Live at Kitchen Garden Cafe
The Nashville based Wild Ponies returned to Birmingham in the UK for the second time in a year. Last winter they played an amazing show at the Thimblemill Library in Bearwood, when the library puts on a show, they put on a show. This time, the Wild Ponies rolled on up to Kings Heath's Kitchen Garden Cafe, which is a lovely setting in which to see a band, if you can get a ticket. If you can get a ticket for a show there do, cos it's pretty cosy spot.
The evenings trio of Wild Ponies are Talisha on Vocals and Stand Up bass, Doug on guitar and vocals and Katie Marie their multi-instrumentalist, drummer and mandolin player who joins the band from Austin via Devon and maybe even more precisely Totnes... I wonder.
The Wild Ponies new album, Galax (Gearbox), is a dazzling accomplishment on so many levels, from the taut, deft, at moments emotionally enervating, at moments the shit-kicking, of gentle souls writing, to the sound recording at Doug's grandparents barn in Virginia, to the packaging of the record, through to the mastering of the album in London using the same vintage equipment that brought that so much to old timey records like the Beatles' Sgt Peppers. These investments in detail delineate Galax and imbue it with the preternatural grace and greatness of a mountain top.
Doug and Talisha are Virginia natives and returning there to record Galax to draw deeper on their flat-picking, pedal-steel and fiddle country folk heritage honors their colloquial history while instantaneously making the Wild Ponies leap backwards and forwards. Anyway, it's a great record with maybe a little less for the eno-country reformers than before but plenty for the Grammy crew to think about. And the AMA and CMA's too.
The whole endeavour in some ways reminded me of when Mike Scott took the Waterboys to Ireland and immersed them in the country fiddle sound that produced the richly epic Fisherman's Blues and many more besides.
The Wild Ponies stripped back touring line-up sans the pedal steels and fiddles of Galax is perfectly suited to the confines of the Kitchen Garden Cafe. On stage Doug just looks like one of those guys that probably wouldn't look right without his parlour guitar or telecaster draped over his shoulder, a total "Well I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk..." kinda guy. Nice line in hats and shirts too. Talisha's singing and standup bass playing are country eloquence personified. That bass though, it's beautiful and melliferous tone belies the menace of the dance partner that chooses you. It's a physical thing, it's gonna drag you round the floor, it casts a great shadow.
Talisha & Doug
Both sets consisted of many of the great songs recorded back in the barn in Virginia, kicking off with the hoedown tub-thumping Sally Anne. There's an acoustic focus to the first set, coupled with great lengthy anecdotes about family and the recording sessions for Galax, the empathy with the audience throughout displays that great American quality of genuine, not superficial, warmth. Early on we're treated to the Wild Ponies hushed version of musician and activist Hazel Dickins Pretty Bird, framing the gorgeous timbre of Talesha's voice with pure quiet adrenalized tension. She hits the spots with stuff effortlessly, like Laura Cantrell or Kathleen Edwards. The quiet passages so quiet had Warren the Shoe been with us he would have grown concerned at the mere sound of Jason's camera shutter clicks.
Anyway, I've got to stop. I've got to go and do something for money or I will die so I can't even get to the Bob Harris recording session story they told from earlier in their day. It's a great one, pm me. If that's a thing. I will say that Hearts and Bones was breathtakingly beautiful. Love is Not a Sin, a Country Macklemore/Ryan Lewis of sorts protest that is both admirable, essentially important to me and hummable too, Mama Bird swings! and the show ended on about as punky a note as any Wild Pony could get with Unplug The Machine.