This fifth album from Lancaster, Pennsylvania’s Stray Birds is aptly titled Magic Fire – it has that certain something special about it. From the moment the opening notes hit your ear, you know this band hit the golden “thing” – the un-defineable quality/timing/vibe that artists can never accurately describe – you only know that they offered a piece of themselves that will now be part of you onward. The warming combination of heavenly vocal harmonies, soulful melodies and pure American instrumentation makes this album an instant play-on-repeat for me.
Starting with the gospel-like “Shining In The Distance” and the gorgeous vocals, you can’t help but feel uplifted; “Third Day In A Row” is a child-of-Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, with the arrangement and occasional 12-string Ric-sounding punctuations; “Sabrina” is a dynamic hoedown with a tasty, propulsive acoustic guitar riff running through the verses and “Radio” has that very ’70’s (what else?) radio-friendly feel – that summery, laid-back kind of Southern/gentle California sound that permeated the airwaves as you drove through the heat. “Hands Of Man” is just pure country with its opening fiddle coda and the cycle of lead vocals, supplemented by those stellar harmonies; “Sunday Morning” is a honkytonk, good-time track; sunny and upbeat, “Mississippi Pearl” is a lush, guitarwash filled with yearning lyrics (“shining like a Mississippi pearl, hanging on the edge of the world…”) and “All The News” takes you back to those early ’60’s-styled country tracks with a shuffle and organ fills.
Twelve tracks, all strong, solid and full of heart and feel. The Stray Birds, as I’ve said, hit something so right with this record. You could say it’s corny, but damn it, it is magic and melodic and an absolute must.
Magic Fire will be released on Friday, August 19th, 2016