The Be Good Tanyas

Blue Horse

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Since the advent of CDs, reviewers ceased using phrases like, "From the moment the needle hit the vinyl, it was clear that Blue Horse had a beautiful, layered sound." Whatever the medium, the Be Good Tanyas have a knack for recharging traditional pieces with a sonic twist. Who would even think to take on a warhorse like "The Coo Coo Bird" or add electric guitar and drums to "Rain and Snow?" Frazey Ford, Samantha Parton, and Trish Klein sing, play multiple instruments (acoustic and electric), and, now and then, write their own material. They fill out their sound with a number of guests who add bass, drums, and a few other embellishments. Guest Jolie Holland adds her vocals to the breezy opener, "The Littlest Birds," a song that borrows, and puts to good use, a few lyrics from Syd Barrett's "Jug Band Blues." A pure country sound washes over "Broken Telephone," at least until an electric guitar takes a break about mid-way, while a jaunty banjo and mandolin energize "Lakes of Pontchartrain." Ford and Parton capably handle most of the vocals but what makes these singers special is how their voices mix and mingle in songs like "Up Against the Wall" and on the latter part of "Only in the Past." The same is true of their instrumental approach. Their motto might be "If it's kind of different and sounds cool, let's see if it will work." The production isn't neutral. Everything has been brightened a bit, and while this might have been distracting on a traditional album with a traditional approach, it perfectly balances the more experimental approach here. Blue Horse is a lovely debut, full of promise and great tunes.

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