MUSIC REVIEW: Rich crop of roots from the ‘Garden Spot’ of USA

US roots and bluegrass band The Stray Birds and the cover of their third album, Magic Fire, with artwork by vocalist, guitarist, fiddle and banjo player Maya de Vitry.

Magic Fire, The Stray Birds, Yep Roc Records, Out Now

When “Whispering” Bob Harris of The Old Grey Whistle Test fame says a band is close to beeing “elevated into a kind of folk” bluegrass superstardom, take note.

The Stray Birds, Maya de Vitry, Oliver Craven, Charles Muench and Dominic Billett, were the latest in a goldmine of “Americana” music to visit South Holland Centre, Spalding, a month ago.

But like Front Country, The Railsplitters and Hillfolk Noir before them, The Stray Birds have left their calling card behind with the stunning Magic Fire.

Apart from the fact that the striking album cover features artwork by Maya de Vitry herself, the album’s 12 tracks include just three that can be classed as bluegrass-sounding.

Speaking about the album, Maya said: “We started out as a trio of people who all grew up together in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and had known each other for a very long time.

This collection of songs honours what connects us as humans and I feel like part of what we do as musicians is to rewire our connections to each other

Maya de Vitry, The Stray Birds

“This collection of songs honours what connects us as humans and I feel like part of what we do as musicians is to rewire our connections to each other, as well as perhaps our connections to our collective memory or dream.”

Alongside Sabrina, Fossil and Mississippi Pearl are tracks that veer between blues, soul, gospel and jazz.

From Shining in the Distance to the anthemic When I Die, with Where You Come From, Hands of Man and Sunday Morning in-between, Magic Fire is a “towering inferno” of American music at its very best.

The Stray Birds hail from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, known as the “Garden Spot of America”, and Magic Fire comes up smelling of a bed filled with red roses.

Review by Winston Brown

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