Redbird Redbird

While first released independently two years ago in the U.S., Red Bird is not the kind of album that comes with an expiration date. It is the work of three contemporary American songwriters paying respect to the roots of the American song and as such, offers renditions of works by a cross section of that country’s elite elder songsmiths (Irving Mills, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Greg Brown, Willie Nelson, etc), as well as three originals. The album came out of jam sessions Kris Delmhorst, Jeffrey Foucault and Peter Mulvey had while on tour together and was recorded over just three days with the musicians gathered around one microphone and a DAT machine. It’s pretty hard to go wrong when you start with the cream of the Americana song canon and, sure enough, Red Bird is rife with great songs, foundational cultural themes and familiar melodies. For the most part the simple, functional production and the immense talent of the musicians manages to create a unique and compelling window from which to view familiar terrain — Delmhorst’s take on L. Baltimore’s "Redbird” is a case in point, with her-on-the-verge-of-laughter singing giving an already fun jazz song a renewed burst of life. But covering the masters is not always easy and a few tracks — most noticeably "You Are Everything” — feels flat and nearly boring next to REM’s original, something inconceivable in Michael Stipe’s hands. (True North)