Brown Bird: Folk's Tattooed Troubadours The rugged but regal Rhode Island duo visits Folk Alley's tent at the Green River Festival in Greenfield, Mass. Watch David Lamb and MorganEve Swain perform "A Temple and a Cradle."

Favorite Sessions

Brown Bird: Folk's Tattooed TroubadoursFolk Alley

American folk music has a long tradition of songwriting duos who work miracles with just two voices, from Simon & Garfunkel and Ian & Sylvia to the contemporary likes of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, on through the distorted gutter-punk cigar-box-banjo shredding of Hymn for Her. There's always room for more.

Carrying on in this vibrant tradition is the Rhode Island duo Brown Bird, which incorporates guitar, cello, double bass, kick drum, wood blocks, banjo and tambourine into its sets — often all within a single song. As compelling as it is to see two people make so many sounds with no extra help, the key is the energy, passion and sheer musicality of it all.

It hasn't taken Brown Bird long to drum up support in the world of folk and roots music. You can see why in this video for "A Temple and a Cradle," recorded during this year's Green River Festival in Greenfield, Mass. According to Dave Lamb (guitar, banjo, percussion), "It's an older song that we hadn't played in a while. It's inspired by my brother's battle with leukemia from his childhood and overcoming hardships in general."

Indeed, both the cradle and the temple are places of rest, recovery and the pursuit of the strength to move forward. They're strong images with a long-standing place in traditional music — longer, even, than that of two-person bands.

[+] read more[-] less

More From Folk

Jonatha Brooke on Mountain Stage Brian Blauser/Mountain Stage hide caption

toggle caption Brian Blauser/Mountain Stage

Jonatha Brooke On Mountain Stage

Hear the singer-songwriter's return to Mountain Stage in this 2016 performance, which features the Mountain Stage Band joining in for the Woody Guthrie-penned "You And I."

Jonatha Brooke On Mountain Stage

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/545342899/545472308" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Joseph performs at the 2017 Newport Folk Festival. Adam Kissick for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Adam Kissick for NPR

Joseph, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2017

The Portland trio, composed of sisters Natalie, Meegan and Allison Closner, makes music that invites its audience to share in its bond of sisterhood. Hear Joseph's set at Newport Folk now.

Joseph, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2017

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/539346196/542434613" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

John Paul White performs at the 2017 Newport Folk Festival. Adam Kissick for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Adam Kissick for NPR

John Paul White, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2017

"If you came to this set looking to be cheered up, you're screwed," White deadpanned from the stage. His music can give goosebumps, even on a sunny summer day; hear his set at Newport now.

John Paul White, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2017

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/539348461/542435387" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Pinegrove performs at the 2017 Newport Folk Festival. Adam Kissick for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Adam Kissick for NPR

Pinegrove, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2017

Hear the band play its tender songs about home, friendship and growing up, live at Newport Folk.

Pinegrove, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2017

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/539347880/542125521" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

The Wild Reeds perform at the 2017 Newport Folk Festival. Adam Kissick for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Adam Kissick for NPR

The Wild Reeds, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2017

Mackenzie Howe, Sharon Silva and Kinsey Lee's set at Newport Folk was assured and robust, a testament to potent voices made more powerful when united.

The Wild Reeds, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2017

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/539341325/540437771" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Alynda Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff performs live at the 2017 Newport Folk Festival. Adam Kissick for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Adam Kissick for NPR

Hurray For The Riff Raff, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2017

Stream Alynda Segarra's impassioned set from Newport.

Hurray For The Riff Raff, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2017

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/540576452/540576834" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Shovels & Rope performs at the 2017 Newport Folk Festival. Adam Kissick for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Adam Kissick for NPR

Shovels & Rope, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2017

The charismatic husband-and-wife duo returned to Newport after a three-year hiatus.

Shovels & Rope, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2017

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/539331412/540570871" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Jeff Tweedy performs at the Woods Stage at Pickathon 2016. Todd Cooper/Courtesy of Pickathon hide caption

toggle caption Todd Cooper/Courtesy of Pickathon

Watch Jeff Tweedy Perform 'One Wing' Live At Pickathon

opbmusic.org

Tweedy's wavering, fingerpicked version of the 2009 Wilco track had his listeners at the Woods Stage mesmerized.

The New York-based sibling duo The Lords of Liechtenstein. Brian Blauser/Mountain Stage hide caption

toggle caption Brian Blauser/Mountain Stage

The Lords Of Liechtenstein On Mountain Stage

The Rauchwerk brothers bring their quirky, folky singing and songwriting to Mountain Stage in West Virginia.

Lords of Liechtenstein on Mountain Stage

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/534992085/535370783" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn perform bluegrass and Mandarin folk music for Mountain Stage. Brian Blauser/Mountain Stage hide caption

toggle caption Brian Blauser/Mountain Stage

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn On Mountain Stage

The First Family of the Banjo performs bluegrass and Mandarin folk music live in Charleston, W.Va.

Mountain Stage

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/532957683/532964363" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Back To Top