The Stray Birds experienced several firsts while recording their new album, Magic Fire, set to be released August 19 on Yep Roc. It was their first project with an outside producer, their first recording with venerable guest musicians, and first truly collaborative songwriting effort. It’s also an album of mosts: the most exciting and engaging music they’ve ever composed paired with their most outspoken and insightful lyrics yet. Another first for the album: NPR premiered the first single from the album, “Shining In The Distance.”
When it came time to record Magic Fire, The Stray Birds knew they were ready to take an ambitious step. They retreated to Milan Hill, New York, a small town outside of Woodstock in the Hudson River Valley, and teamed up with three-time GRAMMY® Award-winning producer Larry Campbell (best known for his work with luminaries like Bob Dylan, Levon Helm, Paul Simon, and Willie Nelson) and his preferred engineer, Justin Guip (another three-time GRAMMY® Award-winner who worked with the late Helm), and the group spent ten days together exploring and creating the music that would become Magic Fire.
Magic Fire demonstrates the group’s remarkable growth as songwriters and performers, with countless nights on the road across the US and Europe sharpening their senses and honing their keen understanding of each other’s strengths. “Third Day In A Row” is a laid-back slice of infectious Americana that showcases the band’s rich harmonies; while “Hands Of Man” is a dark, Appalachian-influenced tune completed during the recording sessions in Milan Hill. “Where You Come From” marks Charles Muench’s first complete songwriting contribution to an album, while “Shining In The Distance” is a collaboration with fellow songwriter Lindsay Lou that grew out of Maya and Oliver’s move to Nashville, and “When I Die” features a verse written by new collaborator Shane Leonard (live versions of the song include a variety of additional verses contributed by peers and tour-mates like Mandolin Orange, Miss Tess, Jordie Lane, and Cahalen Morrison & Eli West).
The album marks a new, more open approach to writing, but the songs are as focused and incisive as ever. “All The News” is a reminder of just how lucky so many of us are to live in relative comfort and safety, while the groovy “Sunday Morning” is a call to action, as Craven sings, “You can shout for change and worry about the state of the world / But it’s gonna take a little more than praying on a Sunday morning.”
Magic Fire builds on the success of The Stray Birds’ 2014 Yep Roc debut, Best Medicine, which was hailed by NPR’s World Café for its “strong harmonies and sharp songwriting” and debuted at #2 on the Billboard Bluegrass chart. Guitar World praised their “heartfelt creativity,” while the Philadelphia City Paper called the band “stunning,” and Mountain Stage applauded their singular ability to “successfully draw on the rich traditions of American folk music while still sounding modern.” It was that unique formula that first brought them national attention and fueled their breakout in 2012, when their self-titled/self-released debut landed amongst NPR’s Top Ten Folk/Americana Albums of the Year and earned them major festival performances everywhere from MerleFest to Scotland’s Celtic Connections.
The band will tour extensively in support of the new album. Catch them at some of the summer’s best festivals, including New Bedford Folk Festival, Mendocino Music Festival, Philadelphia Folk Fest, and Porcupine Mountains Music Festival. Additionally, the band will spend October touring the UK, bringing the new record to fans across the pond. Click here for a complete tour schedule.
Digital and physical copies are available for preorder from Yep Roc on CD/LP and Digitally.
Shining in the Distance
Third Day in a Row
Where You Come From
Hands of Man
All The News
When I Die
June 11 – Miles of Music Camp – Meredith, NH
June 18 – The Word Barn – Exeter, NH*
June 19 – Iron Horse Music Hall – Northampton, MA*
June 21 – Jalopy – Brooklyn, NY*
June 22 – Daryl’s House – Pawling, NY*
June 23 – Ardmore Music Hall – Ardmore, PA*
June 24 – The Abbey Bar – Harrisburg, PA*
July 9, 10 – New Bedford Folk Festival – New Bedford, MA
July 11 – Club Passim (2 shows) – Cambridge, MA
July 13 – Mendocino Music Festival – Mendocino, CA
July 15, 16, 17 – Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival – Oak Hill, NY
July 27 – The Evening Muse – Charlotte, NC
July 28 – Back Porch Music Concert Series – Durham, NC
July 29 – Capital Ale House – Richmond, VA
July 30 – Susie’s Cause Bluegrass-Folk Festival – Cockeysville, MD
August 19, 20, 21 – Philadelphia Folk Festival – Schwenksville, PA
August 23 – The Southern – Charlottesville, VA
August 24 – Jammin’ Java – Vienna, VA
August 27 – Porcupine Mountains Music Festival – Ontonagon, MI
August 30 – SPACE – Evanston, IL
August 31 – Beachland Ballroom – Cleveland, OH
* w/ Evie Ladin Band