Jump to Content

Welcome! You’re browsing the No Depression Archives

No Depression has been the foremost journalistic authority on roots music for well over a decade, publishing 75 issues from 1995 to 2008. No Depression ceased publishing magazines in 2008 and took to the web. We have made the contents of those issues accessible online via this extensive archive and also feature a robust community website with blogs, photos, videos, music, news, discussion and more.

Close This

Waxed - Record Review from Issue #33 May-June 2001

Andrew Bird's Bowl Of Fire

The Swimming Hour (Rykodisc)

When characters in the film of Edith Wharton’s The House Of Mirth discuss Americana, the setting is genteel society in 1905. To these ladies and gentlemen, Americana is simply American art, quintessentially colonial and indigenous.

See also: Andrew Bird’s Bowl Of Fire, whose third album, The Swimming Hour, is most sensual Americana: hot jazz, sugary doo-wop, lilting western swing and more. As long as we’re redefining terms, let’s pause on “easy listening” — which this is, though not as innocuous background filler, but rather as raw honey coating tongue and throat, “goin’ down slow,” as Bird, Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor sing quite excitingly on “How Indiscreet”.

Inasmuch as The Swimming Hour maps out American music before volume and technology dominated, it also reveals the manner in which that music reflects and refracts physical desire. Although his vocal range invites parallels with Lou Reed, Bird actually resembles John Cale, another classically trained musician lured by pop neon. His own allure lies in sweet breeziness and languor, in the accretion of stream-of-consciousness images in “Two Way Action” and the twisting of rhymes to clever ends (“Everybody’s talking/Nobody’s listening/Everybody’s sweating/Nobody’s glistening”) a la Elvis Costello in “Waiting To Talk”.

That quality is doubled by his wild violin and supported by the Bowl Of Fire. The experience of O’Connor, guitarist Colin Bunn, bassist Josh Hirsch and drummer Kevin O’Donnell comes out professionally and naturally. Neither formalism nor laziness afflicts the music’s unexotic yet entirely refined sway. Buoyed by the sense that no good melody or style ever dies, The Swimming Hour floats beautifully.

Enjoy the ND archives? Consider making a donation with PayPal or send a check to:
No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108


Did you enjoy this article? Start a discussion about it, or find out what others are saying in the No Depression Community forum.

Join the Discussion »

Find out what's going on in roots music. Share concert photos and videos, learn about new artists, blog about the music you love.

Join the No Depression Community »

Originally Featured in Issue #33 May-June 2001

Buy our history before it’s gone!

Each issue is artfully designed and packed full of great photos that you don‘t get online. Visit the No Depression store to own a piece of history.

Visit the No Depression Store »

From the Blogs

  • Rod Kennedy (1930-2014) and the Kerrville Folk Festival - Interview & Remembrance
    Rod Kennedy’s legacy is incalculable for those who truly love music, he departed this earthly plane on Monday 14th April 2014. R.I.P. The following “warts and all” late May 1986 interview with Mr. Kennedy, the founder of the Kerrville Folk Festival, was the lead feature in the debut issue of the Kerrville Kronikle fanzine sometime around 1988. No serendipity […]
  • Simone Felice - King Tuts Wah Wah Hut (Glasgow - 4/11/2014)
    With his second solo album safely under his belt Simone Felice is rapidly conforming his status as one of the finest purveyors of Americana around these days. Fortunately (for us) he remains somewhat under the mass radar allowing audiences to see him in intimate settings such as the hallowed King Tuts, a perfect space to see and hear his shamanistic offering […]
  • First Seldom Scene Album in Seven Years: Exclusive Look
    Seldom Scene issues its first Smithsonian Folkways album next week with guests including Emmylou Harris. Mike Auldridge passed away in 2012, but the group includes founding member Ben Eldridge as well as Lou Reid, Dudley Connell, Ronnie Simpkins, and Fred Travers. Here is a look at "My Better Years" the Hazel Dickens' tune from the album,  […]
  • MerleFest - Wilkesboro, North Carolina - April 24-27 2014
    While there are quite a few notable festivals that begin earlier than late April, many of us kick off the festival season by trekking to not your normal community college, the Wilkes Community College in the rolling hills of north central North Carolina where MerleFest has been held every year since 1988. Named in honor of Merle Watson who lived nearby, 2014 […]
  • Americana Boogie new releases for the week of April 15th... Rodney Crowell, Bobby Bare Jr, Moot Davis, Secret Sisters, Ray Bonneville and more
    BOBBY BARE JR. Undefeated (Bloodshot) Bobby Bare, Jr. could've phoned in a career. He could've exploited the fact that he s the son of Country Music Hall of Famer Bobby Bare, instead, he blazed a path of unique songwriting… […]
  • Five Questions: Kris Orlowski
    With his new album, Believer, Seattle's Kris Orlowski steps forward in two new directions. First, it's a full-length record (after three EPs) and, second, he's a band (not just a singer/songwriter). Listening to the depth and breadth of Believer, both points ring out loud and clear -- it's a solid collection of songs rendered in big sonic […]

Shop Amazon by clicking through this logo to support NoDepression.com. We get a percentage of every purchase you make!

Subscribe To the No Depression Newsletter

Subscribe to the No Depression Newsletter