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What the Folk?

Petaluma's Odd Bird redefine a classic genre

By Nicolas Grizzle

Odd Bird's brand-new debut album, Smith, feels timeless right off the bat. Singer and songwriter Ashley Allred floats her vocals, layered in harmony with Judah Nagler (of the Velvet Teen), over acoustic guitar, snare drum, bass, mandolin, lap steel, accordion, banjo and an ever-present autoharp. To understand this music is to understand that autoharp is an underappreciated sound.

This is the new folk music, which many refer to as indie-folk. (It's really just folk. Music can be cool and not be labeled ̉indie," people, it's OK.) In keeping with Odd Bird's name, it's also informed by a lateral vision of the natural world. ̉It'll Be Okay," from Smith, features Allred on flute and haunting vocals, singing, ̉Shed your skin like a rattlesnake to become your very own snowflake."

Allred lets the music breathe, allowing the band (with Nagler's brother Ephraim, Jef Overn, Dan Ford and John Palmer) to shine. This can be a dangerous move when the music isn't strong enough, but the bed upon which Odd Bird's instrumentals lie is made of goose-down—synthetic, of course. This music screams comfort, it doesn't scream guilt, and it wouldn't want to potentially harm any of its innocent avian friends.

Odd Bird play a record-release show for Smith on Saturday, Sept. 3, at the Arlene Francis Center. 99 Sixth St., Santa Rosa. 8pm. $8-$10. 707.528.3009.

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