Birch Book,
Fortune & Folly
(Helmet Room, 2007)

Sometimes it sucks to be a reviewer. You get these packages in the mail and you like the music, but when you go to write up a review you discover the musician or publicist who sent it to you saved a few bucks by shipping a barebones promo disc and little more.

With Fortune & Folly, I got a track list and an overly wordy warning not to resell the disc for fun or profit. The rest I found on the Internet, which is one of the tools it now seems impossible to do without. (I never did find the lyrics, which are much more valuable to reviewers than most musicians and publicists seem to realize.)

Anyway, Birch Book is for the most part a guy named B'ee, who sings (sometimes in layers) and plays guitar and harmonica. There's a little bit of vocal and instrumental help on the recording -- Seth Eames on telecaster, Annabel Lee on viola, Moss and Victoria on backing vocals -- but this is largely a one-man show. And it's good stuff, described by B'ee as psychedelic folk, which is as good a label as any. His vocal style reminds me a lot of Donovan on his mellowest days; it didn't take much 'Net searching to see that's been a fairly common comparison.

When I first slipped the disc into my stereo, I initially thought it was pretty dull stuff. But my subconscious mind, sometimes wiser than me, dug its hooks into the sound, and some time later I noticed I'd hit the "repeat" button at least once and was softly humming along with melodies I didn't realize I knew. The wordless sixth track, "Diaspora," was the first to really suck me in with a bass-layered atmosphere of dreaming wonder; from that point on, and on successive replays, I found myself paying more and more attention to B'ee's music.

B'ee's voice and guitar playing both draw from the folk-minstrel tradition, not so much melancholic as reflective and, just maybe, a little tired from the road. The music drifts softly, but never aimlessly, and it carries deceptive strength in its wandering harmonies.

There are albums that walk right up and smack you on the forehead, demanding your attention. Fortune & Folly is more subtle, and more pervasive; once it had my attention, it didn't want to let go.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Tom Knapp

12 May 2007

what's new