Andrew Bird – Hands of Glory

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

It would be an understatement to say that Andrew Bird is an accomplished musician, as his work in the musical field spans a great distance. Through his work with Bowl of Fire as well as his own well-developed solo career, he has made a name for himself in the singer/songwriter category. He has generated quite a number of fans to support him and was asked to write an entire soundtrack for a film. Folksy tunes are his game, and his talent shines through everything he does—Hands of Glory is no exception.

Though this album is a fairly short release at thirty-five minutes, Bird doesn’t compromise on substance in the slightest. The first song is an excellent example of the brevity, yet complete nature of each individual number on Hands of Glory. “Three White Horses,” at three minutes, blazes by, building to a dramatic crescendo at its finish. It’s pretty classic to Bird’s style—folksy and slow burning, at least in the beginning of the song. It starts with a bass-line and Bird’s bluesy voice, accompanied soon by backing harmonies and the track is mild, but then explodes into something more fiery; the wall of sound builds and then breaks in emotion that can be heard in Bird’s vocals.

The emotional quality of this album can be felt the entire way through, but it never gets too heavy. You have deeper cuts like “Spirograph,” on which Bird’s voice matches the guitar riff in a melancholy melody and the songwriting of this gentleman is exceptional if you really listen. But there are also lighter numbers like “Railroad Bill,” which evokes a classic country-blues number, complete with a barnstompin’ beat and a fiddle solo to match.

It all comes to a close with a blissfully serene nine-minute number whose simplicity overwhelms you. “Beyond the Valley of the Three White Horses” is a treat to behold—the elegant over-arching string-work drifts in and out, alternating with opposing casual guitar strumming. I find myself swooning over the beauty of such a song, getting lost in the heavy violin sound and then picked up once more with the guitar and Bird playing out in his gentle way. Though it is nine minutes long, there isn’t a point in the song in which you even think about its length. On the contrary, you wish it would continue.

Here in Austin we’ve just experienced our first real cold snap of the season, signaling perhaps the hope of fall, but if you’re anywhere else really, cold weather is here. Hands of Glory makes a great listening companion to warm your inside with folksy bliss as you watch the leaves change colors. So throw on a sweater and jeans and let Andrew Bird keep you company.

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