2012-03-01 / News

Brown Bird will be on stage at the arts center’s first musical affair

The acoustic duo made headlines after their routine at Newport Folk Festival
BY KEN SHANE


MORGANEVE SWAIN AND DAVID LAMB MORGANEVE SWAIN AND DAVID LAMB The Jamestown Arts Center will present its first major music event Friday night. It’s an all Rhode Island affair, which will be headlined by the acoustic duo Brown Bird, who are based in Warren.

The group has been getting national attention since their acclaimed appearance at last summer’s Newport Folk Festival and the release of their album in October, “Salt for Salt.” Veteran singersongwriter Bob Kendall, who is also about to release a new album, will open the show.

Although Brown Bird is currently configured as a duo consisting of David Lamb playing guitar, banjo, percussion and singing, and MorganEve Swain on fiddle, cello, upright bass and vocals, the Brown Bird name has been used by Lamb since he lived in Seattle in the winter of 2002-03. At that time he was a solo artist.

Members came and went, but the Brown Bird name remained. Lamb moved to Maine and it was while he was on tour that he met Swain who was playing in a Providence band called Barn Burning. Swain’s band did three shows with Lamb and each night she would sit in with him during his set. At the end of the tour, the two went on tour together as a duo.

“We hit it off musically and romantically,” Lamb said. “I ended up moving to Rhode Island. She became a permanent fixture in the band and in my life too. That’s how we came to where we’re at now.”

The pair has teamed up for two full-length albums. “The Devil Dancing” album featured a fivepiece band and was released in 2009, and last fall their new CD featured just the sound of Lamb and Swain. “Salt for Salt” was recorded at Machines With Magnets recording studio in Pawtucket.

According to Lamb, the folk festival appearance was a highlight for the duo. “It was amazing. We opened up the Sunday of the festival. We played on a smaller stage, but we had a great crowd. The sound was great and the view from the stage, looking out at the harbor, was amazing too. A lot of the press we got from that day helped us out. It helped give us a boost in our career.”

Two other significant local shows for Brown Bird came when they were invited to perform with the highly popular Rhode Island band The Low Anthem. They played at that band’s recording facility, which is located in an abandoned pasta factory in Central Falls, and they performed at the eagerly awaited event last March in Cambridge, Mass., where the lineup for the Newport festival was announced.

According to Lamb, Brown Bird’s live show is more energetic and exciting than what recording can get across. “There are a lot of people who really love the albums and when they get a chance to see us live they say that it’s a whole different experience. It’s a lot more lively and a lot of fun. That’s what we try to bring to each one. We give it everything we’ve got.”

The music itself is a blend of musical sounds from places near and far. Lamb says they try to bring together all sorts of influences. “Not only American roots music like blues and country and bluegrass,” he said, “but also eastern European music and all kinds of different folk music from all over the world.”

Lamb is looking forward to the show in Jamestown. “We’ve heard a lot of great things about the arts center and it’s definitely the kind of thing that we want to help promote. Especially these days when arts and music programs seem to be the first thing to go out of the public schools. It’s really nice when the community can get together and create one for the community when they’re dying elsewhere.”

The other act, Bob Kendall, is well known throughout the area for his performances with his sixpiece band, but he will be playing solo acoustic for the most part on Friday night. Kendall will be performing songs from his debut album, “Enough Is Enough,” as well as songs from his new album “Midnight Flower,” which will be released in the spring.

“I love the opportunity to play at the arts center,” Kendall said. “It’s a beautiful room. The fact that this is an acoustic event and not amplified will be nice. It’s a great opportunity to play with Brown Bird. They’re amazing live. It’s also a great opportunity to play in Jamestown, which I’ve never done. It looks like a great community event.”

Kendall said that fans from as far away as Boston have expressed interest in coming to the show. “It’s a good time for me to do a showcase event for me in a lot of ways,” he said. “It will help to endorse the release of the new record.”

Luke Randall spoke about the process of bringing Brown Bird to the center. “I was into The Low Anthem and I found out that Brown Bird was opening up for them,” he said. “I loved Brown Bird and I started to go to see them.”

Randall said that when he came to start the music program and Brown Bird was mentioned, he thought it was a great idea. “I love their music. I’m amazed at how powerful they are as a duo. I’m not used to a duo sounding like a full band. You don’t wish that they had more people in the band.”

Randall’s relationship with Kendall goes back even further. “I have a party every year and I was going around interviewing bands to play,” he said. “I spent about two years searching for a band that I liked. I found the Bob Kendall band and he was the best. He’s a really passionate musician. He’s got soul and he really expresses his emotions through his work. I just connected with him right away. Bob is a serious artist.”

Doors will open for the concert at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available at Baker’s Pharmacy and at the Jamestown Arts Center and its website.

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