The Huffington Post is premiering Andrew Bird's cover of Townes Van Zandt's "If I Needed You." The track is from Bird's forthcoming Hands of Glory (due October 30 on Mom + Pop Music), a companion piece to the critically acclaimed full-length record Break It Yourself. The new record is the product of a pair of recording sessions prompted by the overwhelming response to Bird’s “old-time” sets on recent tours. Reinterpreting songs from Break It Yourself and featuring covers of classic country tunes, these “old-time” performances find Bird and his full band playing to a single microphone with an entirely acoustic setup. Drawing inspiration from these sets, Hands of Glory features two brand new original tracks, a new interpretation of “Orpheo Looks Back” from Break It Yourself and covers of Van Zandt, the Handsome Family, Alpha Consumer and others.
“The past three summers now we’ve had these band get-togethers at my barn in western Illinois,” Bird recalls. “They begin with little more pretense than to capture the way we make music together. After a few days sleeping, eating and jamming under one roof we get increasingly inspired and ambitious about what we’re doing.” Of recording the new record, he notes that, “Hands of Glory begins with two songs we actually recorded in a church in Louisville on a day off on our July tour. The rest was recorded around a single microphone at the barn in August. We ended up putting the drums on the back porch. I hated to exile Martin like that but it just sounded better. ‘Something Biblical’ I started writing in July well into the severe drought that hit the Midwest this summer. I kept having dreams of a great flood. Nothing biblical—just a local deluge. The day we left the barn it rained pretty hard.”
Bird is currently on tour in anticipation of Hands of Glory. This winter he will reprise his intimate solo “Gezelligheid” performances, bringing them to Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church December 19-20 and, for the first time, New York’s Riverside Church December 10. Appropriating a Dutch term that loosely translated means “cozy,” the performances concentrate mainly on instrumental violin pieces amplified only by Bird’s signature giant Victrola horns. Bird notes, “What I hope to do with these shows is adapt my music completely to the atmosphere of the space and the season. I want the audience to be both lifted and comforted as we head into another cold and dark winter. I feel the space should be sacred so the audience can experience my music in a different atmosphere.” Bird will also be performing with his full band at Minneapolis’ State Theater December 17; please see below for a list of dates.
Since its Billboard Top 10 debut, Break It Yourself has continued to receive rave reviews. In celebration of the record’s release Bird appeared on “The Colbert Report” (stream the video at http://bit.ly/weFuiE), “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” (stream the video at http://bit.ly/He1rUR) and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” (stream the video at http://abc.tv/JqPLyy) as well as NPR’s “Weekend Edition.” The press has gone on to hail Break It Yourself as “a quiet, careful grower…it blooms into something beautiful” (NPR Music), “perfect for the sensitive souls among us” (Newsweek) and “a shimmering collection of clever and carefully constructed songs,” (The New Yorker), while Rolling Stone raves that “[Bird’s] emotional urgency energizes his fluid multi-instrumental elocution,” USA Today calls it a “swoon-worthy set of rapturous tunes that bristle with embraceable eccentricities” and TIME praises Bird’s “delightful pop songs disguised as beautiful violin and whistle-laden ballads.”