The Slovenian festival Poezika have caught my ears a few times before with the live-performances they make available through Bandcamp (especially the great 2015 recording of a Chris Eckman / Bernard Kogovsec performance). So, I decided to give this 2017 recording of a set by Serbian band Stray Dogg a spin

Even though Stray Dogg are somewhat more upbeat musically than most of the other melancholic neo-americana bands I treasure, there’s definitely a sharp feeling of grey, bleak Sundays flowing all the way through this touching live-performance.

A set perfectly balancing a musically gripping performance (with a great instrumental-separation, everything sounds clear and well-placed in the overall sound-picture) with completely heartgripping vocal performances, making this grey, stormy autumn-day more vibrantly, comfortingly grey, enhancing the impact of the life-enhancing qualities of the underlying sadness in both the grey and the music. Placing the sound of Stray Dogg somewhere between The Smiths and Ended Up A Stranger-era Walkabouts with at times an injection reminiscent of something like laid-back reggae and the more soulful part of classic R’n’B.

Equally gripping in both acoustic parts and the somewhat louder more electric parts, this is one of those live-recordings that actually seem able to pass the emotional impact of the performance on to those of us not privy to having experienced the set in person.

And around halfway through the set, an absolutely captivating version of the Neil Young-classic Cortez The Killer, delivered with feel and heart, re-invigorating Young‘s sad and tearful tale (I would say the best I’ve heard, but for the fact that I still vividly remember Scott Kelly‘s devastating take on this song at Roadburn 2016). Plus they end the concert with an almost naked performance of Blue Moon. Both courageous and intimate!

But although I’ve a tendency to focus on great cover versions, especially given a band I have had no previous knowledge of, their own compositions are equally up to par.

Wholeheartedly recommended for giving your grey autumn-days a bit more feel and texture.