A four-piece, The Morning Birds combine cello, drums, guitars, and melodica to produce a laidback hybrid of folk, alt-country, and guitar pop – sounding, at times, like a countrified Something for Kate.
The EP starts strongly with the self-titled track, The Morning Birds, which clocks in at a hefty seven-and-a-half minutes. Simon Bailey sings with a heavy strine and an emotional catch to his voice, while melodica and cello work to give the song’s gentle beginning a melancholic backcountry tinge, before it gathers pace and power in its second half.
Track two, Cowboys, has a pronounced country sound, appropriately enough, with reverb guitar over the top of subtle, strummed guitars, and with Bailey singing lines like “I’m a cowboy”. As if to scotch any doubts about his country credentials, Bailey follows up with “I should have known reading Guns & Ammo was bad.” Can’t argue with that. Indeed, wry lyrics and quirky turns of phrase are a feature of Cowboys, and signal a band prepared to venture beyond the stock-standard rhyming-dictionary fare.
Into Night, track three, adds something slightly different to the mix, catchily combining strings and percussion, with cello and guitars interweaving to great effect. The EP closes with Stupid Looking Thing, a gloomy, sparsely instrumented song, in which Bailey almost-talks his vocals to the accompaniment of a strummed guitar.
Overall, Cowboys benefits from the superb quality of the recording: the guitars and vocals are always crisp and crystal clear. It’s a pity, then, that there’s a certain sameness to them, as the four tracks do threaten to blend into one another.
Cowboys is undeniably polished and intermittently interesting, but this city-slicker, for one, remains unconvinced.
— HANS FRUCK