Back in the days when Borders books store's late evening hours were still relatively dead, and I had time to hang around for hours, I would monopolize a set of headphones in their music section and listen to as many featured artists as possible. This was long before you could scan any barcode in the CD section and listen to a sample. Only those albums featured on the top display row of the wooden cabinets got play time.
I had a very late exposure to musicians and bands. Though I could easily pick up lyrics of any song I'd heard two or three times, I could never tell you who sang it or from whence it came. Most of the CDs I owned were given to me by well intentioned neighbors, one actually, and a music obsessed father. All this changed when I got to college. Perhaps as a way to be out of the dorm, I spent massive amounts of time at books stores and local restaurants, which eventually lead me to Andrew Bird. Although, I am sure that the Borders recommended listening list was a sponsored by money paying industries, it was here that I found The Swimming Hour album by Andrew Bird's bowl of Fire.
Now, the tricky part about listening to a recommended CD on those headphones at Borders is not getting so bored with the beginning of the song or album that you miss the good bits. This is where "Two Way Action," the first song on the album, won my heart. It is the perfect driving song--as that is what I did the most while listening to it in the subsequent months and years after I bought the CD (and now that it has just popped up through the earphones of my mp3 player--I remember, it also speaks of driving--how funny). Not to knock songs that have a slow and easy beginning, but "Two Way Action" draws you in fast from the very beginning guitar notes.
The violin, by the way, is the instrument that Andrew Bird is most associated with. It is not the only instrument he plays however. His experimentation with instruments, voice, whistling and various musical influences is what keeps me buying his albums, many since the first. They are all interesting in their own right, completely different than the last, without straying too much from what his fans have come to know and love.
If you ascribe to the solidity of Wikipedia, then you will see that Andrew Bird has appeared as a guest musician on many other albums besides his own. Quite a few of these albums belong to the Squirrel Nut Zippers, which may be the reason I believed he had originally been part of the band and had broken off. I have been corrected since.
You can sample some of his newest songs and work solo of his Bowl of Fire companions on his web site and on Myspace.