We all have our musical blind spots. Even the most ardent music lovers struggle to appreciate certain styles outside their wheelhouse. But every now and then, a band or artist turns out an album that’s so well executed, there’s no denying its merits, even if it’s not a genre one would normally dig. This is exactly how I’d categorize the debut EP by Seattle alt-folk duo Impossible Bird. It was April’s pleasant surprise. The five-song album is a mix of fiddle and falsetto, backed by incredible talent: Canadian Tyler Carson mans the fiddle and Stroh violin—a violin that uses a metal horn instead of a wooden body to resonate sound—and brings each song to life with energetic lead lines that rip away any notions of the folk blahs. Vocalist-guitarist Nick Drummond, formerly of local acoustic rock band the Senate, churns out propulsive guitar lines that keep the acoustic two-piece from sounding small. The instrumental arrangements are reminiscent of Dave Matthews Band, but Drummond’s clear vocals give Impossible Bird a sound that’s refreshing and entirely its own.
Opening track “Here I Am” showcases the duo at its most playful and anthemic; it’s not hard to imagine a summer festival crowd clapping along. (Perhaps at the Northwest Folklife Festival? Impossible Bird will be playing there on May 28.) The EP isn’t a one-trick pony, though; “Overture” is darker, like its set in an old Southern Gothic mansion with creaking floorboards and door hinges, thanks to Carson’s fiddle work and the clever use of clanking chains as percussion.
Lyrics aren’t Impossible Bird’s forte, but the track about a marriage proposal—“Bottle of Wine”—is genuinely sweet with lines like, “A ring’s like a watch that shows no time.” While Drummond has a tendency to excessively repeat his refrains (most songs have about a minute and a half worth of lyrics stretched into four-and-a-half-minute songs), it’s forgivable since the core of Impossible Bird is melodic instrumentation, not poetry.
Acoustic duos simply aren’t supposed to have this big a sound. It’s really only a matter of time before Impossible Bird has an equally large audience.
May 28 at 4, Northwest Folklife Festival, Fisher Green Stage.