The Bluebird Orchestra is a trio of musicians from Vermont. Their sound is mostly acoustic, with instrumentation that includes pump organ, bazouki, string bass, guitar and mandolin. The band’s startling range of material includes Brechtian torch songs, hillbilly laments and the work of obscure poets set to music. All while remaining steeped in Americana, from Tin Pan Alley and vaudeville to country and gospel. Its repertoire spans the earth, but what sets The Bluebird Orchestra apart is an ability to suggest that its songs somehow share a common soul.
The group has folk roots and an affinity for songs and ballads in the tradition of rural stringbands of the 1920s and 30s. Yet there’s something about The Bluebird Orchestra’s music that can also recall lost worlds of dancehalls, cabarets and speakeasies — urban settings full of romance, possibility and, sometimes, heartbreak. It has a yearning quality suggesting that, whatever this band plays, blues makes its world go round.
The Bluebird Orchestra is led by Donald Saaf, who is also an author and painter. If you have kids there’s a chance you’ve seen his illustrations on albums by children’s musician Dan Zanes. Saaf is joined by longtime collaborators Matthew Sharff and Riley Goodmote.