The Stray Birds “Magic Fire” (Yep Roc, 2016)

Thursday, 28 July 2016
Jeremy Searle

The Stray Birds “Magic Fire”

Yep Roc, 2016

  • Outstanding third album from one of the best bands out there

How do you follow two outstanding albums with something that isn’t just a remake or retread but is as good or better? If you’re The Stray Birds, you disappear off to the woods, recruit Larry Campbell as producer and you take the bold path, the road less travelled. And as is so often the case, the bold decision is rewarded.

The band’s sound has beefed up and become more powerful and sophisticated as they have explored the possibilities of more instruments and players. The outstanding harmonies are all present and correct, as is their gift for a melody, a chorus and lyrics that actually mean something and touch both the brain and the heart. What all that means is that the Stray Birds have retained everything about their music that was great but added more to make it even greater. That may sound like hyperbole but it’s completely accurate. The album is bookended by two mighty gospel-influenced songs, ”Shining In The Distance” and “When I Die””. Between these comes the wild “Sabrina”, a song that if it doesn’t make you dance then you’re missing a pulse, the heartbreakingly beautiful “Fossil”, the epic “Mississippi Pearl” and seven more just as good. Writing duties are shared, instruments are swapped, the new percussionist adds a rock steady beat and the result is music that will make you dance, sing or anything. “Magic Fire” is the sound of a band at the absolute top of their game, confident in their abilities, taking their music to ever higher planes and themselves to the very top of the Americana tree.

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