In November 2009 against my better judgement, I entered Nick’s Ice House for the first time since 1995. I walked in and heard a voice which rattled my soul. A voice that demanded reverence, singing with a capacity to hush even most odious crowd of drunken patrons at any back alley dive. Imagine throwing Cormac McCarthy, Nick Cave and Mark Lanegan into a bag and shaking it furiously. The product of this lethal combination: Adam “Bloodbird” Harrington. Hailing from the scorched red earth of Jones County, MS, Harrington’s roots seep out of every tune without writing overtly or being overly sentimental to his geography. Bloodbird’s music pays homage to the fundamentals of the alt-country genre, while avoiding the false hollow sparse sound that is common to it. On his recent release, Stained Glass Memories, Bloodbird pulls out all the stops and constructs his own full-throated, bracing music.
Proclaiming “This is the one I’ll never forget”, the track “Broke Down Juke” illustrates the dichotomy of meeting your match in a green-eyed devil and never being able to overlook that she was once an angel. Bloodbird uses a sped-up mandolin track to create the feel of an Argentine tango using its tension to find the perfect balance in the give and take. This provides an immaculate accent for the chorus “a pack of wolves/they all want to undress you/ pack of wolves/ they all want to confess to you.” With brushes tapping out a steady gait on a snare drum and fingers frolicking the guitar in just the right way to send hips into a hypnotized sway, Bloodbird’s voice enters conjuring ghosts buried in the deepest recesses of the heart. ”Broke Down Juke” strikes the perfect balance of music and lyrics capturing the moment where wanting and self-preservation wrestle.
“Been Here Before” opens with the sound of a creaking door and the finality felt in its latching. A church bell chime announces the lingering, heavy cadence of the drum like the footsteps of a dead man walking. This glorious accent announces that this is no mere ballad; it is a reluctant confession and a worthy justification of that aphorism, all is fair in love and war. Betrayal always leaves us hungry for atonement. With minimal backing harmony, Bloodbird tells this age old tale with biting accuracy. As much campfire worthy as a musical triumph, Bloodbird proves his place as apotheosis of the ballad telling a story we have all lived and not only wish we could forget but also hope that no one else knows.
The only aspect more noteworthy than his talent is Bloodbird’s humility. When I first saw him on that November night, I was startled at his meek manner and how it offered no indication of a voice that rivaled the angels. While you may gravitate toward that voice, there is far more here than another perfectly pitched baritone, tricky-fingered guitarist, or even the quintessential ballad writer. You may call it alt-country, but I call it legendary.