Single Review: Josie Duncan & the Dusk -Oh, To Be a Bird


I’m listening to Josie’s “velvet untorn” voice while on a train, again travelling from my family home in the Highlands down to the animated, glaring hub of Glasgow.

I don’t believe I hear enough people talking about how beautiful that journey is, and I can think of no better soundtrack to that long afternoon staring out the window, than whatever Josie’s latest musical offering is.

My first observation of the song ‘Oh, To Be a Bird’ was of course just how delicate and beautiful Josie’s voice always is, with such strong roots in Trad, Folk and Gaelic music, you can’t help but be charmed by her storytelling in each and every song she sings.

The instrumentation is so appropriate, warming up as the verses roll through: the bewitching staccato plucking layering on smooth and floating accordion. The structure is so natural, I felt it floated through like water, feeling so attached to the landscape it paints.

Josie told me how she was inspired to write the song after reading a poem by her great grandfather Jack Kincaid, Dream by the Rocks. In it the speaker is overwhelmed and humbled by the beautiful expanse of nature, the song works likewise – Josie sings so longingly of the freedom of the birds who ‘rearrange their nest any place that suits them best’. Bewitching lyrics tie in multi-sensory experiences, a personal favourite image is “a diminuendo of light” so brilliantly combining both musical sound and vision, the songs of the birds and the fading light.

The band consist of Innes White on guitar and Megan Macdonald on accordion. Josie joins with ukulele and vocals but always insists that her instrumentalists also join in on the singing, creating a truly collaborative experience of harmony that illuminates the lyrical quality. Literally everyone’s voice can be heard, instrumentally and vocally. As such an important tenet of Folk music, collaboration and inclusion is something that Josie dedicates herself to, the music is shared and passed on as it has been for thousands of years.

The song is a longing to escape, to get away from yourself and disappear up into the sky with the birds; I can think of no song better to pull me away from those homesick feelings of being in the city, and wanting the quiet freedom of my home. This musical longing can be shared by anyone who listens, it is a musical deep breath, calming and refreshing.

[Imogen Hay – @ImogenIslay]


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