BIRDS OF A FEATHER: North Carolina trio the Bowerbirds play the Brookdale Lodge this Friday.
Bowerbirds frontman Phil Moore has nature on the brain
By Adam Joseph
PHIL MOORE says he'd rather spend time studying birds in the isolated forests of North Carolina than do just about anything else. The singer/songwriter of the folk outfit Bowerbirds—playing the Brookdale Lodge on Friday with Canadian folkie Julie Doiron—derives most of his songwriting inspiration from the days he spent tracking a species of small bird named the "plaintive warbler" for the North Carolina Museum of Sciences while living alone in a remote cabin.
"I was a biology major," he says from his North Carolina apartment. "Nature really affects me when I'm in it. I guess it's what I'm passionate about, so it naturally comes up in songs."
Moore says his other muse is his girlfriend and band mate, Beth Tacular. And while the nature-love-folk formula is a tad cliché, the Bowerbirds' music isn't. There aren't any lines about Tacular's hair blowing in a distant wind, nor is there any trace of in-your-face, environmentalist proselytizing.
"You could be angry and write some punk rock songs, but the other way is just to write and make people aware about what's going on," Moore says. "It's more helpful and it works. Well, I don't know if it works, but hopefully it works better."
On "In Our Talons," from the Bowerbirds debut Hymns for a Dark Horse—rated fourth of the 15 best albums of 2007 by daytrotter.com—Moore sings,
And the warblers sing
And the sparrows sing
Through the wheels, through the
wheels on the interstate
And hear no refrain.
Moore says he witnessed this scene every day when he lived in the woods. Tacular's accordion meanders along throughout the song—sparrowlike, you might say.
Moore admits that some of the songs about Tacular were initially hard to play in a concert setting with her standing beside him onstage. "There were a couple songs that were tough to perform live with Beth at first," Moore says. "But overall, it's really rewarding."
"Silver Cloud" was one of those songs.
You could move like a secret and slip past my life
But you can't seem to quit moving words
around to show who was right.
The song resounds with a quietness that cuts through a thicket of acoustic guitar and mandolin; Moore's voice strains with a naiveté similar to Bonnie "Prince" Billy or Little Wings.
After talking with Moore for a short while, it's obvious that his heart belongs to the mountains. "I miss the work, tracking the warblers," Moore says. "It's really quiet work and one of the best jobs I've ever had." He says he and Tacular are in the midst of building a cabin together in North Carolina.
"The structure is finished with a roof and everything, but there are still holes and all the interior needs to be done," Moore says. "When we finish our cabin, Beth can do her art and I can eventually write some music; I'm not really eager to write more songs or tour, I kinda just want to live right now."
THE BOWERBIRDS play Friday, Jan. 29, at 8pm at the Brookdale Lodge, 11570 Hwy. 9, Brookdale. Tickets are $12 at http://folk yeahramble.blogspot.com. (831.338.1300)
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