The first full length by Richmond, Virginia’s Jonathan Vassar & The Speckled Bird starts off promisingly. Solemn cello drone, tentative voice, resolute lyrics. “Signs and Wonders” is an uncluttered, delicately arranged, album of chamber folk. Vassar’s voice, inviting and unimposing, pulls the listener in. The music gently swells and never overwhelms an appealing intimacy.
Lyrics are filled with tragedies, but songs never descend into darkness. Tracks like “The Ballad of Charles Chamberlain,” with the refrain “Come by here and bury me,” come across as wearily matter-of-fact, resigned to, but not broken by, the tragedies integral to the passing of time. There’s not a bad track on this, but “Signs & Wonder” is especially wonderful in the 5-song mid section, from the almost cheery “Didn’t I Disappoint You” through the heartbreaking “The Press of Days.”
Didn’t I Disappoint You