Listening to a Bowerbirds record is like meandering through a forest: generally tranquil, and peppered by shadows — but sometimes, somehow, the light manages to fall through the trees. Composed of couple Beth Tacular (accordion, vocals) and Phil Moore (guitar, vocals), in addition to Mark Paulson (violin, vocals), the band has a propensity for writing sad, homespun songs about love, nature, the human existence, and, mostly recently, gratitude.
Formed in Raleigh, North Carolina, their sound is steeped in the Appalachian folk tradition — down to the use of strings and accordion — but often subverts it with quirky melodies and unexpected syncopation. The trio’s new record, The Clearing, which is a lot shinier in production and a bit more upbeat than their earlier efforts, follows 2007’s Hymns for a Dark Horse and 2009’s Upper Air. You can watch a short (six-minute) documentary about the story behind the record, which beautifully explains the couple’s breakup, Beth’s injury and illness, and their eventual reconciliation, on the band’s website.