You know what? I’m ashamed that I only learned of the music of Brown Bird after the passing of Dave Lamb. I guess the one shining light in all of this is that the album I was first introduced to Brown Bird was their latest, last and best, Axis Mundi, which is a beautiful body of work that will undoubtedly live on and keep the memory of Lamb and the musical legacy of Brown Bird in our hearts, dare I say, forever.
Despite the pain and suffering Lamb endured due to leukemia, out came this batch of songs that ultimately became a fitting tribute to an already impressive body of work (Brown Bird’s stellar back catalog can be found here). Axis Mundi is so diverse, yet so wholly connected with a range of styles and sounds. It’s not quite folk, not quite rock. What it is, is indescribable and an album that, at the end of the day, speaks for itself. According to MorganEve Swain in the press release, Axis Mundi is “the album we always wanted to make”. It’s just unfortunate the circumstances which brought this gorgeous body of music to fans ears.
“Focus” opens up AM and sets the tone immediately: one of somber hopefulness (Beginning with Lamb quietly singing “Tethered To The Cure/I Focus On The Pain”). “Adolescence” is hypnotic, driven by Swain’s lush vocals accented by Lamb. “Bannermen” is filled with intricate time signatures and Middle Eastern flourishes while “Aloha Senor Mano” shifts locales and enters a Latin-inspired domain. Later on, the string-filled “Forest Of Fevers” is so dense yet offset by the glistening of “Shadrach” which follows. “Smoke Rising” is just brilliant and probably one of the most rocking tracks but it’s the one-two gut punch of closers “Tortured Boy” and “Avalon” which don’t so much tug at the heartstrings as rip them out completely. The former especially, done solely by Swain, is a song written for Dave during the beginning of their relationship but just cries out now.
And the bittersweetness! Some parts are so somber and knowing the story behind its genesis makes it hard to keep dry eyes when listening through. But it’s also glorious and uplifting. It’s Lamb and Swain’s journey. Lamb’s journey to fight through the pain and continually create. Swain’s journey to complete the album following Lamb’s passing. It’s a journey that Brown Bird invite longtime fans (and hopefully new ones) to take with them and one that, as sad as it might be at times, you’ll be glad you took.
Axis Mundi will be released through Supply & Demand on April 28th. Yours can be purchased right here.