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BWW CD Review: Starbird & The Phoenix Deliver Joy With Debut Album STARFIRE

Ukulele and cool vocals wrapped around a unique sound and rockin' rhythms? Yes, please.

BWW CD Review: Starbird & The Phoenix Deliver Joy With Debut Album STARFIRE

I went into quarantine on March 13th. I remember this distinctly because I was supposed to see a show that night at The Green Room 42 and I canceled. I had made it to The Bistro Awards on Monday, The Lineup with Jim Caruso on Tuesday, Jamie deRoy & friends on Wednesday, and The Best of Times on Thursday; I watched as people bumped elbows, refused to hug but also didn't social distance, and I noticed how the crowds in the clubs were dwindling. When my day job at a gym shut down on the 13th, I thought it best if I shut down, too.

In eighteen days it will have been one year since I went inside the walls of Two-A and closed the doors.

Many New Yorkers are still observing a kind of quarantine because even though the city has reopened, there are still concerns, especially with new variants and specific vaccination qualifications. For a year life hasn't been the same, many haven't seen friends, some haven't returned to work, and live entertainment remains compromised. Naturally, many are feeling a little (or a lot) of Pandempression - and I would be no exception to the rule. I'm an optimist, but I cannot deny that there are times when it's difficult to get up off the sofa after napping, and there may be one too many bowls of popcorn in my daily diet. It's the way things are right now, and we all just have to wait it out... for now.

This morning, though, I found the way out of the darkness.

I've had a list of CDs to listen to and review that I haven't had the bandwidth to get to, and if I had only got around to it already, I could've been, would've been, smiling and dancing a whole lot sooner. Everything has its own time, though, and today, at 5:45 am, walking to work on a balmy thirty-seven-degree morning, I decided the time was right to listen to STARFIRE, the debut album of the band Starbird & The Phoenix. And, dudes, let me tell you: it was the right decision. By the time I got to work, I was skipping like I was on the Yellow Brick Road and, after having been at work for a while, I realized I was that guy that the security guards love to laugh at - the guy they watch on the security cameras who is dancing to music that only he hears on his AirPods, lookin' a fool and not caring. Indeed, I did not care and I kept dancing. Starbird & The Phoenix were the sunlight in my day before the day had even dawned.

So, let's talk about Starfire, shall we?

BWW CD Review: Starbird & The Phoenix Deliver Joy With Debut Album STARFIREStarbird & the Phoenix is an alt-pop/folk group comprised of Courtney Bassett and Andrew Swackhamer. Bassett, of "The Great Comet" on Broadway, and Swackhamer, popular with the "Cast Party" crowd, have been building up momentum by playing out in clubs around the city and releasing singles and even an EP, but with STARFIRE, these unique makers of music have an auspicious introduction to the recording industry. The first cut on the album is titled "Sunbeam'' and it could not be more aptly named because the opening strains of Swackhamer's ukulele, followed by Bassett's uniquely visceral vocals, are enough to crack open the darkness of the day and let in the light... but it's just a taste of what is to come. As other instruments and additional vocals layer in, the brightness bursts forth until you find yourself grinning in all-consuming happiness, the kind that raises your face up to the sky and draws one tiny tear of joy to fall along the temple, as you fight back the urge to spin like a kid who just learned school has been canceled for the day. These folks not only know how to write music and perform it to perfection, they know how to craft an album to take you on the most advantageous musical journey possible. The cheer bar sufficiently raised, Andrew and Courtney change the vibe immediately with "I'm Fallin'" in an act of versatility that continues throughout the eight-cut album. The second track has a sexier, edgier vibe that will get you dancing, but not like a good old disco album, this is a dance you're going to want a partner for, a dance that needs knees and hips, and eyes and lips... yeah, that dance. Starfire is an album for listening, and dancing and a lot of other things that will present themselves organically as the cd plays on.

Starbird & the Phoenix have created something individual here, not just in this joyball of an album, not only with the profundities in their (clearly) personally informed lyrics, but in a sound so original, so enriched by almost unfathomable harmonies, and so intent on authenticity that the act of listening to STARFIRE is akin to sharing a heartfelt chat with a dear friend just before bursting into a spontaneous dance party, particularly at the 1:30 minute mark of "Good Vibes" which will rock your world in a way that it hasn't been in a minute. With the impressive debut CD, Ms. Bassett and Mr. Swackhamer stake a claim as more than just musicians, they are more like a movement - a gorgeous, positive-energy, sweet-sounding expression of life experiences, for everyone within earshot to shake it off, dance it out, hug it up and let loose with all the love, happiness, and pride waiting, wanting to be expressed but perhaps slightly out of reach at the moment. Have no fear. Starbird & The Phoenix have arrived, like colorful mythological creatures sent to give us all permission to let it out and embrace life, feelings, and a wicked wonderland of new sound emanating from two immaculate voices and one magical ukulele.

Starbird & The Phoenix STARFIRE is a 2020 release on the Starbird & The Phoenix label and is available on all streaming platforms.

Visit the Starbird & The Phoenix website HERE

Starbird & The Phoenix have a YouTube channel HERE

Starbird & The Phoenix on Tik Tok and Instagram

Starbird & The Phoenix on Linktree


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