Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Bowerbirds’ Phil Moore and Beth Tacular live together in an Airstream trailer in the North Carolina woods, and their debut album sounds exactly like the product of such an environment. Brimming with nature imagery and rendered in simple, acoustic instrumentation, the CD has a relentlessly organic vibe that supports its main thesis: Nature is good, civilization is bad. On the tremendous track “In Our Talons,” Moore sings, “You may not believe this, but even we were scared at first / It takes a lot of nerve to destroy this wondrous earth.”

Bowerbirds’ lyrical themes are overrun with idealism, but the sometimes trio—their friend Mark Paulson often joins them—creates the right kind of sonic haven to cradle its hippied-out thoughts. On Hymns for a Dark Horse, they weave gentle guitar, accordion and violin around wistful words, drawing on a unique blend of folk traditions. An old-time jazz tone pervades “Bur Oak,” while the title track shows a hint of Latin clave. Much of the album has an Appalachian-stomp feel, heightened by the band’s stripped-down percussion setup. Bowerbirds make their beats with only a bass drum and a homemade high-pitched whacking. Judging from their outdoorsy poetry, this defining sound could be nothing more than a stick hitting a tree.

Hymns for a Dark Horse (Burly Time)