Stunning harmonies as The Stray Birds soar at Mareel

Glorious harmonies and mesmerising musicianship was were lapped up during a triple bill of country, blues and top-drawer American songwriting last night.

The cosy affair in Mareel’s auditorium opened with isles’ six-piece Kansa, delivering a polished collection of bluegrass and Americana numbers and sharing vocals round an old-school microphone.

Bearded, and waistcoat-booted members Adam Priest, Adrian Wishart and Robert Wishart were slick in their accompaniments, with Lynda Anderson adding extra spice with lead lines on fiddle.

Karlyn Grains’ and Norma Wishart’s voices melded together beautifully, with the rich deeper tones of Grains’ voice complemented by rousing, rising harmonies from Wishart.

From Hank Williams’ Why Don’t You Love Me to Lead Belly, and the Steve Miller Band it was a tour through time, and a brilliantly crafted setlist.

Their final number, a rendition of Andrew Bird’s Three White Horses was a real standout, with an eerie intro on mandolin and fiddle opening up to stunning, three part harmonies and pounding bass.

Glaswegian four-piece Daniel Meade & The Flying Mules were the next to tread the boards.

Having had a night on the boat from Aberdeen, Meade said the band were “a bit ferry lagged”.

Not that you could tell, as they launched into thunderous double bass-slapping blues, razor-sharp vocals and hollow-bodied loveliness – which brought several cheers from the crowd for guitarist Lloyd Reid.

Back To Hell with chugging, train track-like rhythms was undeniably catchy, with sparkling guitar interludes from Reid.

Lyrically Meade is top-drawer, recounting tales of love, loss and regret.

As Good As Bad Can Be with “honey coated tears” and its finger-picking guitar, subtly pulled in the listener.

Daniel Meade & The Flying Mules kick off the weekend in style. Photo: Dave Donaldson.
Daniel Meade & The Flying Mules kick off the weekend in style. Photo: Dave Donaldson.

There’s also a humour to the band’s music with belting song Please Louise and tales of a woman with “a big behind” bringing whistles and cheers from the crowd.

Meade hailed the friendliness of the locals and how everyone left their doors unlocked.

“We’re going to come back…and rob you,” he quipped.

It was a performance bursting with feel-good blues and country tunes and kicked off the weekend in style.

After a few microphone fiddles, The Stray Birds burst into a stunning three part harmony for opener When I Die, nearly lifting me from my seat.

With an array of instruments and lead vocals being passed between the band it made for a varied and enthralling collection of songs.

Third Day in a Row packed plenty of punch, with Oliver Craven this time on guitar duties and lead vocal.

Harlem, a tale of tears,  insomnia and city life, was delicate and moving and the resonator guitar tones from Craven dovetailed the smooth and warming qualities of Maya de Vitry’s voice.

Shining in the Distance from its humble acoustic guitar intro flourished into an ear-worm refrain which long left playing in my ears.

A yodelling  Jimmy Rodgers cover saw Craven tear into a blistering blues guitar solo, pulling every note from his hands with soul and feeling.

For me their real strength lay away from the more bluegrass, ‘hoedown’ numbers, which while excellently executed felt at times a bit predictable.

However there were no fancy pedals, no fancy effects just outstanding talent.

It was a superb night of music with a hunger for roots in the isles which is showing no sign of letting up.


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