One of the most appealing reasons to turn to Andrew Bird is to bare witness to a process; an intricate array of drums, guitar, violin and, of course, that wily way he whistles, all looped into lofty, semi-symphonic wonders that dare his listeners to tap into their imaginations, if only for a moment or two. But after all those years of sonic sophistication, Hands of Glory, billed as a companion piece to the very fine, recently released album Break It Yourself, which sounds like a quest to cut away the extras and find simplicity in his home recording studio in Western Illinois.
Intimacy then, is what Hands of Glory, a collection of originals, reinterpretations of earlier work, covers and more traditional folk songs, is all about. Bird and his band spent two sessions huddled around a single microphone, folding golden three-part harmonies into a fiercely folksy batch off songs. Highlights include the cool swing and sway of "Spirograph," a sneaky tribute to The Handsome Family's "When That Helicopter Comes," and "Railroad Bill," a song that, with its brushy rhythmic drive and flighty fits of pizzicato, seems to best represent Hands of Glory as a whole. Bird and his mates, at home, at ease, hooting, hollering, just jamming on the kind of old timey music that's left an impression on Birds career over the years. It's a different sort of process than we're used to seeing/hearing from Bird, but one which results in a collection thats just as fine as anything thats come before.