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I’ll be honest: I used to hate on Omaha’s Saddle Creek record label. Perhaps it was unwarranted, but as someone who couldn’t stomach Bright Eyes I simply chose to ignore the entire label’s output rather than chance a run-in with Conor Oberst. It was a mistake, though, since there are so many talented, innovative acts calling the label home; take Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson and The Rural Alberta Advantage, for instance.
Another band I missed out on by wearing these blinders was Georgie James, a collaboration between former Q and Not U drummer John Davis and vocalist Laura Burhenn. With Georgie James having called it quits last year, Burhenn is now stepping out on her own with a solo project called The Mynabirds, whose premiere LP, What We Lose In The Fire We Gain In The Flood, will be released by Saddle Creek on April 27th. After one listen to her gorgeous work under this new stage name, it’s hard to not feel compelled to go listen to everything she’s had a hand in. Burhenn clearly “gets it,” coupling a voice that is smoky and substantial, although never too forceful, with an intuitive grasp of American musical forms. Indeed, The Mynabirds name comes from a forgotten Motown house band which included both Neil Young and Rick James–a perfect encapsulation of Burhenn’s mixture of country, gospel, and soul influences.
“Numbers Don’t Lie” begins with its loosest passage, a little over twenty minutes of dreamy organ and twinkling piano keys. Then it gets down to business, laying down the sort of soul throwback that Amy Winehouse would make if she had more talent and less of a drug habit. A simple, shuffling piano melody and a bed of rich vocal harmonies give Burhenn the space to shine, and she does like a star, inflecting her vocals with the slightest bits of sorrow and sweetness. A.J. Mogis (of Monsters of Folk) does the song justice with his relatively clean production, letting the songwriting and singing rise to the fore. From a musical perspective, “Numbers Don’t Lie” isn’t really anything we haven’t heard before, but its flawlessly delivery and palpable passion make it a must-listen.