Review: Andrew Bird – Hands of Glory
Published on November 19th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Following on from his rather splendid Break It Yourself album of earlier this year, Chicago’s most eminent whistler releases an LP’s worth of alternative takes, country covers and a spot of new material for good measure. That there’s no great deviation in mood or feel without quite hitting the same heights as its predecessor makes it something of an accompaniment to it, but that’s no reason not to luxuriate in Andrew Bird’s distinct brand of spellweaving.
Kicking off with a softly burning interpretation of The Handsome Family’s mortality-contemplating “Three White Horses” – which incidentally manages to make a fiddle sound quite strikingly like a musical saw – Bird treats us to a suite of blissed-out, autumnally coloured numbers marked by jazzy brush drumming, jaunty fingerpicking, the aforementioned fiddle (as opposed to the violin style predominant on Break It Yourself) and unfailingly palatable applications of mandolin strums and sweet country harmonies. Though his lead vocal turns can err towards the whiny, it has an oaky, haunting quality that’s entirely fit for purpose, especially when painting such poignant pictures as “Still we keep on dreaming / Of a fifty-year flood / Oceans of plasma / And rivers of blood”, the apocalyptic core concealed by the stately, luscious “Something Biblical”.
“Spirograph” is sublime, like a driving scene from a film that borders on the hackneyed but deposits you at the finish line feeling surprisingly drained emotionally, and this is as effective a microcosm for Hands of Glory as Rocksucker can muster. It goes without saying that this is one for the fans, but it’s nevertheless well enough endowed to enlist the uninitiated.
Rocksucker says: Three Quails out of Five!
Hands of Glory is out now on Mom + Pop Music. For more information, please visit www.andrewbird.net