This Saturday on Local Folk we celebrate the release of Axis Mundi, the final studio album from Rhode Island duo Brown Bird, by spotlighting the flourishing music scene of Providence, RI.
Brown Bird founder David Lamb released albums as far back as 2003, but it was not until the summer of 2008 when a chance encounter with MorganEve Swain led to full blown partnership musically and otherwise(the two would eventually marry). Together the pair organically wove elements of folk, psych rock, Balkan and gypsy grooves, while touring and recording relentlessly. That process was abruptly cut short in May of 2013 when Lamb was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia, to which he would eventually succumb in April of 2014. A year later, the final recordings (many of which were undertaken during Lamb’s treatment) are being released as the album Axis Mundi, named for the place where heaven and earth meet.
If 2008 was the genesis of Brown Bird’s wildly inventive sound, it was also a breakout year for another Providence group that insistently pushed past folk-rock labels. That year The Low Anthem released their third album Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, which would eventually be picked up by Nonesuch Records leading to performances at festivals like Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Austin City Limits.
Although currently touring less, members Ben Knox Miller and Jeff Prystowsky, and Bryan Minto, continue to channel the group’s DIY ethos (the band would famously dumpster dive for cereal boxes to hand cut and silk screen for their first CD covers) with the opening of the Columbus Theater and Cooperative . The theater, originally built in 1926, had fallen into disrepair by the mid-2000s. Following extensive rehabilitation it was opened under the direction of the co-op in 2012. Since then it has been critical in raising the profile of Providence artists as well as showcasing performers like Charles Bradley, Juliana Hatfield, and Hurray For the Riff Raff. Says Columbus programming manager Tom Weyman, “We want the Columbus to be the bloody beating heart of Providence's music scene, unpolished, where art is created and performed, and where musicians are inspired to do their best work.”
Following the breakout success of groups like The Low Anthem and Brown Bird, there has been a rise in the regional and national profile of Providence artists like Joe Fletcher (recently departed to Nashville), The Silks, Smith&Weeden, and many more. Tune in this Saturday to Local Folk to hear just a few examples of the artists who have contributed to this rise as well as those who are positioned to continue building the city’s reputation in New England and beyond.
The Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin: