Remembering David Lamb

By PHOENIX STAFF  |  April 10, 2014

Swain and Lamb in Warren in 2013. [Photo by Corey Grayhorse]

‘His spirit is already continuing through all of us’

[On April 5] I was lucky to spend the day with his family and close friends gathered together [at] the hospital to support each other and share stories and memories of his life. The vibe in that room was inspiring. Many of the people I met for the first time, since Dave had so many friends, and not one did I find who a) wasn’t an incredible human being full of love and heart b) didn’t have great little-known stories about Dave, like how he could keep a beat at the drums while walking around the kit! As heartbroken as we were, it was a testament to how Dave’s spirit still lingered on that such a community could spring forth naturally from his loved ones of different periods of his life. I think that’s why Dave will be remembered, because his spirit already is continuing through all of us — his family, and his music friends and colleagues — not only because he was a unique musician, intelligent, talented, and thoughtful, but because of his heart, that stood out the most. Our Providence, RI, music community has lost a dear friend, and we will miss him deeply. I am glad and feel thankful to have known and worked with him over the years, and feel very sorry for MorganEve, and those family and friends of Dave’s who have come from afar who are grieving this tragic loss. May the hugs we gave each other today in that room of mourning, hugs so tight that you felt like it was the last one you might ever get, spread out all over the world, and find you today.

_Jeff Prystowsky of the Low Anthem


‘Embrace the darkness to appreciate the light’

What set Dave apart for me was his character. Few (especially what I consider to be “successful”) musicians have exhibited the sort of humility, grace, and down-to-earth quality that Dave possessed. He was always warm and gracious any time you had the chance to chat with him and he never made you feel like you weren’t good enough or important enough to be on the same unmatched level that he certainly was on. What he and MorganEve accomplished artistically and what they had together was a rare thing. They were quickly placed among the (exciting, especially at the time) folk crowd when I was first aware of them and they did it with sincerity, conviction, and authenticity that is, today, often lost amidst that particular style. They broke those boundaries and continually redefined what they were doing and challenged us all as listeners or as fellow artists with their daringly refined unpredictability.

Recently, I read an interview with Dave where he discussed the importance of balance between light and dark and how too often the negative and darkness is ignored in some naïve attempt to maintain positivity and joy in the wake of such horrors. He discussed how, essentially, it’s important to embrace the darkness to appreciate the light. I believe in the wake of this terrible sadness that there is light and beauty to be taken from it; that there is hope that we fellow artists, wanderers, gypsies, and rogues can continue on with a renewed sense of vigor and purpose to fulfill whatever destiny that was perhaps lost before and now regained. Keep making art and cherish the ones you love.

_Keith J.G. McCurdy of Vudu Sister


‘Dave brought many people joy’

The first time I saw Dave perform was at a house concert at a hippie house in New England. His performance left me beautifully enticed. I was very nervous then, and remember how open and wonderful he was towards me. I saw him play in many iterations of the band over the years, but when he began playing with MorganEve, there was a special untouchable magic between them that translated to everyone. Dave brought many people joy through his big bearded smiling face and his beautiful music. His life was much too short, but it was full of gifts to the world. He will be lovingly remembered.

_Jocie Adams of Arc Iris


‘There is no mistaking people with pure hearts’

I grew up in Warren and, aside from an apartment or two during my college years, I have lived there my entire life. When people relocate to Warren, there is a community there that will welcome you with open arms. The people here are trusting, helpful, eccentric, and my best friends in the world live here. Dave and MorganEve have been part of this community for awhile and honestly, they will always be. There is no mistaking people with pure hearts and Dave obviously had one.

The ramshackle print/recording studio that we set up on the ground floor of the “Fort Foreclosure” house Brown Bird has called home for the past few years on Water Street is where my friends and I spend most of our time. Homeowner Will Schaff and I are among the lucky few who got to listen to Brown Bird practice over the past two years, just by simply opening a window or a door.

But 99 percent of the time when I saw Brown Bird, they were between tours, “civilians” walking back from the Warren corner store, carrying their food in grocery bags. They were, simply put, the cool, sweet neighbors on the third floor with their amazing dog Zed. Dave and MorganEve will always be part of our Warren family and community, and I will always be thankful that I was lucky enough to share my circle of friends with Dave.

_Mark MacDougall, owner of 75orLess Records and member of Six Star General


‘A brain like buddha’

I first met Dave at a gig we played with them and was really struck by his incredible songwriting. By the second gig we played with them I was more excited to watch them than to actually play. That was before they really blew up. One of the last times I saw Dave was at a show Brown Bird did at the Met. Towards the end of the show, Dave’s guitar crapped out and I watched in amazement as his feet kept the drumbeat going, his voice kept the melody, and his hands immediately switched from those of a musician to those of an electrician as he started tinkering with the electronics in the guitar, and the song didn’t miss a beat. After the show I approached him and told him he has a brain like Buddha, in that he could use so many parts of it at once, to which he chuckled and immediately set about discussing what he thought was wrong with the guitar. We weren’t close friends but we chatted for a bit like we were. That was such a definition of his character. An incredibly gifted human being with the most humble of natures. An incredible songwriter who left the world richer with his work.

