The Stray Birds
Mountain Music just got interesting
As I receive so many CD’s through the post these days it’s becoming increasingly difficult to choose which to play first. Regardless of the ‘download generation’ being in the ascendancy, a good cover and packaging will not only catch a reviewer’s attention but the casual buyer at concerts and festivals too. With that in mind the cover for the Stray Birds debut album is excellent and would have drawn my gaze to it in a record shop instantly.
The album opens with some neat banjo picking on Dream in Blue, followed by Maya de Vitry’s sultry Southern tones and I was hooked like big fat Catfish.
There are only three members of The Stray Birds, Maya de Vitry and Oliver Craven on guitars, fiddles and vocals with Charles Muench on bass, and their fully rounded sound is so authentic I swear I could hear the frogs and crickets in the background.
The songwriting throughout the album is never short of attention grabbing and often understated and, if you heard Heavy Hands on a Willie Nelson album you’d think it was the best song he’d written and recorded in years; so imagine what it sounds like coming from a young trio from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
Music appeals to people in many different ways and I certainly can’t explain why I prefer one band or singer to another; but with the Stray Birds I think I’ve discovered a rare gem in a very crowded market, with both singers having wonderful voices and their overall musicianship is second to none; but it’s definitely the songs you’ll remember.
No Part of Nothin’ is about hard living going wrong, with references to drinking, gambling, getting high and waking up in the infirmary making this is as Country as Country gets, but still managing to stick to a Bluegrass template. Perhaps they have invented Outlaw-Bluegrass, and I loved it.
Just Sayin’ features some red hot fiddle playing from Maya as Oliver flirts with a woman that is playing hard to get in a dancehall; and if I’m any judge it will be a cornerstone of every gig that the band play.
The album finishes with Maya singing Wind & Rain and; and yet again I can imagine the song sung by any one of ten famous Country women; but none will ‘sell the song’ the way this young lady does; as Craven harmonizes like a latter day Gram Parsons.
That’s not all by a long chalk, as there is another song; 25 to Life to be exact that will certainly finish the year in my Top Ten songs list. In the finest traditions of Country Music Oliver Craven tells the story of a young man who leaves home at 17 and joins some no good friends who teach him how to rob. He then acquires his first 12 Gauge and half a dozen shells and the chorus of ‘there ain’t no romance in 25 to life’ tells it’s own tale, as does the way he repeats ‘lone shotgun shell’ as if he’s re-living the moment over and over again in his head. A very well constructed and delivered song that has had me returning to it many times in the last couple of weeks.
There you have it; THE STRAY BIRDS by the Stray Birds; is one of the best albums I’ve heard in years from a band destined for Global success.