Jon Rooney Trades in Distortion for Wide-Open Spaces on New Virgin of the Birds EP

Virgin of the Birds, Winter Seeds (4/8, Abandoned Love Records,

A project of singer/songwriter Jon Rooney, Virgin of the Birds recorded this debut LP at Fremont’s Her Car studios with studio proprietor and Foghorns member Colin J. Nelson on drums and Mark Laurick (of China Sea Recordings) on bass. The nine-track album contains four new tracks and reworkings of five songs from his EP releases. Overall, Winter Seeds is a step forward for Rooney. It’s a bit more folk-sounding than his previous releases: Textures are thinner, and there’s generally less distortion and rhythmic activity. Reverb and recording techniques (the saxophone in the distance on “Nine Sisters,” for example), along with generally sparse structures and slow tempos, project wide-open spaces, which leave Rooney’s well-crafted tales almost naked for inspection. This was a risky choice, but Rooney’s adventurous songwriting backs the new direction with confidence. Indeed, the songcraft is the brightest star here and rewards multiple listens, with engaging tales delivered effortlessly with vocals reminiscent of the late Lou Reed’s. (Sat., April 5, Conor Byrne)

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