Andrew Bird
Weather Systems

(Righteous Babe)

Dunno about the reader, but the tag "Americana" I've always regarded as being confusing and not very useful (and let's not talk about "alternative country" - sure, it's meant not to be confused with the more "modern" country à la Shania Twain, but when important inspirations appear to be albums like the Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street or the "imaginary country" of the Kinks' Muswell Hillbillies...). My doubts only grew after I saw (a few years ago) Will Oldham, who didn't seem to know the neck that well; or when I heard The Hem's Rabbit Songs - well done but a real snoozefest. And I'd be curious to know the "Americana" fans opinion about the recently re-released On The Beach by Neil Young (year of the original release: 1974), or about the idiom exploration by Biota on Tumble (1989).

So it's an uphill battle for this Weather Systems by Andrew Bird, a violin player and singer, former sideman with Squirrel Nut Zippers, who has already recorded quite a few albums under his name. Mind you, this is not a "bad" record: there are nice simple songs, well sung by Bird, who's also an excellent whistler and an adequate violin player. Sometimes it reminded me of Jeff Buckley - for instance, listen to the title-track. There are versatile percussions by Kevin O'Donnell, nice guitar and vocals by Nora O'Connor, beautiful treatments by producer Mark Nevers (Lambchop, Will Oldham), which give the instrumental tracks a cinematic spatial quality. That Bird's songs are fine is demonstrated by his cover of The Handsome Family's Don't Be Scared, a much more predictable song. So? While there's nothing seriously wrong with this record, I can find no real distinctive qualities that can make it meaningful, besides pleasant (there are no lyrics in the booklet, nor I could find them on the Web).

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2003 | Aug. 26, 2003