept. 7, 7 p.m. 2016
There are a number of occasions on Andrew Bird’s satisfying new album Are You Serious (Loma Vista) where the clever singer-songwriter engages in welcome self-reflection, acknowledging a tendency to be too cute (he’s even cut back on his virtuosic whistling). On the title track he sings, “Used to be so willfully obtuse, or is the word abstruse? / Semantics like a noose, get out your dictionaries,” while on “Left Handed Kisses” a weary-sounding Fiona Apple protests his verbal trickery with “The point your song here misses is that if you really love me / You’d risk more than a few fifty-cent words in your backhanded love song.” As irritating as Bird’s occasional infatuation with language has been, it hasn’t gotten in the way of his easy musicality, which has never been more direct and precise. He’s sharpened his pop instincts, but his attention to sonic detail suggests his move toward the center hasn’t stemmed his curiosity. The album was coproduced with Tony Berg and David Boucher, but when Bird uses his fiddle on “Capsized” to approximate the distorted likembes of Konono No. 1, and dabbles in the township jazz vibe of Soweto on “The New St. Jude,” his fingerprints weigh heavily on the sound. There might be hints of cultural appropriation a la Paul Simon—though Bird has his scrappy band play everything rather than hiring musicians from around the world—but it never feels arch.
After dropping out of college in 2003, Margo Price left her tiny hometown of Aledo, Illinois—near the Iowa border, not far from Davenport—and moved to Nashville to begin a long climb that has finally resulted in her debut full-length, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter (Third Man). It’s not just the title that indicates her infatuation with Loretta Lynn; the adoration is borne out in her sound and songs too. Her big, brassy voice sounds fantastic navigating a rock-tinged attack that moves between Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Bobbie Gentry, and her tunes eschew contemporary country tropes to embrace hard-luck tales: failed romance, betrayal, and solace in booze. The single “Hurtin’ (on the Bottle)” is one of many tracks that could have been a country hit in the late 60s/early 70s. Price has occasionally filled in for Apple when Bird performs “Left Handed Kisses,” so I assume we’ll see them sing together tonight.