Bowerbirds – The Clearing (2012)

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Having weathered all kinds of bad luck and bad times – including, but limited to, breaking up, serious illness and having their dog hit by a car – Beth Tacular and Phil Moore reconvened for another go at Bowerbirds. The results mirror the sweeping emotions of such things, sounding at times devastatingly sad, but (and this is the important thing) more often audaciously hopeful.

As the North Carolina-based Bowerbirds settled in for sessions at a cobbled-together homemade cabin in the woods, The Clearing sounds as if it all but wrote itself – so easy-going is this combining of arty pop sensibility with harder-edged folk.

There is this sense, and from the first, that the dark clouds have parted – even as the duo comes to realize just how much is still at stake. Tacular and Moore sing, at times, as if their very hearts depended on it.

But don’t get the idea that their new music is all melancholy twilight. The album sounds like it could shatter at the slightest new injury at one moment, then it simply bursts upward – like a covey of doves surprised by the dawn.

While there is the very deep sense of acceptance, of life and of other things that end, there is also a resiliency to the songs that buoys The Clearing. “In the Yard,” for instance, is an off-kilter wonder – this twee little folk tune that suddenly catches a second gear amidst caked synthesizers and these impossibly sunny vocal intertwinings.

“Tuck the Darkness In” is a similarly emboldening testament to faith. Then, there’s “Hush,” a track that is so strong and so sweet (as these weird wonder-filled guitar parts run just below Tacular’s soaring harmonies) that it becomes representational of everything that makes The Clearing such a meaningful experience.

These aren’t songs that simply relay a hardship. They carve out a path to the other side.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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