Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire The Swimming Hour

Andrew Bird's first two albums were impeccable, traditional hot jazz records that naturally got lumped in with the swing revival, right alongside one of his day jobs - he was the touring violinist with the Squirrel Nut Zippers for a while. His new album stretches out more into rock and soul, and while it's tempting to be suspicious of such a move at a time when his musical strengths are no longer in vogue, Bird is so good at whatever he does that it's hard to argue. The opening "Two Way Action" and "How Indiscreet" are the two feel-good rave-ups, but there's plenty of pretty violin work - both bowing and picking - spread across the many ballads. Ex-Blacks singer Nora O'Connor adds a female counterpart and drummer Kevin O'Donnell is Bird's musical equal. (Rykodisc)