The guys from the town’s Fish Records promoted this show which was held in The Met Studio setting of the Gatehouse Theatre and formed part of their ongoing plan to bring quality folk music to the Staffordshire area. Of course booking The Stray Birds meant attracting folks from further afield and anybody who made the journey could have little regret in investing their valuable leisure time for such accomplished music. Following an entertaining set from local blues influenced singer-songwriter Pistol Pete Wearn, who mixed self-penned originals with covers from artists as diverse as Hayes Carll and Jerry Lee Lewis, The Stray Birds used every second of their ninety minute allotted time to woo the appreciative audience with enterprising covers and fetching originals true to the core of tradition.
The trio’s latest album BEST MEDIICINE is approaching its first anniversary in the next few months and several of its tracks were central to the evening’s musical menu. ‘The Bells’ and ‘Never For Nothing’ saw the band immediately hit their stride, while the title track 'Best Medicine’ had all the credentials to be the evening’s peak. Like many of the songs shared, invaluable and informative introductions were the perfect accompaniment as we learned of the New York record shop acting as the song’s inspiration. Also from the latest album, Maya explained how family circumstances in Canada formed the basis for ‘Adelaide’, a song she also graced us with her captivating vocal style. This heavily detected a Gillian Welch influence and to continue the association they included a version of the traditional standard ‘Make Me a Pallet on the Floor’, co-incidentally also recorded by Gillian as well as being an integral track on BEST MEDICINE.
If The Stray Birds had been on the periphery of my musical horizon for the past year, they were definitely on centre-stage this evening and deservedly so. The humour and interaction between Maya, Oliver and Charles was on fine form all night, but merely acts as the dressing to their stunning talent which, while classically trained, has evolved into possessing a magical common touch. Any perceived hype surrounding previous performances in the UK was turned to a golden substance as this show witnessed at The Met studio blossomed into one of the year’s most enjoyable to date.