Horse Feathers 

Thistled Spring

Everything about this disc — the band's handle, CD title, pastoral cover photo — seems to shout "Americana," until you listen. Portland, Oregon's Horse Feathers beautifully subvert the "conventions" of Americana. While the instrumentation is classic bluegrass — acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, bass — it's mostly not used in any sort of bluegrass or country manner. The band's song structures are more akin to the intricately arranged, introspective dream-pop of David Sylvian, Greg Laswell, Jim O'Rourke (the latter in "song" mode, of course), and (later) American Music Club. Instead of shimmering guitars and electronically processed sounds, unamplified stringed-things dress up the tunes, leaving plenty of room for silence within. The rare times where traditional styles come to the fore are the Irish echoes in "As A Ghost" and "Veronia Blues" evokes the Western story-songs of Marty Robbins and the modal British Isles balladry of Bert Jansch.

Compared to their previous disc, the austere, almost-baroque House With No Home, Thistled Spring is positively orchestral (albeit with only the above instruments plus cello). This is the first Horse Feathers release without co-founder Peter Broderick, but Justin Ringle's harmonious, boyish voice (strongly recalling the great Iain Matthews) is still the focal point of the songs. He conveys the melodies in a measured, compassionate tone, belying the melancholy and often-bleak aspects of his lyrics. This disc truly sounds and feels like winter in the northern half of the USA, with its wide-open spaces, bare trees, snow-covered fields, and their desolate, frigid beauty. (Kill Rock Stars)

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Anonymous and pseudonymous comments will be removed.

Latest in CD Reviews

Author Archives

Most Popular Stories

Special Reports

Holiday Guide 2016

A guide to this holiday season's gifts, outings, eats, and more.

Taste, Fall 2016

Everything you need to know about dining in and out in the East Bay.

Best of the East Bay

© 2017 East Bay Express    All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation