Third visit to Glasgow in 18 months for Pennsylvania roots trio The Stray Birds and while most of their set was familiar to the audience (a fair bet a good percentage had seen the two previous shows) they grow in confidence and delivery. Buoyed by some ecstatic notices for their appearance at the Cambridge Folk Festival a few weeks ago Maya de Vitry, Oliver Craven and Charles Muench offered a spellbinding set with de Vitry in particular excelling, her voice commanding. Her delivery of their ode to record stores, Best Medicine was slower and more poignant than the recorded version and somewhat spectacular. There’s no doubting their musical skills as they skirled around their condenser microphone whipping up excitement as on the opening song The Bells and Caleb Klauder’s New Shoes while Make Me A Pallet On The Floor and Blue Yodel #7 were fun and funky. However the best moments were on the more tender moments as songs by de Vitry and Craven allowed for a delicate touch on various guitars, fiddles and mandolin with Never For Nothing given a solemn heft from Muench’s bowed double bass while Harlem was a world away from standard bluegrass fare sounding more like a classic Carole King song.
Muench helmed much of the show’s introductions, down-home and witty while there was some band banter over who wrote what and who did this before they dived into another fine ensemble piece. Crammed before the one mic there’s a pleasing visual symmetry on display with Craven playing several of his fine guitar solos in a vertical position in order to avoid taking an eye out. Covers of Townes Van Zandt’s Loretta, taken at a trot despite some preferences for a slower version and Nanci Griffiths’ I Wish It Would Rain were real crowd pleasers and the encore of a new song, When I Die which was Appalachian dyed bodes well for the future.
The opening act was The Jellyman’s Daughter, an Edinburgh based duo who combine cello and guitar to fine effect. Nice harmonies and some fine song writing were displayed on a rendition of The One You’re Leaving while covers of Gillian Welch’s The way It Will Be and a fine reconstruction of The Beatles’ Money Can’t Buy Me Love showed some eclectism in their influences.