The Stray Birds - Magic Fire is an album of firsts for The Stray Birds: their first with an outside producer, their first with venerable guest musicians, and their first truly collaborative songwriting effort. More importantly, perhaps, it's an album of mosts: the most exciting and engaging music they've ever composed paired with their most outspoken and insightful lyrics yet.
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.
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 Larry Campbell. The three-time GRAMMY Award-winning producer (best known for his work with luminaries like Bob Dylan, Levon Helm, Paul Simon, and Willie Nelson) enlisted his preferred engineer, Justin Guip (another three-time GRAMMY Award-winner who worked closely with the late Helm), and the group spent ten days together joyously exploring and creating the music that would become Magic Fire.
Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill - Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill are two of the world’s leading artists in traditional Irish
music. Their adventurous, soulful interpretations of traditional tunes are
recognized the world over for their exquisite musicality and irresistible
rhythm. For over two decades, the Irish fiddler and American guitarist have
performed at major concert halls and festivals around the globe. The duo also
helped found the new Irish supergroup The Gloaming. The New York Times describes the duo as
"simply exquisite. They strip old reels and jigs to their essence, leaving
space between the notes for harmonics and whispered blue notes... A Celtic
complement to Steve Reich's quartets or Miles Davis's 'Sketches of
Spain'." Fiddler Martin Hayes is considered one of Ireland's most innovative and
influential musicians. He was raised in
a famous musical family in rural Maghera, Feakle, East County Clare where the
music he learned from his late father, P. Joe Hayes, the legendary leader of the
long-lived Tulla Ceili Band, profoundly influenced his musical accent and
ideas. By age 19 Martin had won six All-Ireland fiddle championships. He is the
recipient of numerous awards including Folk Instrumentalist of the Year (BBC),
Man of the Year (American Irish Historical Society), and Ireland's prestigious
Musician of the Year (Gradam Ceoil TG4).
Hayes has drawn inspiration from sources as diverse as Estonian composer Arvo
Pärt and jazz genius John Coltrane, but remains grounded in the music he grew up
with in East Clare. Dennis Cahill is a
master guitarist from Chicago born to Irish-speaking parents from the Dingle
Peninsula in County Kerry. His spare, essential accompaniment to Hayes’ fiddle
is acknowledged as a major breakthrough for guitar in the Irish tradition.
Dennis studied at Chicago's prestigious Music College before becoming an active
member of the local music scene. He has performed with such renowned fiddlers
as Kevin Burke, Liz Carroll, and Eileen Ivers, as well as many
Irish musicians on both sides of the Atlantic. Dennis is also a sought-after
producer for musical artists whom he records in his own Chicago studio, as well
as an accomplished photographer.