The local music scene lost an important musician this month. David Lamb, one half of the Rhode Island folk duo Brown Bird passed away late last week, after a year-long battle with leukemia. Lamb was only 35.
Sometimes gothic and bluesy, often with minimal drums and exotic gypsy flourishes, Brown Bird’s music was inventive, but grounded by the gravelly voice and lyrics of lead singer David Lamb. Lamb formed the band in the early 2000’s. It underwent several incarnations before its final arrangement; as a duo comprising of himself, and his wife, the multi-instrumentalist MorganEve Swain.
David Lamb described his musical style to Rhode Island Public Radio in 2010, following the release of the band’s album, “The Devil Dancing.”
“We all like to listen to a lot of the music of the Balkan Gypsies, and all sorts of eastern European stuff. And we don’t consciously make an effort to write it into the songs, but it definitely comes out,” said Lamb. “Parts of that rhythm, and parts of that that appeals to me is in the different folk musics of cultures around the world. And for some reason eastern European seems to really connect with me personally.”
The band gained a following across New England, and was eventually invited to play at the iconic Newport Folk Festival. Brown Bird’s manager Tom Weyman remembers the band’s first performance at the festival in July of 2011.
“I was so excited and nervous for them. We were scheduled to play at eleven in the morning. And it was that typical anxiety when you’re playing that early if anyone’s going to show up, and by ten-fifty-five the tent was completely full,” said Weyman.
Brown Bird was invited back to perform on the festival’s main stage the following year.
Lamb was diagnosed with leukemia last May, and his illness highlighted the difficulties of making a living as working artist. With no health insurance, he and his wife found themselves saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses. Devoted fans and friends helped the couple raise the money through an online crowd-funding campaign. Despite aggressive medical treatment, including a bone marrow transplant, he succumbed to his sickness on Saturday, April 5th. David Lamb was 35 years old.
Friends and fellow musicians are holding a concert in honor of David Lamb Tuesday, April 8th, at the Columbus Theater in Providence. The event is free and open to the public.
Brown Bird performing at Rhode Island Public Radio's studios in 2010.