I’m embarrassed. How did an album like Magic Fire slip through right under my nose (it came out in August of last year). Sure the Stray Birds are obscure but they’re one of my favorite bands. I didn’t even know they’d made a brilliant new album expanding their sound in all directions. So my only excuse is that I haven’t been able to listen to much new music these days. I screwed up.
From the first time that I heard their catchy folk-rock drums of their single “Third Day in a Row,” the drums just added that perfect final touch. The tight harmonies, expert musicianship, and literate lyrics had expanded. I thought I was a purist, loyal to their bluegrass/country aesthetic. I was wrong they were right.
Not only is Oliver Craven’s tune super catchy, the video captures such a summery coming of age narrative. Three children grow from childhood, to adolescence, and finally there’s the three band members. It’s a music video montage about growing up. And like that I was hooked again.
If that was the only song, it’d be nice but the Stray Birds weren’t done exploring the effect of drums. Maya de Vitry’s Sabrina is a catchy fiddle rocker. It tells the story of Christina, the one left behind, while Sabrina is there with a beer. Such a fun tune, backed by that fuller rhythm section and honey harmonies.
Bassist Charlie Muench even gets into the act with “Where You Come From.” Its got an infectious beat and, dare-I-say-it, an electric guitar. It’s catchy, fun, and expands the band’s sound while retaining their signature sound.
“Shining in the Distance” and “Hands of Man” are both standouts. They’re catchy and have a new groove that wasn’t possible without the addition of percussion.
Overall, the record is a leap forward and perhaps their best yet. They’ve pushed past any rules and limitations and the sky is the limit on their future.
About the author: Jeff is a teacher in the Boston area. When not buried correcting papers, Jeff can be found plucking various stringed instruments and listening to all types of americana music.