Ian Lacombe of Route .44 and Consuelo’s Revenge

‘David was inspiring’

Years ago, when it was suggested to me that I consider David and MorganEve for my empty apartment, I was glad to have two musicians in the house. I was unaware then just how lucky I would be to have these two musicians in the house. David was inspiring. When not on the road, he would be practicing all day. Never taking for granted the blessing it is to be able to create for a living. I would be in my studio, all day, and I would hear the sound of David, working out some intricate guitar line, in combination with the amazing foot work he would do with the percussion pedals. I would hear him, and it reminded me to keep my nose to the grindstone, too.

The sound of David playing, and Brown Bird practicing could so often be heard wafting down Water Street. The absence of those sounds this past week or so punctuates the absence of the man.

I don’t believe it is any coincidence that people use the word “struggle,” or “fight,” when referring to the part of life that illness sticks its head into. To me, life is a war. My art has always been my bullets in my efforts towards the good. With David’s passing, I feel I have lost a brother in arms in this fight to bring art and beauty in the world. Our home has lost a champion in our struggle. The war is not over, and it has just become harder to fight. I will carry on trying to keep in my mind and heart that which I learned from David. To listen, to be patient, to be steadfast and true to the mission. To do what we do with love, and dedication. To not give up.

David was my better. He will be sorely, sorely missed.

_Artist William Schaff

‘A heartbreaking loss’

The city of Providence, and music in general, suffered a heartbreaking loss. Dave Lamb is a fella I met first as a fan, and briefly worked with for what now seems like far too little time. In our limited interaction he was a sincere and immediately comfortable guy to know. As a musician he was an immense talent. He left a lifetime’s worth of soulful music behind, and he will be sorely missed.

_Rapper/activist B. Dolan


‘Strength and will’

Last year when news broke about Dave being diagnosed with leukemia I was immediately shocked. Moments later I was contacted to help with one of many benefits for Dave that took place in Providence last year and I helped put one together at Dusk in May that raised $1000 for his medical costs and care. The support for MorganEve and Dave throughout this ordeal has been uplifting, it shows how much we can do as humans when good people are in need of help. My favorite memory of Dave has to be at the Met around six months ago, I went there to see a metal band from Savannah, GA called Baroness. I’m sitting at one of the benches outside and then I see this shadowy figure all dressed in black. Ten seconds later I recognize MorganEve beside him and I immediately realized it was Dave. He looked at me with a smile and I gave him a huge hug. We then talked about things and it was so great to see him in such high spirits while having a night out with his wife. It’s sad to know that he’s gone but his strength and will throughout his battle with leukemia shouldn’t go unrecognized. My condolences to MorganEve and all of Dave’s loved ones. The world lost one more good soul way too soon.

Journalist Rob Duguay


‘An indescribable aura’

Dave Lamb was unlike any other person I’ve ever known. He had an indescribable aura about him: a magnetic warmth, a gentle and zen-like calm, an empathetic sensitivity, like he genuinely understood and cared for every person he came across and a selfless strength like he was willing to hold the weight of the world on his shoulders. And that’s not to mention an incredible sense of humor and one of the best goddamn smiles on the planet.

I have so many wonderful memories of Dave: the first time I heard Brown Bird, running their sound on a yacht for surely the strangest party any of us had ever been to, he and MorganEve embarrassing me with a birthday song in front of a sold-out crowd at the Iron Horse, watching thousands of people hang on his every word at the Newport Folk Festival, sharing a late night glass of rye at his home in Warren....

These memories of Dave will stay with me for a lifetime. I am incredibly lucky to have known him.

_Peter McLaughlin, of the Milkman's Union and Pretty Purgatory Records


‘My life was made better by knowing him’

Dave was so kind and generous, accepting of everyone and bringing out the best in people. I first met him in 2006 when he played live on my radio show at 6 in the morning on a Tuesday, alongside Jeremy and Jerusha Robinson. That performance made me completely fall in love with making radio, which I’ve been doing ever since, and it also inspired me to make music.

We became friends straightaway. I went to loft shows at his place near South Station in Boston, booked them shows around town, and saw them play all kinds of places...from my basement in Allston to an unheated, candle-lit church in the dead of winter in Somerville. The crowds numbered just barely over the double-digits at that time, yet Brown Bird completely filled each space with their lovely sound and truly touched the hearts of their audiences. Like magic.

Dave also introduced me to one of my best friends, Elizabeth Butters, whom he accompanied on murder ballads and old folk songs, and I went to all their shows as well.

It was such a pleasure to drive to shows in Dave’s old car, listening to amazing music by all the bands he had befriended across the country. He always had recommendations of new bands to play on my show and introduced me to many great and talented people, and I loved hearing his stories of working on boats and living on Star Island, and hanging out with Mandy.

