Red Horse / Eliza Gilkyson / John Gorka / Lucy Kaplansky

Red Horse

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Red Horse is something of a folk supergroup, a trio containing the respected singer/songwriters John Gorka, Lucy Kaplansky, and Eliza Gilkyson. A dozen years earlier, Kaplansky had been part of a similarly styled trio called Cry Cry Cry, which featured Richard Shindell and Dar Williams. But unlike the latter group, whose lone album consisted mostly of cover tunes, Red Horse is focused on original material. Three-fourths of their self-titled debut album is self-penned, most of those songs being new versions of tracks originally heard on Gorka, Kaplansky, and Gilkyson's respective solo albums. The mood throughout is cool and contemplative -- most of the songs are adorned with sparse arrangements, allowing for a more intense focus on the vocals. Though there's always a designated lead singer, there are plenty of warm, inviting harmonies on these tracks, and Gorka, Kaplansky, and Gilkyson all take admirable turns in front of the microphone. It's in the songwriting department that things get a little unbalanced -- while there are no clunkers here, Gorka is the most skilled songsmith of the three, and the album -- which places his compositions at the end -- winds up feeling heavily backloaded. Still, with all of the singers taking on each other's tunes, Red Horse feels like a truly collective effort rather than just a glorified round-robin song swap. The covers that begin and end the album -- Neil Young's early tune "I Am a Child" and the traditional spiritual "Wayfaring Stranger" -- are both high points, and the presence of a previously unreleased Gorka song, the winningly concise "If These Walls Could Talk," should be a draw for devotees of the songwriter.

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