Originally published 03/10/10 at: driftlessmusic.blogspot.com
The thoughtful folks in Minneapolis alt-country act Birds of Virginia sent me a copy of their debut album Trees at Dusk in advance of their appearance at the Driftless Music Showcase at Acadia on Friday. Recorded by Chad Weis at the Devil’s Workshop Sound Studio in Minneapolis, the album is sonically impressive. As the songs (and their superb production value) grew on me, I was curious to see how their material would stand up live at Acadia, particularly with drummer Mike Bybliw unable to perform….Well, any doubts I had flew out the door along with singer Leonard James’ smooth tenor by about halfway through the first verse of Stilt of Tomorrow, the perfect scene-setting opener for their set and album.
Mature songwriting, lush vocal harmonies, and adage-laced lyrics keep things fresh from start to finish and make Trees at Dusk the kind of album that is well-suited for long drives and focused listening. The sort of warm neo-folk found in tracks like Soul vs. Meat and Trains Across My Past makes it easy (for me) to make comparisons to Fleet Foxes or Sea Change-era Beck. Although after experiencing the Birds of Virginia live, I think a more accurate description of their spirit & sound would be Neil Young. The confident vulnerability of James’ voice in songs like Irresistable Force and Girl From Myanmar also calls to mind Minneapolis’ own crooner Matt Wilson (of Trip Shakespeare, The Twilight Hours).