The last time I saw Dave, he came to a puppet show that I was working on, based on the music of Moondog. This was years after my radio show had ended. It means so much to me that he went out of his way to support something I was doing. Again, so generous.

I just found recordings of the two of us playing music together that I hadn’t heard in years, and I’m so grateful. One last beautiful song to remember him by. My life was made better by knowing him. He was a friend indeed.

Thank you, Dave, for everything.

_Radio producer Carly Nix


‘A palpable sense of soul’

I first saw Brown Bird at the Avon in Providence and was blown away. Soon after I had the pleasure of meeting and sharing the stage with them at the pasta sauce factory in Central Falls — such an incredible band. Lovely and welcoming people, a palpable sense of soul that is hard to find. Rest easy, Dave. Love to MorganEve Swain and their loved ones.

_Roz Raskin of the Rice Cakes

Our friendship will last forever’

[On Tuesday, April 8] I had the honor of speaking at a memorial for my dearly departed friend David Lamb. Following the ceremony his father Roger Lamb asked if I would mind making my memories available for everyone. I do not mind at all:

I was driving down Wickenden Street in Providence when I first heard Dave Lamb’s voice. It was August 2007. He was being interviewed on a Boston radio station to promote a show Brown Bird was playing that weekend at PA’s Lounge in Somerville, MA. At the end of the interview, the band played a live-in-the-studio version of a song they’d yet to record. It was called “Wrong Black Mare” and it hit me like a freight train. I had an overwhelming feeling from that one song that this was a man that I had to get to know. This song achieved everything that I had been after for a few years now. It was haunting and completely timeless. It told a brand new story that would have fit neatly anywhere in The Anthology of American Folk Music.

Needless to say, I made my way to PA’s Lounge a few days later and saw Brown Bird for the first time. I saw Dave leading a small, strange trio replete with banjo and cello and I knew I’d struck gold. I introduced myself after the show and told him I would be in touch. Three months later our bands shared a bill for the first time in the very same club where we met.

Our friendship grew over the next year and, by the summer of 2008, we were planning our first week-long northeast tour. It was going to be just me and Dave, each playing solo ... until ...

He called me about a week before the first show to tell me that he’d met a fiddler a few days before. That fiddler was a lady. And would there be room in my truck to bring this lady fiddler along?

He told me her name was MorganEve. I said, “That’s odd. I’ve played several shows with a lady fiddler from the East Coast named MorganEve. Do you think it could be the same girl?”

It wasn’t an hour into the first drive that I realized they were already falling in love. They were trying to be professional. They were trying to hide it. But their love was quick and it was great.

As odd as it was to be this third wheel, I am forever grateful that I had this bird’s eye view of these two, so truly meant to be, getting to know each other and, day by day, completing one another.

Over the past six years, Dave and MorganEve have become two of my closest friends and greatest supporters. We’ve all travelled the country widely, separately and together, slowly figuring out exactly who it is we are. We’ve celebrated each other’s successes as though they were our own and we’ve helped open doors for one another wherever possible.

Shortly after our last tour together early last year, Dave got sick. As sad and frightened as I was, it was always Dave who put me at ease. He never seemed to ask why. He just marched directly towards the next challenge. When he had the strength he was writing and singing and playing and planning to record the next Brown Bird album. I have never known an artist that showed Dave’s work ethic under any circumstance.

Most recently, we’d been emailing our latest recordings back and forth to one another. Dave’s new songs are deep and rich and tackle his last year with an insight and poetry and perspective that I believe only a true artistic genius could achieve.

I do believe we’ve been cheated. Cheated out of watching what this man was capable of creating over the next fifty years or so. I’ve been cheated out of growing old with that rare friend who with one glance can let you know that he feels your pain or your triumph as thoroughly as you do.

But as so many of us are, I am trying to focus on how incredibly lucky I am to have crossed Dave Lamb’s path when I did. To have gotten to know him as well as I did. To have seen so much of the country with him. And to meet all the incredible people he attracted over the course of his life so well lived.

Just this week I met so much of his extended family from the various lives he lived over the past 36 years. I’d like to thank both the Lamb and Swain families for allowing me to stand beside them and cry and comfort each other through what has been a most unthinkable week.

Long before Dave got sick, he became not only a friend but a role model. An example of how to live with integrity, grace, hard work, and good humor through an often puzzling existence.

He touched me so deeply that I know in my heart that our friendship will last forever. He will continue to make me laugh, give me advice, and push me through the difficult days.

Thank you, David Lamb, for taking the time to show me what a true friend could be. You have long been and will forever remain in the very best part of my heart. I love you dearly, brother.

_Joe Fletcher

He treated everyone with love and respect, every time’

Dave had the most beautiful, open voice. I’ll always remember him from his early days on the road following his craft humbly and gracefully. Quiet but loud. Simple and focused. Low Anthem was lucky enough to tour with Brown Bird a bunch over the last six years. He was always the same. He treated everyone with love and respect, every time. More than anything, I will miss his raw, honest voice.

_Ben Knox Miller of the Low Anthem

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