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Stray BirdsHEAR IT FIRST: The Stray Birds ~ The Stray Birds

by Kim Ruehl, for

Folk music can be a tricky thing sometimes. There’s a temptation, as an instrumentalist who knows and loves the way their instrument sounds, to follow any fluid emotion through an overreaching solo. When your bow draws against the fiddle strings in such a way that they positively sing, you can run away with it if you’re not careful.

So, there’s a lot to be said for the art of restraint. This is true of any style of music, but particularly in folk music – where the strings sing on their own and the songs are, as a general rule, more sparsely arranged.

A few contemporary artists keep it checked – most famously Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, who have committed themselves to whatever they’re capable of doing with two voices and two guitars. Within those confines, they’ve crafted a career of extraordinary musicianship which few others have managed to match.

The Be Good Tanyas have nailed it across their three albums. Last year, the Milk Carton Kids burst on the scene with their similar approach to duo songwriting, swapping vocal leads and accompanying each other only on harmony vocals and guitar. They’ve displayed a new expertise for delivering exquisite music using only the tools available to their hands and voices.

Now, here come the Stray Birds – a trio based in Pennsylvania with a traditional folk lineup (three voices, banjo, bass, and fiddle) whose only diversions see them picking up a guitar or adding a second fiddle. The songs on their new self-titled album are remarkably stripped-down, written by the two lead vocalists, Maya de Vitry fiddler Oliver Craven. Even the backing vocals are delivered with artful restraint – an “ooh” here, an “ah” there.

Lyrically, they’re songs are about love (“Just Sayin’”) and fear and making bad decisions (“25 to Life”) – all the things folk songs are there to do. They trot and waltz and swing (“No Part of Nothin”) and take an original path to pay homage to the Celtic roots of many folk instrumentals (“Give That Wildman a Knife/Bellows Falls/Waitin’ on a Hannah”).

*Click HERE to visit The Stray Birds website and order the album!*


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OH! A ps - Just learned from another post you'll be appearing at Saranac Lake in October. Now I know I'll just have to be there!

Posted by Andrew on July 25, 2012

Very tasteful. Definitely folk, but with a strong hint of bluegrass. Really nice vocals, esp. from your female lead.

Posted by Andrew on July 25, 2012

Msg to Dave Pegg: Cropredy 2013??

Posted by Kev on July 23, 2012

I just posted a FB update with a link to this great album preview. I clicked on the Folk Alley ref and enjoyed the heck out of it while reading >100 e-mails. Gotta have it! Thanks, Folk Alley!!! (and just now realized I could have done it thru your FB link ... oh, well...)

Posted by "Dr. Bob" on July 21, 2012

Thank you Folk Alley for a sneak preview of this wonderful new CD. The Stray Birds are awesome! Looking forward to the arrival of the CD and to their next concert in my area.

Posted by Gail Watts on July 21, 2012

Nothing like competence, A minimalistic approach with great voice, harmony and musicianship. I think they call that good music. Well done!!!!!

Posted by David McElroy on July 21, 2012

nice! very nice! very very nice! i like 'em a lot; big fan of The Be Good Tanyas so it follows i'm gonna like Stray Birds just nicely! ;)* thanx for the stream!

Posted by moondingo on July 20, 2012

Thanks FolkAlley, another great preview, and another CD added to my collection

Posted by Kevin on July 20, 2012

Can I just say...thank you...what a pleasent surprise to hear good vibes from the souls of angels.. :)...

Posted by Michael Woodknott on July 20, 2012

I'm just sorry that "Birds of the Borderline" isn't on this cd. I can't imagine why they left it out. It's such a beautiful song.

Posted by Diane on July 19, 2012

What a wonderful debut album!

Posted by Carl on July 19, 2012

These guys are fantastic! Amazing cd.

Posted by Amy on July 19, 2012

Great music! Looking forward to seeing The Stray Birds in Saranac Lake this October!

Posted by Jeff on July 19, 2012

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