ALBUM REVIEW: Americawna Quartet Birds Of Play Soar On ‘Birdsongs Of The American West’

With the ever-evolving sphere of music genres, to which many would argue genres hardly exist anymore, comes a new little offshoot of roots music known as Americawna.

And the proprietors? Birds of Play.

Yes, the energetic multi-instrumentalists and songwriters behind Birds of Play are an illustrious quartet, producing some quality roots music inspired by the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado they call home. 

Composed of frontman Alex Paul (guitar, mandolin, vocals), Eric Shedd (bass, mandolin, guitar, vocals), Anneke Dean (violin, vocals), and Jake Tolan (guitar, mandolin, vocals), the members allow their unique environment to delicately shape their sound.

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And today, that sound comes in the form of their latest collection of songs, their 11-track album, Birdsongs of the American West.

Bird Songs of the American West is the band’s fourth studio album, delivering a delicate array of tracks crafted with all the grace and conviction of a bird on the wing. Each track features profound instrumentation melded behind thoughtful, honest lyrics covering the human condition, the natural world, and the fickle nature of relationships. 


Opening with a tune written by Paul, “Texture” is a wonderfully curated glimpse into the album’s theme. The lyrics promote a poignant message, suggesting that texture is a natural translation for hardship and life experiences, a metaphor for how life continuously shapes humans and the world we live in: “And if texture is the language of time / River carved canyons speak in eloquent rhyme … / This land suggests something divine”. 

Released earlier this year as a single, the album’s second track, “Aftermath,” is a flashback into the world of isolation we all found ourselves in just a couple years ago. Written during 2021, still at the height of the pandemic, this song is about finding hope and grace in the midst of isolation, celebrating the hard times and the gifts you still have. 

“On the Eve of Adam’s Redress” boasts a mournful violin melody beneath the layers of delicate picking. The whole tune has a somber tone that perpetuates the feeling of finding one’s way in a harsh world. Resolution comes in the form of a beautifully layered instrumental melody towards the middle of the song, rising and falling as effortless as a mountain stream, and strong enough to tell a story without one single lyric. 


Back to the bird puns, “Peace,” flits seamlessly between jazz and bluegrass (jazzgrass?), showcasing the band’s incredible dimension with harmonies and expert instrumentation patterns. Like a winding road, this song leaves you reeling around its every bend, unsure of what is coming next. 

At two minutes and thirty seconds, “Exhale” is the shortest song off the album – but a fitting farewell from the Birds of Play. Opening with a cheerful melody and lyrical repetition, reminiscent of a lullaby, the tune swells into a chorus of harmonies, building layers of voices and instrumentation in a soothing rhythm. 

This group of friends has been playing together for just four years, yet it already has three prior studio albums to their name: Anthropology (2019), Murmurations, Vol. 1 (2021), Murmurations, Vol. 2 (2022). And now their fourth with Birdsongs of the American West.

This Americawna flock is in full flight already, and the sky is indeed the limit. Building upon themes of love, connection, and wonder, Birds of Play continue to specialize in bringing people together with their authentically brewed anthems. 

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