The Stray Birds,
The TVD First Date

“I started buying records in my early 20s at Goodwills and Salvation Army outlets in central Pennsylvania. The bins were deep and cheap. It took some digging, but I found a couple of great records that way and all of a sudden I was some kind of collector. One that comes immediately to mind was a copy of Jim & Jesse’s Saluting the Louvin Brothers. Best fifty cents I ever spent in my life. You could speculate that The Stray Birds had its first rehearsal in 2010 when I asked Maya de Vitry to come over and learn ‘When I Stop Dreaming’ with me off of that record.”

“Collecting vinyl for me is some kind of living relationship. I think the tactile experience and the audio reward of accumulating art that can literally speak to you is one of the most fun and uplifting ways a person could possibly consume. But the powerful ways in which vinyl has brought me to interact with the people closest to me in my life have proven more meaningful than any one record could on its own.

Typically when I come across one, and often without anybody in mind, I’ll buy a second or third copy of a favorite record just so I can have one to give away when the person and the moment presents itself. I don’t think I’ve ever passed on a copy of Volume One by The Traveling Wilburys or Little Feat’s Dixie Chicken—still I own only one copy of each today. Whether it’s casually to a friend at party, or in a carefully written letter to someone I love, I relish the chance to say, ‘Nothing means more to me than music, and there’s no music that means more to me than this. Let it mean something to you too. Have it. It’s yours.’

Though, of course, it’s not all joy. I have the painful and unfortunate memory of having bought some of the records I own two times over. The very same copies. Second time was when I bought them back from my hometown record store after a few of my favorites were stolen and sold off by a close friend with a terrible addiction. Amongst others, I managed to retrieve “The White Album,” George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and The Raconteur’s Consolers of the Lonely. Still, the getting there was too late for some, including for my British copy of Electric Ladyland and probably a few other titles that I didn’t even realize had gone missing. The picture on my current driver’s license was taken the day I had to do this. Weird.

I don’t really seek obscurity in vinyl, and don’t exactly consider myself to be an aficionado or a nerd like that. Its value to me comes in the way an artist has managed to communicate themselves through the sound they’ve made and in the time I find myself spending with their artwork in my hands and on my mind.

Still, I’ll admit, sometimes I buy a record just for the cover. Who doesn’t have a copy of Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass’ Whipped Cream & Other Delights? It looks the way it does, it’s everywhere, and it usually costs about a dollar. Still haven’t listened to it.

Records are familial for me too. My dad, Tim Craven, was first heard on vinyl when he released Last of the Dime Store Boys on Red Dog Records in 1981. His mother, Dorothy, first pressed her voice some forty years before that when she stepped into a Voice-o-Graph booth to capture some angel song for Earl and the other servicemen overseas during WWII. The first record I was on was in 2012 as part of The Steel Wheels with “Lay Down, Lay Low.” Now, I’ll be found in the groove again when The Stray Birds’ new record Magic Fire is released in late August of this year. (Maya did the cover art for that record, by the way.) To contribute my own original voice as a small, yet hopefully meaningful part of this global wax collection is a privilege in which I take a real honor.

Vinyl is alive and so are we. Let’s listen. It sounds good.”
Oliver Bates Craven

The Stray Birds’ Magic Fire arrives in stores Friday, August 19th via Yep Roc.

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