Small Brown Birds is the eagerly awaited new album release from Zoe Mulford, an album that looks for joy in the midst of hard times. The songs touch on wintry themes with compassion, honesty, and sometimes wit, tracing a journey from sadness to hope and from winter to spring. The musical arrangements range from gentle and lush to infectiously danceable.
News just in is that Joan Baez will be covering one of Zoe’s songs, ‘The President Sang Amazing Grace’, on her upcoming album and concert tour and spoke about Zoe in an interview with Variety magazine, to quote Joan from the article re the new album “I’ve done something from Antony & The Johnsons, two from Tom Waits – ‘Last Leaf’ and ‘Whistle Down The Wind’ – Josh Ritter, one from an unknown, Zoe Mulford, brilliant. Twelve songs and they’re done.”
The new album showcases Zoe Mulford’s clear voice, sprightly clawhammer banjo, and resonant guitar. An American songwriter now living in the north of England, Zoe charms audiences with story-driven songwriting and an unlabored vocal style sometimes compared to that of Joan Baez. Tracks on the album include her take on the Red Clay Ramblers’ soaring sea shanty, ‘The Queen of Skye’. Zoe’s own ‘February Thunder’ dovetails gracefully with the traditional American tune ‘Frosty Morning’. The banjo also crosses the Atlantic for a solo rendition of Paul McCartney’s acoustic tour de force, ‘Blackbird’ and in the tradition of broadsheet ballads; Zoe pulls stories from current headlines. ‘The President Sang Amazing Grace’ tells the story of the 2015 AME church shooting in Charleston and President Obama’s eulogy for those slain.
The heart of the project is a new collaboration with English fiddler and mandolinist Tom Kitching. Tom is a high-energy player in the style of Dave Swarbrick. Folk broadcaster Mike Harding describes him as “one of the best English fiddlers ever, he takes English folk music by the scruff of the neck and sends it off laughing and dancing and having a good time.”
The core band on the album also features English percussionist Sam McEvoy and Philadelphia’s Ken Pendergast on upright bass. Guest musicians include Pat Wictor on harmony vocals, Bob Beach on harmonica, and Michael G. Ronstadt on cello.
Small Brown Birds is Zoe’s fifth release. She draws expertly on the traditional music of both Appalachia and the British Isles and while stealing a few pages from the American Songbook to create music that feels both comfortably lived-in and sparklingly fresh. Zoe has had work published in Sing Out! Magazine and has had songs covered by many other artists, including Rhiannon Giddens (with Gaelwynd) and John Roberts & Tony Barrand.
Artist’s website: www.zoemulford.com
‘The President Sang Amazing Grace’ – live: