Written by Jeff Modzelewski
2019 was a year of change and reformation for Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds. Moving down to a 4 piece, making adjustments to the rhythm section, and even adjusting the band name meant that The Ragbirds of old were out and a new, updated band has formed in its place. Fortunately, the best things about the band are still in place. Singer and multi-instrumentalist Erin Zindle still leads the band with her infectious energy and outpouring of love, and the band brings her songs to life. Their pre-Christmas show at the Beachland Tavern in Cleveland has been a highlight of my December for the past few years, and, even through all of the changes, that stayed the same.
The band showcased their new selves with 6 new songs sprinkled throughout the set. The band has historically had no qualms about debuting new material before it’s recorded, and this was another case of them showing a high level of bravery in putting new material out there for their audience. Erin wears her heart on her sleeve with her songwriting, and that was apparent from the opening song, a new track titled “My New Story.” Her new story isn’t just about the band and her laying her (rightful) claim through the name change, but also leaving behind the past in her personal life as well. Erin has been open about loss and tragedy in her life over recent years, and the new crop of songs reflects that. They followed up with “Stay Behind The Wheel,” a fitting follow up about moving forward.
From there Erin led the band through a collection of older tunes, new songs, and a handful of well-placed cover songs. Annie Lenox‘s “Walking On Broken Glass” fit in with the early theme of the show, and Rusted Root‘s “Martyr” is a favorite that the band has covered in the past. Most of the previously released songs came from their most recent album, The Threshold and The Hearth, and Erin shared stories behind many of the tunes. The most poignant moment was when she talked about writing “Alleyway Saints” with her brother and guitarist TJ Zindle. While she had discussed writing the song with TJ in the past, she just recently began opening up about how the song was in reference to their losing their brother to the heroin epidemic. “Alleyway Saints” has been a favorite of mine for years, in a large part due to Erin’s emotional plea on the vocals and TJ typically letting loose on his guitar during the song, and hearing more about why the song was written added a whole new dimension.
The Ragbirds have a full catalog of music that I would love to continue to hear live, so it was a little sad to only get three songs from albums prior to The Threshold and The Hearth. “Book of Matches” and “Brave New Beat” have been a longtime staples for the band (for good reason) and “The Race” is certainly a solid song. But I can also appreciate the fact that they are continuing to look forwards rather than behind, and the new songs left me excited about what the band has coming up. “Curious” is a fun song in the same vein as much of their previous work, and “Liquor Store” is a dark rhythmic tune that I love as a bit of a change of pace for the band. If this show was a way to highlight their upcoming album and get folks excited for the new material, it certainly succeeded.
I’ve been a fan of The Ragbirds since I first saw the band nearly 10 years ago. I love Erin’s songwriting and her willingness to share her own life in a way that is accessible to everyone. Her perspective has changed over the years and her writing has changed with it, but it’s always from the heart, infectious, and full of hope and love. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2020 holds for Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds, and, if this show is any indication, we should be in store for some great new music.
You can find show dates for Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds at their website: https://theragbirds.com/shows/