Andrew Bird, best known in the pop world for his collaboration with North Carolina’s Squirrel Nut Zippers, delivers his latest solo effort with zip, virtuousity, and gleeful humor. Lethal with a violin, Bird is no less adept at writing and arranging material that shows his understanding of the past century of American Music history.
His work in the realm of neo-swing is probably pretty well known, but for the record, let it be said that swing gives him a chance to explore virtuoso instruments within an ensemble setting. Songs like “Candy Shop,” “The Idiot’s Genius,” and “Vidalia” blend the harmonies, the counterpoints, and his leading strains of violin in an exuberant fashion that the listener can barely listen to while sitting still. Bird takes the listener on a madcap dash through Tin Pan Alley, Appalachian, and klezmer idioms.
Indeed, it’s the klezmer threads winding through the album that show off his mean fiddle in the best light. By turns frantic, seductive, and this side of maudlin, Bird evokes the heart-ache of turn-of-the-century eastern european immigrants and the cultural lawlessness of the Jazz Age which pioneers like Benny Goodman wedded the New World to old traditions. Bird has taken the listener one step further into a new age, while paying generous tribute to his forbearers.