The yearning vocals and soaring harmonies from Birds Over Arkansas have a feeling of timelessness while the sound is always strong and rhythmic, driven by superb bass playing from Chico Huff and imaginative percussion from Ryan Berg. This instrumental make-up is primarily acoustic and includes mandolin, supplemented by keyboards and electric guitars which never dominate. Birds Over Arkansas have just released their latest track, entitled “Forgotten Lights”.
This is a band that is consistent as well as talented, creative and eclectic. If you like one of their songs you won’t hear another that sounds like it, but you will likely love most of the assorted songs they make. As a rule, the band cover a whole lot of musical ground in each song, more on each album and a great deal across their career so far. You never know where a song will go and how many moods and tones it will cover, but you can be fairly certain that it will be entertaining. And “Forgotten Lights” is no exception to the rule!
It starts gently; it meanders smoothly, and then abruptly switches into a corybantic tempo and tone in mid-song. Why? Who better than Birds Over Arkansas to explain: “Forgotten Lights is about helplessly watching a loved one slip away into dementia. The song starts as a mellow Americana groove, and the split at the outro introduces the prog elements to bring in the lyric “the flame blew out again.” This was the pivotal point in the lyrics, signifying the change from someone who was slowly losing their faculties who has now seemingly become a different person. The switch from the easy, mellow groove to the frenetic time signature embodies this.”
Compared to the album which preceded it, “Forgotten Lights” is more of the same, yet at the a little different, a bit more out there, a little more progressive but still innately Birds Over Arkansas. The level of creativity and musicianship on this track is once again utterly exceptional. Scott Haskitt is in fine form, delivering great guitar and vocals, and as always, Laura Hartshorn and John Mondick hit it out of the park with superlative performances throughout. In fact, each member is a simply superb musician and usually all deserve immense praise.
Innovators, sideways steppers, never following popular commercial trends, Birds Over Arkansas are master instrumentalists with a choice of excellent vocalists, not limiting themselves to their trademark Americana sounds either, they often dip into madrigal progressive, folk or spiky baroque elements too. If you’re a Birds Over Arkansas fan then this gives everything you’d expect from them. Top class musicianship, clever lyrics and an intriguingly complex yet surprisingly accessible tune.
In my book, they are one of the very few current bands that truly deserve the description ‘progressive’. If you’re new to the music of Birds Over Arkansas, then don’t feel guilty, you’re not alone, as they are criminally underrated…but fortunately they are coming out from under the radar real fast!
MORE ABOUT: Birds Over Arkansas formed in 2011 when Scott Haskitt, Laura Hartshorn, and John Mondick discovered that the product of their musical experimentations was greater than the sum of its parts. Although they reside in different states (Scott and Laura live in New Haven, CT, while John lives in Philadelphia, PA), they continued their long distance collaboration after realizing that the spark of creativity and collaboration they had forged could not be duplicated by working on their own or with other musicians. The BOA lineup was completed in 2014 with the addition of drummer Ryan Berg (Strand of Oaks, Project/Object) and bassist Chico Huff (James Taylor, Carly Simon, David Crosby, Solas).