Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Stray Birds

The Stray Birds
We have four new CDs to review and all will receive their share of attention over the next week or so. First up is the debut album of The Stray Birds, a trio from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

The genre is American folk - strong on the storytelling aspect - and the personnel are:

Maya de Vitry - vocals, guitar, fiddle, banjo.
Oliver Craven - vocals, guitar, fiddle.
Charles Muench - vocals, bass, banjo.

 Track List

1. Dream in Blue
2. 25 to Life
3. Railroad Man
4. Heavy Hands
5. No Part of Nothin'
6. Wildflower Honey
7. My Brother's Hill
8. Give That Wildman a Knife/
Bellows Falls/
Waitin' on a Hannah
9. Harlem
10. Just Sayin'
11. Wind and Rain

Maya and Oliver share the songwriting credits with a 50/50 split; five songs each and an additional joint effort on (the instrumental) track 8.

The opening track, Dream in Blue, showcases the groups strengths right from the start. The steady banjo, the delightful lead vocals of Maya de Vitry and the gradual introduction of the bass and fiddle send an ostensibly simple song soaring. Already we hear the three-way vocal harmonies which will be a noteworthy feature across the album.

Oliver Craven takes over as lead vocalist on the next track, 25 to Life, a musical story about a life gone off the rails. In fact the first two songs set the pattern, with Maya and Oliver switching vocals depending on who wrote the song in question (they each sing their own compositions). The multi-titled track 8 shows a different side to the group. Devoid of lyrics, the instruments are left to do the singing and they are more than up to the task. Wind and Rain brings this fine album to a close with the pick of the bunch from the selection of wistful songs. Musically, this track simply features a single acoustic guitar but the three-way harmony vocals provide admirable depth and texture.

This is clearly a very strong debut album for The Stray Birds and we doubtless be hearing a lot more from them in future.

Stand out tracks: Dream in Blue, Give That Wildman a Knife/Bellows Falls/Waitin' on a Hannah, Wind and Rain.

For further details, head for the official Stray Birds website.

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