The best songs of North Carolina’s Bowerbirds have always seemed eternal. Coruscated by Beth Tacular’s bird song and Phil Moore’s environmentalist empathy, “In Our Talons” (off Bowerbirds’ Hymns for a Dark Horse) was, at its core, a quest for solidarity in a world of closing shadows. Upper Air’s “Northern Lights” painted a pained portrait of love shrouded in doubt as perfectly as Cash, Dylan or Cohen ever have. These felt like more than songs; they felt like treasures.

But those recordings were made on the quick and the cheap, with nylon-stringed guitars, fiddle lines and drum patterns that became comfortable. You could imagine these songs as old stateside standards, because, really, that’s how they sounded—campfire anthems sung by a couple clinging to very deep love.

The Clearing is the third album by the Bowe...


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