Singer-songwriter Jade Bird makes good use of time in Austin
Austin360 On The Record is a weekly roundup of new, recent and upcoming releases by local and Austin-associated recording artists.
OUT THIS WEEK
Jade Bird, “Different Kinds of Light” (Glassnote). A winner of South by Southwest’s prestigious Grulke Prize in 2018, English singer-songwriter Bird was just 21 when she released her full-length in 2019. The self-titled record quickly drew attention with its blend of sharp singer-songwriter craft and and radiant indie-pop energy. She raises the stakes with this 15-song set, which was completed before her relocation to Austin in late 2020.
Bird started writing songs for the new album during an upstate New York retreat in early 2020, making plans to record in Nashville a few months later. The onset of the pandemic required her to quarantine for 14 days in Mexico City before re-entering the U.S. last summer, a detour that produced a surprise new batch of songs. Once in Nashville, she worked with producer Dave Cobb, whose work with Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile and others has made him the world’s hottest producer for singer-songwriters in recent years.
Cobb’s hot streak extends to “Different Kinds of Light.” His admirable production style is less about imprinting his own aesthetic on the recordings and more about simply bringing the artists’ strengths and identities to the fore. Bird covers a lot of ground here, from the exhilarating rock & roll of “Punchline” and “Open Up the Heavens” to the moodier grooves of “Houdini” and the title track to the buoyantly melodic pop of “Now Is the Time” to the folksy charm of “Prototype.”
An intriguing departure is the contemplative “Red White and Blue,” which grew from an encounter that her guitarist and life partner, Luke Prosser, had with a Vietnam War veteran. And while Bird wasn’t necessarily obliged to deliver another instantly infectious hit like “Lottery” from her first album, she certainly did: “Headstart,” released late last year as a stand-along single, is included here as a bonus track to close the record.
Just how long Bird and Prosser will call Austin home is in flux; in the official press bio for the new album, Bird calls her Austin relocation “the move before the move,” hinting that she might move on to Nashville or Portland, Oregon, soon. She’s made good use of her time here, taping an episode of “Austin City Limits” in June that should air on PBS this fall. Here’s a recent live-performance video of “Now Is the Time”:
Mike & the Moonpies, “One to Grow On” (Prairie Rose). Country troubadour Mike Harmeier and his longtime bandmates have hit a hot streak the past couple of years, following 2018’s acclaimed “Steak Night at the Prairie Rose” with 2019’s ambitious London-recorded “Cheap Silver & Solid Country Gold” plus a 2020 tribute to honky-tonk legend Gary Stewart. They keep the momentum rolling with “One to Grow On,” written and recorded close to home during the pandemic.
Working again with renowned producer Adam Odor at his Yellow Dog studio in Wimberley, the Moonpies — Harmeier, guitarist Catlin Rutherford, bassist Omar Oyoque, drummer Kyle Ponder and pedal steel player Zach Moulton — got assists on several tracks from Nashville ace Shooter Jennings, members of Fort Worth’s Quaker City Night Hawks, and Shinyribs singers Alice Spencer and Kelley Mickwee. The focal point is a song-cycle of sorts that addresses Harmeier’s humble upbringing.
“I thought about the kids I grew up with,” Harmeier explained in a press bio accompanying the album. “Everyone I know who isn't a musician is working construction. They're putting one foot in front of the other and trying to appreciate the moment they're in, while basically working 24/7, 365. A lot of people live their lives that way, and they inspired me to write a workingman's story.”
Mike & the Moonpies play Oct. 2 at Gruene Hall. Here’s the track “Hour on the Hour”:
AUG. 20: James McMurtry, “The Horses and the Hounds” (New West)
AUG. 20: Belle Sounds, “All About Love” EP
AUG. 20: William Harries Graham, “Plainfield Tapes” EP
AUG. 27: Shinyribs, “Late Night TV Gold,” release show Aug. 27 at Paramount Theatre
AUG. 27: Alejandro Escovedo, “La Cruzada”
AUG. 27: Blk Odyssy, “Blk Vintage,” playing Oct. 10 at ACL Fest
AUG. 27: Bob Schneider, “In a Room Full of Blood With a Sleeping Tiger”
AUG. 27: Altin Sencalar, “Reconnected” (Next Level), release show Aug. 27 at East Austin Piano Shop
AUG. 27: Suzanne Santo, “Yard Sale,” release show Aug. 26 at Antone’s
SEPT. 3: Joe King Carrasco y Colectivo Chihuahua, “Beers, Bars & Guitars”
SEPT. 3: Terri Hendrix, “Pilgrim's Progress Project 5.5”
SEPT. 10: Heartless Bastards, “A Beautiful Life” (Unknown/Thirty Tigers), playing Fridays at C-Boy’s and Saturdays at Continental Club throughout August
SEPT. 17: Rod Gator, “For Louisiana” (Blue Elan), release show Sept. 17 at Far Out Lounge
SEPT. 24: Tony Kamel, “Back Down Home” (Next Waltz)
OCT. 15: Buffalo Nichols, self-titled (Fat Possum)