North Carolina folk trio Bowerbirds will bring their charmingly eccentric melodies to Johnny Brenda’s on Thursday night March 22nd.  They just released their third album called The Clearing on March 6th via Dead Oceans.   The group is made up of Philip Moore, Beth Tacular and Mark Paulson.

After the release of their second album in 2009 and before work on The Clearing, Beth Tacular fell suddenly ill and spent time in the hospital.  That was after she and boyfriend Philip Moore decided to split up, but eventually reconciled their differences and gave the relationship another go.  The two later moved back to their cabin in the woods of North Carolina to devote themselves to the creation of art and to celebrate a newfound appreciation of life.  This third album really signifies a new beginning for the couple and the band as a whole as they tapped into their resources to make their songs broader and fuller than before, and the instrumentation more diverse.  The album’s lyrics are poetic and symbolic but revelatory of the band’s reevaluated scope of just how beautiful and precious life can be.

The songs on The Clearing are rooted in folk-influenced alternative rock, with well-concocted grooves and licks that veer slightly off the path of the indie/alt-rock norm.  The riffs are definitely catchy but some of the melodies land on tones not native to the key of the songs such that it makes my neurons effervesce… in a good way.  Lots of thought and musical know-how was put into the composition of each song- they’re no mere pop tunes- some of them are almost ethereal, like the eerie background “aahs” in the intro of “Hush”;  some are hybrids of Arlo Guthrie or Bob Dylan-style folk, like “Walk the Furrows”.  Bowerbirds’ style also reminds me of the Rosebuds or Buried Beds in terms of instrumental vibe and guy/girl harmony.

If you don’t like the forlorn and bittersweet single “Tuck the Darkness In”, there’s something wrong with your listening hat.  It’s just as dark as it is hopeful, which is always the most empathy-evoking emotional juxtaposition in songs.  It reminds me vaguely of Maurice Sendak’s fantasy-driven stories, or perhaps Peter Pan.  Moore sings so sincerely about starting anew, about positive yet unchangeable aspects of reality atop what escalates to pounding percussion, springy piano work, haunting strings and major chords.  You just can’t argue with the truth in the lines: “…before the hours took over, before the weight was on our shoulders, before the twilight’s cover, before I knew that time was such a swindler.  Oh my dear friend, everything falls to death. ”

Bowerbirds will share the stage with Dry the River this Thursday.  The show is 21+ and will start at 9:15, doors will open at 8pm.  Click here for tickets.

Culture Concert Preview: Bowerbirds Flock to Johnny Brenda's on 3/22