The roots trio have brought in a producer, bolstered their sound and come up with another album of serious quality
Ever since witnessing their blistering set at the 2015 Cambridge Folk Festival we’ve been keenly anticipating new material from the roots-fuelled trio. Happily, that moment has arrived with the release of Magic Fire the new album from the Lancaster, Pennsylvania band. Having decided to recruit a producer for the first time, Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Willie Nelson) has taken the helm and steered the band towards a fuller sound, complete with added musicians.
This new approach is apparent from the opening pair of tracks, the gospel-tinged Shining In The Distance and country pop stylings of Third Day In A Row. Of course the harmonies and musical interplay remain and when they revert to their more traditional sound you can’t help but smile. Sabrina is a joyfully frenetic fiddle-led ode to Yuengling, Hands Of Man comes closest to their beloved Best Medicine and Sunday Morning carries on the group’s call to arms manifesto.
Maya de Vitry’s wholesome vocals continue to shine, bringing a dusky charm to both Radio and Fossil. Still, it’s when she unites with Charles Muench and Oliver Craven that the full extent of their powers can be heard. Their sound may have been beefed up but it’s this core which continues to ensure that The Stray Birds remain a unique proposition. Rather than re-treading old ground, Magic Fire is an impressive progression.
Verdict: Accomplished modern roots music