After quite a few years spent playing and producing the music of others, Fort Wayne native Arvel Bird has finally released a full album of violin, er, make that fiddle mastery. Each of the sixteen delightful tracks are named after birds which creates a nice unity to the disc. Most of these are standards reworked by Arvel without losing their original integrity but a hefty handful, however, are original compositions by Bird himself. Nearly all the tracks contain the fiddle backed against an acoustic guitar and string bass, but Bird throws in a few surprises from time to time to catch your ear. For instance, his version of "Turkey In The Straw", which I know you've heard from Bugs Bunny cartoons or various symphonies by Ives, has what I'm pretty sure are spoons for percussion. Not only that, but there is a spoons solo... dreamy. A good many of these songs are upbeat, springy and joyous, which makes for fun music to listen to while you play with the kids. There's nary a lyric in sight, which is more than made up for by the copious melodies. Arguably, the best tracks on the disc are those written by Bird. There's "The Mourning Dove Waltz" with its weeping, melancholy violin backed by a lone guitar, "Chickadee Polka" containing the mandatory accordion that betrays Arvels upbringing in this Germanfest infested town, the melodic, energetic Texas hoe-down fiddle of "The Cooper Hawk Breakdown", and the surprisingly jazzy "And Birdie Makes Three" where the backing guitars almost sound like a ukulele. Classical meets Celtic in "Lark in The Morning/Toss the Feathers" while my personal favorite is "Wild Geese" in which a very goose-like accordion shares a melancholy melody with the violin. Feather fly on "Hot Canary" where the violin spars with the guitar in some frenzied soloing. For fans of the fiddle, this is a must-have album. Arvel Bird shows why his talents are in such demand... he makes the fiddle sizzle as much as any guitarist. But for the rest of us who haven't stopped to consider the fiddle, the engaging melodies and excellent musicianship makes this album a worthy addition to any collection. For more information, contact www.singingwolfrecords.com.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, August 2001.