Monday, September 7, 2009

Birch Book - Vol. II Fortune & Folly - 2006

Quality: CBR 192 kbps
Label: Helmet Room Recordings, US
01 Birch Sap
02 New Song
03 Whisper In The Pine
04 Young Souls
05 New Joy
06 Diaspora
07 The Wandering Boy
08 Zephyr Through Willows
09 The Trip Goes On
10 The Carnival Is Empty
11 Birch Sap

B'ee: voice, guitar, artwork by (layout, lettering & tarot renditions)
Joshua Blanchard: chorus
Molly Blanchard: chorus

Recorded on San Juan Island off the rugged coasts of the Olympic Northwest, Fortune & Folly is the fitting second volume of Birch Book. Assuming the allegorical emblems of The Wheel of Fortune and The Traveling Fool, Fortune & Folly distill the introspections of a perennial rambler reckoning "the Bitter and the Bliss" of The Road Less Traveled. Drifting away from the overtly psychedelic, medieval, and soporific atmosphere which typified In Gowan Ring, B'ee displays a more organic, individualistic approach to songwriting. Fortune & Folly blends elements of idiosyncratic folk-pop and outcast-country with brooding layers of sound and sense, yielding a spectral ethereality in a captivating chiaroscuro thick with the visionary allusions of a haunted wanderer bent upon a mythic path....
Favorable comparisons are commonly drawn with classics such as Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake as well as contemporary "rural-folk" such as Will Oldham and Iron & Wine.

Variously labeled 'Wyrd', 'Psychedelic' or 'Avant Folk', In Gowan Ring extend roots into poetic-folk traditions while cultivating an inimitable, self-attuned writing style that prefigured the "New-Psyche-Folke" movement. As poet, pilgrim, progenitor of wyrd-folk and maestro of In Gowan Ring, Jon Michael B'eirth (otherwise B'ee) has developed a homespun sonic tapestry with peculiar richness of vision; recording over ten full length albums and performing throughout North America & Europe in veritable itinerant fashion amidst a dozen years against the grain. As well as composing the original material for Birch Book & In Gowan Ring, B'ee collects renditions of traditional songs and builds many of the acoustic instruments featured in performances and recordings such as the recent "lyre-guitar" & "leaf cittern." Though largely self-taught, he has didactically studied the music of the Trouvères and Troubadours, the counterpoint of the High Renaissance, and modern orchestration.

B'eirth has been busy. Only about a year after the release of Birch Book's debut album, he presents his second one. Those who've heard the first album probably know what to expect, as will those who bought the live EP Tangles of the Vine. Birch Book looks to be B'ee's outlet for singer/songwriter and americana feelings, and we're not disappointed here. "New Song", "Young Souls", "New Joy", they're all examplary of his newfound relaxed vibe. That also includes the new track "Whisper in the Pine", one of his finest yet when it comes to this country-like style.
But B'ee is always full of surprises. The mysterious intro "Birch Sap" should have tipped me off that something different was coming. Defying my expectations, he delivers tracks like "Diaspora" and "Zephyr through Willows": dark, misty songs that call to mind Marissa Nadler's gloomy style.

The theme of the album - as expressed by the Tarot images of The Wheel of Fortune and The Fool - is the spirit of wandering. Of packing up your stuff, leaving everything behind and setting out into an unknown future. This is displayed quite powerfully in "The Trip Goes On", which ends in manipulated distortion, and a minute of near-silence. As if the whole album is a preamble to "The Carnival is Empty". It might as well be, for this track alone makes the album more than worthwhile. Like in that other marvellous song, Dead Can Dance's "The Carnival Is Over", carnivals seem to lend themselves best to songs when empty, dead, gone and over (remember Current 93's "The Carnival is Dead and Gone"?). Never mind the lyrical parallels. This song is a breathtakingly beautiful, melancholic conclusion of this album's theme. B'ee shows himself from a totally new side and proves at the same time that he keeps growing as an artist.

This is a brilliant album, and one of this year's highlights for all lovers of folk music in the broadest sense.
Obviously, it's a must have for everyone who likes In Gowan Ring or Birch Book.
B'eirth is truly one of the greatest songsmiths of our days.


graaf24 said...

For Andrey & his daughter!

New Joy

Coming' round the bend over the high life
Never seeing where the signs have marked the trail
The lovers find their ways in rough surrender
Never knowing where the wind will blow their sails

I don't know that things were ever meant to be easy
Don't know how thus far I've managed to get on
I don't know that you could see this life through my eyes
I don't know that I could show you in a song

This much I know: with love comes sorrow
This much is plain: with new joy, new pain

Of course its clear looking back in hindsight
That old fantasy of freedom bound to fall
But looking in the mirror there's an open road
Pack it up say goodbye to them all

Have you got a light to give a weary traveler?
Have you got a lift for one who's fallen down?
Have you got a smile to show a broken hearted man
Who knows not where he's bound?

This much I know: with love comes sorrow
This much is plain: with new joy, new pain

© 2006, Birch Book

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this, friend!

Lotus Coatl said...

Quite different from “Vol. III - A Hand Full Of Days”. First of all, despite Vol.I and Vol.III, Vol. II has a philosophic point of reference: the idea of the wheel of fortune that cross the whole album. Here the presence of the echoes of Anglo Saxon folk music is evident. The convergence ancient/contemporary proceed through the filters of John Renbourn & Pentangle, Robin Williamson, Forest, Trees, the eccentricity of Dr. Strangely Strange but the final is a sort of hybrid of traditional and non-traditional folk/acoustic music/psychedelic/soundscapes territory/weirdness. “The Wandering Boy” is one among the outstanding tracks, “Diaspora”sounds like an odd weak episode. In my opinion Volume III is superior to this but the standard in “Fortune & Folly” is mantained at a high level. Undoubtly a valuable album.

Anonymous said...

Too bad, that this album of Birch Books is currently out of stock - and THANK YOU for offering it here! This is really marvellous stuff!


the black knight said...

great album
where I can fin it?

graaf24 said...

Hi the black knight,
read disclaimer (right top on this page) please!

the black knight said...

thank you.
this album is awesome! b'eirth is a real modern artist, in all is project (especially in gowan ring and birch book)

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