The Austin singer/songwriter has been making the coffee house/café circuit for a while now, and in that time, he has put together a strong collection of acoustic folk material that’s more diverse than most. While sometimes his spirit can overshoot his material, it’s a remarkable and memorable record.
Volume 1 isn’t the first folk record with that title (see the slightly more high-profile She & Him – QRO album review), and while opener “Free Ride” does invite comparisons to another song by that name, this catchy alt-folk is miles away from classic rock. Birdwell takes it up another notch with the following “Thank You”; an even catchier piece, “Thank You” really displays a sly guitar-man style that the likes of John Mayer or Dave Matthews would kill for (note: that compliment is meant to be of the regular, and not back-handed, style…). Guitar-folk has long been a genre that curiously repels and invites fame, and while Birdwell certainly is stuck on the less well-known side of the equation, he’s also clearly of the better breed, musically.
However, sometimes Birdwell can go overboard in his attitude. The lyrics to “Life Is Short” can be as trite as the title, but the piece still moves well. Most obvious is “Jesus & Buddha”, which envisions them “K-I-S-S-I-N-G”… While that line is certainly funny the first time you hear it (and doubly so live & in-person), it doesn’t hold up so well on repeated listens. Luckily, the rest of “Jesus” does.
And that’s a relatively minor quibble on a record that’s also more diverse than most alt-folk. Birdwell is able to go from the catchiness at the outset to the softer and more touching “Certain Things” midway through, and then hit up a well-executed (if a bit over-long) storytelling mode in “California Girl”. And Volume 1 certainly ends on a high note, with the winning, straight-up strum “Laugh Out Loud” and the country-groove finisher, “Soulful Lovin’ Man”. Birdwell spins and wins on Volume 1; here’s hoping for many more Volumes to come…
MP3 Stream: "Thank You"