Brown Bird: By Far, My Favorite Band

Brown Bird: By Far, My Favorite Band

That’s just the waves slamming against the topsides’ sound
Don’t let the ever rolling motion go and get you down
Don’t let it shake your steady thread cutting hand
Keep stealing ribbons from the steel and giving hell.”


I didn’t want to go, I was coerced, all I wanted to do was sit at home and to be antisocial. On this particular night, anyway. She practically begged me, or demanded, may be a more apt implication. She wanted to go, and she didn’t want to go alone; that didn’t necessarily make me her only option; however, we were dating, and music was a common thread in our relationship. Neither she nor I had ever heard of the band, they were on tour promoting their new album Salt for Salt, I’m not sure where Jeanne had heard about them, Alex De Vore’s column in the Recorder, probably. She said it was a show that we couldn’t miss. Apparently, not going would have been akin to having purchased the $18 ticket to Woodstock, being in the area, and deciding instead to stay at home and watch Let’s Make a Deal.

          When Jeanne and I arrived there were several people sitting outside and around a fire, the show was at High Mayhem, a recording studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and between the two of us we recognized and made small talk with a handful of people, maybe. There weren’t many familiar faces. The members of the band Cloacas were all there, they recorded at High Mayhem, and I was at least acquainted with many of them. As people started herding inside Jeanne and I followed, we found a seat, a swing big enough for the two of us hanging from the ceiling, there were bean bag chairs, stools, carpets, blankets, and benches scattered around the studio and fiddling with a variety of instruments in the direction everyone was facing were three people, David Lamb, MorganEve Swain, and her cousin (I can’t recall his name, he only toured with them, and only on occasion).

          David Lamb and MorganEve Swain were Brown Bird.


I tried to be good, I was a failure
So, I took to taking all the good men down
It wasn’t hard to do, I just huffed and puffed and blew
Until all the two-shoes scattered underground.”


          David played the guitar and banjo, and the drums simultaneously to either the guitar and banjo whichever he was also playing, he wrote most if not all of their music, and his wife MorganEve Swain played the fiddle and the cello. They started the set with, “Finger’s to the Bone,” and before the song ended I knew it would have been a costly life mistake to be at home watching, Let’s Make a Deal. Brown Bird became my favorite band and would remain my favorite, despite David Lamb’s passing due to Leukemia on April 5, 2014. David, MorganEve, and Brown Bird changed everything that I thought I knew about music. I genuinely felt as if I were hearing music for the first time. And, for someone whose life has been largely influenced by music since birth, that was kind of a big deal.

MorganEve continues to drive the mission and value of their music; during their time recording they produced eight albums each one vastly different from the last and each a remarkable insight into the art. The albums are largely themed and whether discussing their music lyrically or the musicianship of David and MorganEve, I find that there are few who have accomplished in music what the two of them have.

I had the look of a lonely stranger
Licking the wounds of a foreign land
Was I the cause that brought this danger
Or just a shadow of a fallen man?”


          I’m still moved and inspired by each song, and I’ve heard each of them tens of dozens of times. If you are unfamiliar with Brown Bird, get familiar and I would recommend starting with the album Salt for Salt. I don’t know that I would say that they are an acquired taste, but they are a more sophisticated taste, and listening to them does require a deeper appreciation for music than might otherwise be necessary when listening to more mainstream music. Especially as their music has evolved throughout their albums and the years. As elitist as that may come across, there is truth to it. I can’t speak for them and their music regardless of how poetically I might try to express the genius that is Brown Bird, so I hope that you take the time to discover them for yourselves.

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