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The Littlest Birds - the Be Good Tanyas

Just in case you have formed the impression from the last few posts that the Be Good Tanyas only record covers of other people's songs, it should be noted that the majority of their work has been written by band members, not least amongst which is "The Littlest Birds" which is the opening number on their first album "Blue Horse" and was penned by Samantha Parton and Jolie Holland. It's an early morning circulation wakener, like a warm shower or that orange juice just before the coffee, a gentle whimsical love song with an African Jit rhythm, and a shuffling infectiousness which makes you want to dance in your pyjamas.

For the record, I checked out the sizes of the birds with the prettiest songs. It seems to be universally agreed that the number one birdsong is indeed that of the nightingale, and I was able to find a definitive top ten "birds that sing the most beautiful birdsong on the world" kindly supplied by AZ Animals (see With the nightingale coming in at around 6 inches, in second place we have the hermit thrush (7") followed by the linnet (5"), the song thrush (9") and the canary (5") respectively. Even the blackbird (9") is smaller than the birds that don't make the list, for example the intrusive cuckoo (11"), and even the smallest member of the universally discordant crow family, the jackdaw, comes in at a comparatively massive 14 inches.

So they're right: the prettiest birds DO sing the prettiest songs. I know the list is fairly Euro and America centric, and a brief piece of on-line research confirms my suspicion that there are a lot of contenders for the top ten in the Southern Hemisphere. For instance, I quite like the song of the New Zealand robin (7" hear it on which seems to support the general gist of the statement sizewise.

The nightingale and others on the list winter in Africa, (and who can blame them?) which perhaps accounts for the Zimbabwe-style warm and mellow tempo of this pretty ditty.


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