22nd October 2020:
In the very early days of the Loving the Music page a friend sent me a link to a group that he thought I would enjoy. The group was Brown Bird, and thank you Jandre for introducing me to them.
Unfortunately, Brown Bird is no longer with us due to the founder, David Lamb’s death from Leukemia in 2014, however, he and his life partner, Morgan Eve Swain, recorded and released nine albums and a book of poetry in the eleven years together as a duo.
You could call their music Dark Folk, but there is more to their sound than the normal ominous guitar and banjo dirges that fall into the genre. They always claimed that they are not a folk band as such, and the traces of early psych-rock, Eastern European Gypsy music and sometimes even metal, lifts them into a genre of their own, but yes, it is very folk orientated.
I have been meaning to do some research on the band since hearing them and am glad I finally took the time. This is share-worthy stuff. I’m starting today’s look at Brown Bird with the track that Jandre sent me in August last year, ‘Bilgewater’, from the album ‘Salt to Salt’. This is seriously good music folks.
David Lamb formed Brown Bird in 2003. He met his girlfriend, Morgan Eve, and within three days they became lovers, bandmates and business partners and stayed that way. They based themselves in Rhode Island and prospered on the Americana/Folk music scene.
Although their music post-2010 is as a duo, in the early days the members included Jerusha Robinson on cello and her husband Jeremy Robinson on multiple instruments. However, in 2009, the Robinsons and Lamb took over as lead vocalist, Swain on fiddle, and Mike Samos on lap-steel guitar and dobro. Samos also departed the band in 2010 leaving them as a duo.
I’ll pick up the rest of the Brown Bird story in part three after we’ve watched David and Morgan live at the Paste Ruins stage at the 2012 Newport Folk Festival. This was shortly before his diagnosis with the Leukemia that would end in his passing two years later. Here’s ‘Fingers to the Bone’.
It seemed that the future of Brown Bird was assured, but while on a promotional tour for their 2013 ‘Fits of Reason’ album David Lamb started experiencing extreme fatigue and was diagnosed shortly afterwards with Leukemia. Although he underwent a bone marrow transplant, he succumbed to the disease in early 2014.
Even while in recuperation from the operations and ongoing treatments, David and Morgan Eve carried on working on songs and laying down tracks, showing his optimistic spirit. In the last few months, however, his health started to fade, and he passed away peacefully surrounded by family. He was only 35-years-old.
Morgan Eve released the final Brown Bird album in 2015 consisting of David’s writing in the period after his diagnosis. ‘Axis Mundi’ reached #12 on the Billboard Charts and contains some very deep-reaching songs that reflect his state of mind. However, it isn’t a morbid album, just introspective.
Morgan Eve Swain has carried on with her music career with her band ‘The Huntress and the Holder of Hands’. The final song comes from their last album. David Lamb was known for his optimism and I think ‘Ephraim’ captures it with his lyric “We can find paradise, amidst all this hell, if we tilt our head just right.”
I’m glad I have finally found out more about Brown Bird. The fact that there can be no new music from them makes their catalogue of albums even more special. 😎
The Loving the Music mini-features are written and compiled by me to support Loving the Music Facebook page and group. Join the community for regular themed three-part posts that do do more than just share a song.
The Author owns no copyright on the images or videos in this article. All images and links sourced from YouTube and Google and within the public domain.
Words © Andrew Knapp 2020