Outsider Anthems: ‘Bilgewater’ by Brown Bird

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo by James Reed/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

For most people, the past couple of years have been a rollercoaster. It really started with the waking nightmare that was 2020. Then, some of that chaos bled over into 2021. That year added some record-breaking severe weather on top of everything else and we’re still dealing with Mother Nature’s wrath. So, fellow Outsiders, it’s safe to say we’ve all seen some ups and downs. Some real hard times.

However, think about how much higher your highs have been since this all started. Think about how much brighter those bright spots are in all of the darkness out there. Or, how much more important your relationships – both romantic and otherwise – have become in the face of all the division. It’s all in how you look at it. That’s why Brown Bird’s “Bilgewater” is this week’s Outsider Anthem.

Brown Bird included “Bilgewater” on their 2011 album Salt for Salt. Sonically, their music is a little different than what we share here. Their sound sits on the darker side of the Americana spectrum. Where most of Americana’s roots lie in the Scottish and Irish music of the Appalachian region, this duo takes their cues from Eastern European folk music. However, their tunes have found a home in the playlists of fans of bluegrass, folk, roots music, and alternative country.

The instrumentation on the song will get your toes tapping, but it’s the lyrics that will really grab you. Lines like “If the sun was always shining and our load always light / We’d be shaking like a leaf with every God-given night/ And we’d break under any pressure/ That was ever applied,” made it a must-add to the Outsider Anthems list.

A Bird of a Darker Feather

Vocalist and guitarist Dave Lamb formed Brown Bird as a solo project in 2003, according to the band’s website. Five years later, he met MoganEve Swain. They connected while touring America’s East Coast with their own bands. While on the road, they shared the stage four times and felt a spark. A week after playing their tours ended, Lamb moved in with Swain. They combined their musical talents and Swain became the second member of Lamb’s band.

Over the years, Brown Bird’s lineup changed several times. However, Swain and Lamb were always there, driving the band forward. Over the course of eleven years, they released six studio albums and two EPs. In 2014, Dave Lamb passed away in his home after a battle with leukemia. The next year, MorganEve Swain transformed their final demos into the band’s last record Axis Mundi. Today, Swain continues to make music with The Huntress and the Holder of Hands.

Brown Bird’s sound is hard to define and they never truly put a label on it. However, they stood staunchly on the statement that they were not a folk band. They drew influences from Balkan gypsy music, Middle Eastern psychedelic rock, and post-metal. Over the years, they played folk festivals and toured with bands like The Devil Makes Three.

Facing Down a Storm to See the Sun

In “Bilgewater” Brown Bird isn’t so much trying to bolster anyone’s spirits through tough times. Instead, this song is a reminder to never give up. Furthermore, it reminds us to embrace the lows. Without them, the highs wouldn’t feel so good.

In spite of all the wherewithal / To fight it all I will face it all / In spite of all the wherewithal / To fight it all I’ll embrace it all.”

So, fellow Outsiders, if you’re facing down a storm right now, know that it’ll pass. When it does, the sun will feel that much warmer for it. We’re a resilient bunch. We come back stronger from life’s trials. That’s what makes us different.

Whatever “this” is, we’re all in it together and we’ll all be stronger for it.

Listen to Brown Bird

If you liked “Bilgewater” I highly recommend checking out the rest of Brown Bird’s Salt for Salt. Standout tracks on that record include “Blood of Angels,” “Fingers to the Bone,” and the instrumental track “Shiloh.”