Release Year: 2015
Label: Valve Records
- Ghost Train
- Blues On The Ceiling
- I’m The One
- Skin A Cat
- Wayfaring Stranger
- I’ve Been Delayed
- Seven Birds
- Midnight Delta
- Disappearing Nightly
- What’s In Your Pocket
- The Party’s Over
- Jet Black & Jealous
- 500 Miles
- Spencer Bohren – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Lapsteel
- Aurora Nealand – Vocals, Accordion
Reviewed In OffBeat
John Swenson (Jazz Fest Bible 2015)
Another keeper from the great Spencer Bohren. Bohren is well known for his singing and guitar work but he has amassed a really impressive songbook over the years, and Seven Birds is a useful addition. The itinerant troubadour has a huge following in Europe, where most of this record was recorded, but this is pure Americana—folk and blues. Songs of travel and longing, desperation, loneliness and finally resolve.
Did I mention parrots? The title song is about parrots, and not the Jimmy Buffet kind. These are renegade parrots, and their tale is told here by a master storyteller.
“According to persistent legend, a truck carrying a load of green parrots turned over on the Interstate highway near New Orleans sometime in the late 20th century and spilled its colorful cargo into New Orleans mythology,” Bohren explains. “The song ‘Seven Birds’ was inspired by the activities of these birds and their similarities to the activities of my son, Tucker, and his teenage friends during high school.” “Seven Birds” was cut with a German roots music band whose terse, economical style fits the folk/blues contours of Bohren’s writing perfectly.
“Ghost Train” starts things off impressively, with Bohren’s atmospheric vocal and the band’s stark accompaniment setting the right tone for an album that explores the dark side of the human psyche. Fred Neil’s classic “Blue on the Ceiling” is one of several excellent covers, including “I’ve Been Delayed” and an outstanding solo reading of the Paul Sanchez song “Jet Black and Jealous,” a far different reading from the one recorded for the Write Brothers album. “Midnight Delta” evokes a rural Mississippi landscape, “Disappearing Nightly” describes the lonely ritual of a traveling musician and “What’s in Your Pocket” is a talking blues-style catalog of the contents of a wanderer’s pocket, that is to say, everything he needs. “Skin a Cat” was co-written with Clark Vreeland and “The Party’s Over” is a song about a woman who finally gets fed up with a longstanding relationship.
A few songs were recorded in New Orleans with help from Bohren’s bandmate in Rory Danger and the Danger Dangers, Aurora Nealand, on voice and accordion. Her arrangement of the traditional folk song “500 Miles” closes the album on a spectral note. Nealand’s opening verse turns the gentle, open melody into a nightmarish vision. She is able to suggest terror and wonder simultaneously in her unconscious warble, and seems truly lost as she speculates about how far she is from home.When Bohren takes over on the second verse he sounds positively sepulchral, as formal as a death mask, like Johnny Cash singing on his Rick Ruben-produced end-of-life album. Bohren, a true conjurer, is adept at the hair-raising performance, but here with Nealand he delivers the kind of post-apocalypse dread that lies at the heart of American literature.