Album review- “Moonshine” by Maygen and the Birdwatcher
Review by Joslyn Danielson
Listening to “Moonshine” by Maygen and the Birdwatcher is like listening to a love story around a lakeside campfire in Minnesota. Originally a duo, Maygen and Noah released an album in 2018, and have since recruited some seasoned band members who take their sound to the next level – Ethan and Jesse from the Sawtooth Brothers, and Nik Pellinen from Sawed Off String Band.
“Moonshine” was released October of this year, and was commemorated with a sold-out show at the intimate and upscale “Icehouse” venue in Minneapolis. The album opens with a stripped-down a capella song. Haunting vocal harmonies and simple timbre hits carry this delta blues-esque intro. Maygen and Noah draw upon vastly different influences to create a sound that is staunchly folk, combining influences of country, delta blues, and poetic americana.
The addition of the new band members have added a bluegrass flair, with banjo and fiddle taking center stage in much of the musicality. This (combined with songwriting by CMA-nominated Maygen) creates vibrant and nostalgic storytelling with songs like “Gunflint Lake”, which embodies nature-loving midwesternism at its core.
Maygen’s alto lead vocals are crisp, romantic, and raw, with poetic yet catchy lyricism. She tends toward a soft and soothing tone, with backing vocals and subtle harmonies from Ethan and Jesse. The second song on the album “Domine” is where we get a first hint and the blues power belt from Noah, soon to take center stage on the last track of the album, “Anytime”.
It was the last two songs on the album that sold me on the talent of this group. They showed variety in their musical skills, venturing outside the country songwriter vibe into the upbeat bluegrass and raw and dirty blues – a welcome change from the wholesomeness of the rest of the album. Noah’s bluesy vocals are killer, with exceptional tone and range. Being the last song on the album it only left me wondering what else this group is capable of.
The group also holds out on us in a way with the raw electric guitar solos from Nik. The final song gives a hint of the skill level that each of these folks possess; a skill that transcends bounds of genre and leaves you wanting more. The combination of all these influences gives the album a progressive ‘newgrass’ sound.
We are bound to hear more from this group in the coming years, but in the meantime see Maygen and the Birdwatcher perform live this winter at various venues in the Twin Cities metro area.