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Andrew Bird: Defying Categorization

Andrew Bird.
Andrew Bird.

Over the course of his decade-long career, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird has blended rock, folk, jazz and retro swing music in ways that defy easy categorization.

After graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in violin performance, Bird released his debut album (Music For Hair) in 1996. Displaying his talent for the violin as well as his fascination with folk, jazz and blues, the record helped him land him gigs playing for bands like Squirrel Nut Zippers in the late '90s. With Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire, he continued to explore traditional jazz, folk and swing traditions, and released 1997's Thrills and 1998's Oh! The Grandeur to positive reviews. Swimming Hour saw Bird trying a different tack, with songs that introduced more rock into his eclectic style. His next two discs, 2003's Weather Systems and 2005's Mysterious Production of Eggs, demonstrated his continued growth as a pop songwriter.

Recorded with electronic musician Martin Dosh, the new Armchair Apocrypha continues Bird's trend toward a more crowd-pleasing sound, with traditional rock instrumentation featured more prominently than on his other releases. Bird has not, however, sacrificed his trademark string arrangements and intelligent lyrics; instead, he's found a way to incorporate them into a batch of strong, alluring pop songs.

This segment originally aired on May 15, 2007.

Copyright 2007 XPN

David Dye is a longtime Philadelphia radio personality whose music enthusiasm has captivated listeners of World Cafe® since 1991. World Cafe is produced by WXPN, the public radio service of the University of Pennsylvania.