The history of Chattanooga Americana duo Magic Birds goes back to 2012 (maybe a little earlier). Musicians Scott Bruce and Ben Ezell were first introduced when Ezell was teaching at the same school as Bruce’s wife. This rhythmic providence led to a bonding over similar music tastes, and the two of them began jamming together and kicking around the open mic circuit in Chattanooga. They eventually began writing and recording their debut record, “The Music of Benjamin Bruce,” and employed the services of Kan Munson to run the boards for them in the studio.
Their unique and inclusive brew of folk, country, bluegrass and indie rock noise is as familiar as it is welcoming. It’s easy to hear the influence of artists like Johnny Cash, Wilco and Ryan Adams in their nimble bucolic rhythms, but it’s the way they alter these well-worn sounds that makes them such a formidable duo. Moving between classic narratives of love, loss and internal conflict, their songs have a casual sway to them, an effortless alt country breeze moving through their various verses and associated choruses.
The band recently released a new single called “New Year, New Light,” and it provides a wonderful glimpse into what they’ve been doing since the release of “Benjamin Bruce.” Produced by Nick Lutsko, and featuring lap steel guitar by Danimal Pinson and additional accompaniment from Lutsko, the track is filled with a shuffling country swagger that underscores the temperamental emotions and experiences that are explored in every passing moment.
Bruce and Ezell had already established a fiercely insular aesthetic on their debut, and with the release of “New Year, New Light,” they’re ready to evolve that muscular, Americana-infused sound. There’s a subtlety that exposes their ability to work within the gray areas of folk and country music to create something redolent of both but beholden to neither. There’s a sense of complete freedom within the song, an idea of music as a Rorschach test, and they’re allowing our subconscious and its many memories to fill the expansive landscape of the music. And there’s something truly extraordinary about that.
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.