Birds are creepy, as anyone who’s seen a certain Hitchcock film knows. But from the great speckled bird to Dolly Parton’s little sparrow, these hollow-boned, beady-eyed creatures are something of a country music fixture. Let’s give a listen to some of 2009′s bird songs.
5. “Basket of Singing Birds” – Missy Raines & The New Hip
Jazzy bluegrass bassist Raines and her immensely talented three piece band The New Hip deliver this little tune penned by Ed Snodderly. I guess when “this love has gone crazy/and [you've] gone crazy too,” gathering a basket of singing birds seems like an acceptable pastime.
4. “The Mockingbird’s Voice” – Claire Lynch
Lynch’s wonderful new album, Whatcha Gonna Do features two songs with bird metaphors: “A Canary’s Song,” which is about coalmining, and this one, which draws connections between the mimicking bird and a false hearted man full of empty promises: “A mockingbird’s voice sounds so sweet, but he’ll say anything/He’ll sit outside your window and sing to you all day…Try to hold him, he flies away.”
3. “Birds” – Holly Williams
Like Neil Young on his version on After the Gold Rush, Williams relies solely on voice, piano, and the sheer lyrical beauty of this breakup song. It just might be enough to give a listener hope that “there will be another one.”
2. “Golden Bird” – Levon Helm
Folkie Happy Traum wrote this one and recorded it with brother Artie before Helm tackled it on Electric Dirt. The song—about a man who pelts a bird out of the sky with a rock—is straight up eerie, especially when the bird returns to him in the form of a woman.
1. “The Parakeet” – James Hand
In this case, both pet and owner seem to be a little nutty…and perfectly suited for one another.
Juli Thanki is the editor of Engine 145 and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Bluegrass Unlimited, and M Music & Musicians Magazine. In 2011 she received the International Bluegrass Music Association Print Media Person of the Year award.