The Stray Birds purvey the sound of well worn Americana, a little tattered around the edges but brimming with the kind of roots relevance that only the best bands aspire to. Four albums in, they stand their best chance yet at achieving wider recognition, if only for the fact that the songs are punchier, the arrangements more compelling and the execution is as close to exacting as a band of their limited pedigree is likely to achieve. Producer Larry Campbell is no doubt responsible for some of this cohesiveness, manifest in a rich and vibrant sound that underpins such songs as “Third Day in a Row,” “Sabrina,” “When I Die”” and “Where You Come From” with a feeling of absolute infatuation. These are songs that grab hold instantly, ensuring a connection that simply won’t let go.
At other times, the band settle into cozy backwoods balladry, the kind that conjures up images of sepia-tinted surroundings, hazy sunsets and patchwork quilts nestled together on a wintry afternoon. “Fossil,” “Mississippi Pearl” and “Shining in the Distance” are the best of the bunch, but they aren’t the only songs here that are worthy of discovery. Not by a long shot. Indeed, when the band traipse back to their down home designs with offerings like the rambling “Hands of Man” or the pedal steel stoked “Somehow” the band’s desire for roots relevance is never more apparent.
Clearly then, Magic Fire is well positioned to build on the success of their previous effort, 2014’s Best Medicine. After raking in all kinds of kudos, it’s the kind of album that will assure admirers those early efforts weren’t some sort of fluke. Hints of Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band, the Flying Burritos and even the early Eagles seep into these grooves. It’s sheer effervescence that makes Magic Fire a singular sensation, one destined to make the Stray Birds the break out band of the year.