Over the Bones is the work of Kansas City-based jazz vocalist Megan Birdsall taking an entirely new direction as singer/songwriter MBird. Who would have imagined that this sublime artist doubles as a well-known jazz artist with a following all across the country? In truth it is clear that MBird can sing anything in that captivating voice, and write songs that play as well in Nashville as they do in the famous folk and acoustic rooms of the northeast. Adding to her mystique is the fact that she has recently survived a rare life-threatening disease and surgery to correct a deteriorating jawbone. Over the Bones is about surviving difficult times and the accompanying complexity of feelings—both light and dark.
The recording opens with Train Song, a pop meets country tune backed by some fine Nashville fiddle playing by Shadd Cobb. The melody is quick-paced and fun, almost exuberant despite lyrics that spell out movement without a destination in sight. Wherever MBird is going, we willingly follow…
In Over the Bones, MBird pours her gorgeous alto tone all over the song's forlorn lyrics, telling the story of someone who lives in a static world of waiting and watching and hoping for something or someone to happen. Reminiscent of some of the best work of k d lang, the melody is haunting and lovely. The pedal steel accompaniment is extraordinary.
The lovely pop tune, One Kiss is a playful love song featuring several layers of tracks of MBird's voice creating her own beautiful harmonies. Brent Truitt on mandolin lends the right woozy, flirty, lovelorn touch to the mix.
Layers of MBird's voice providing harmony are put to good use once again in the upbeat, jazzy melody of Porch Swing. Despite the static state of mind of the person described in the song, the tune moves along with a lot of bounce and jive. It is one of the recording's best cuts.
The closing song, The Bridge (Boat Song), sums up all of the complex emotions of the recording. Using wonderfully descriptive language, the singer describes a tempestuous relationship where she is left behind. She asks, "did I give you what you needed, now that your lullaby's completed?" Thankfully MBird gives us everything we need and more on this song accompanied by Mark Lowery on piano and Ken Lovern on organ.
MBird has a voice and style that is uniquely her own. She sings in a haunting, often mesmerizing alto describing a world that has been lost to her, and a new one where she needs to find her way. Over the Bones is a triumphant mix of country, pop, rhythm and blues, and even a bit of jazz. It is not lost on this reviewer that MBird has a professional background in music—it's there in her vocals, imaginative lyrics and especially in the production, where musicians from the world of country and jazz meet. This is heady stuff. Whether this artist continues her journey as country/pop artist MBird or jazzy chanteuse Megan Birdsall, I know that I will be listening. This is an artist to watch. Over the Bones is something different and beautiful...a work of art as brave and winning as the performer herself.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society and Roberta B. Schwartz.
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