Bird in the Belly – Neighbours and Sisters

Album Review | GF*M Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 5/5

The Brighton-based four-piece Bird in the Belly take us on another moody excursion through the past with eight traditional song adaptations, together with two originals on this, the band’s second album.  Following on from their impressive and critically acclaimed debut The Crowing, which introduced us to the contrasting voices of Laura Ward and Ben ‘Jinwoo’ Webb, Neighbours and Sisters investigates the darker underbelly of society, focusing momentarily on prostitution “Phoebe to Phyllis”, the lure of death “Coal Black Wine”, condemned prisoners “New Gate Stone” and “45 George Street” and the sins of a Victorian workhouse master “All You Females.”  Each song is well researched, stylishly performed and delivered with authority and with a no-nonsense approach.

Recorded in Brighton, keeping just about everything in-house, including the impressive sleeve artwork, which focuses on a collection of framed reliefs representing each of the songs, crafted by Bird in the Belly guitarist Adam Ronchetti, the album creates a feeling of mystery and curiosity.  Clearly darker than its predecessor, the focus is very much on the dual voices, with Tom Pryor completing the impressive collective’s line-up, whose multi-instrumental embellishments bring out the character of these unique songs. If any comparisons were necessary, which they are not, then Webb’s voice may be compared to that of Sam Lee, whilst “All You Females”” could be mistaken for Stick in the Wheel at their stomping best.  Aside from these two random similarities, Bird in the Belly are otherwise rather unique and utterly compelling.

Choice Track: “Robin and Staling” (NSV 488)