There can be a sameness to Americana music, a sense of overt familiarity that can dull its loosely woven pastoral lines. But in the hands of musicians who truly understand its subtle grandness, the genre can manifest a magnificent noise that transcends the trappings of mainstream music. And under the guidance of Chattanooga duo Magic Birds, these woodsy reverberations take on a relevance that echoes back to Appalachian icons like Dock Boggs, Clarence Ashley and Bascom Lamar Lunsford.
Revolving around the twin creativities of Scott Bruce and Ben Ezell, Magic Birds allows the two musicians the opportunity to realize their shared vision of a reverent amalgam of bluegrass, country, folk and indie rock. While you could attempt to tie their work to artists with a more modern aesthetic, there really is something timeless about the way they approach these intricate and sometimes rowdy sounds. It’s more than influence—it’s a dramatic reorganization of a handful of music histories.
This sense of restructuring rhythmic lineages extends to the band’s latest single, “Reliance,” a song that sees Bruce and Ezell embracing the twang and shuffle of bluegrass and country and adapting those rustic sounds to their own ends. The harmonizing and plucked momentum creates a familiar atmosphere, but the song isn’t concerned with treading old ground but is intent on seeing how these antiqued musical movements can be made new in the light of their collected inspirations.
Banjos strings are shaken and bent while drums patter around in the background, building up a head of steam as vocals entangle and rise upward. The track seems to have stepped out of some turn-of-the-century painting where open fields are deified and front porches gather the faithful few for evening story sessions. The song is aged but vivid in its production and perspective. The band doesn’t mope around in dusty corners of nostalgia but simply applies those sepia filters in service to a much larger and more emotional musical landscape. And with “Reliance,” they’ve created something truly immense that surrounds you and effortlessly wraps you up in a series of homespun rhythms and melodies.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.