Album Review: The Stray Birds – Best Medicine

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Three strays make up The Stray Birds –  Maya de Vitry, Oliver Craven, and Charles Muench – all are classically-trained, multi-instrumentalists, and it’s these unique skills that  come to the fore to very pleasing effect on Best Medicine, released 21st October, on Yep Roc Records.

Best Medicine is The Stray Bird’s second full-length album as they effortlessly and easily blend old-timey bluegrass with modern flavours. This long-player is seamless, even with several switches on lead vocals.

BBC Radio 2’s Bob Harris is quoted as saying : “ ..we’ll see them elevated into a kind of folk/bluegrass super-stardom”. Harris has this right. Credit also goes to  Loudon Temple for “bloody great PR”!

So, The Stray Birds are getting noticed and receiving very good notices, and my record review is another on that upward curve. The title track, Best Medicine, is a superbly structured, and one really can’t knock the clever Beatles & Stones references.  Maya sings so brilliantly on this opener, as she continues to do on, Adelaide, which is light twang and country spin.

The next two cuts,  Feathers & Bone and San Antonio, are full of some serious heartache. The Bells ring out on song five, in a cotton-pickin’ style, and, half-way is reached, with the blue mood of, Never For Nothing.

Pallet has a bale of Cowtown groove, and Stolen Love is a superstar of a song. Who’s Gonna Shoe is a lazy lament, Black Hills is pure southern comfort. The last compositions two are both melancholy, Simple Man and Might Rain.

Best Medicine is definitely a cue point for the band. For me, Best Medicine, Stolen Love and Black Hills would all make great single releases. That said, the album sits well in its entirety.

Mark Watkins