by K.W. Poole ©2017 For WMMW
Leather and moonshine decked the sweet natural wood surfaces of Frye Boots at the base of The Thompson Hotel in the Gulch last Friday night. The alluring new space is host to not only one of the world’s legendary boot brands, but also a bar and a performance stage with a modern living space feel. This night it featured an equally unique event, as Big Machine Label Group artist A Thousand Horses played the room. The band added an element of comparable comfort and style.
Seated up front, in writer’s round fashion, were lead vocalist Michael Hobby, lead guitarist Bill Satcher, Zach Brown on guitar and vocals with Graham Deloach on bass and vocals. Do not be misled however, this was anything but a round.
A Thousand Horses sets the scene with a bit of Old Crow Medicine Show meets the Allman Brothers meets Counting Crows. The quartet - performing with additional band members— sported individual style that created a pallet of eclectic cohesiveness. Members of the band donning Fedoras and Bowlers, coupled with the flair of style- savvy back-up singers, presented a stage picture of hipness. Visually, dynamically and musically they are a force to be reckoned with.
A Thousand Horses first gained popularity in the UK, where they established a large fan base. Their single Smoke reached #1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay Chart in 2015; the band gained acclaim thanks to Joseph Hudak of Rolling Stone Magazine, in which he referred to the band as “Country Music’s New Lynyrd Skynyrd.”
The performance on Friday was seamless and calmly spirited, even with the full band jam. The set up is somewhat indicative of their video Back To Me (at Tanque Verde Ranch 2015) around a campfire. They are fascinating to watch. A live video of colors, clothes and storytelling. They fit beautifully on stage. The picture is set for an exceptional showcase, but for one thing...
The sound. While it may benefit a more intimate “unplugged” setting, unfortunately the space was not ideally suited for the performance. A challenge from the start, the vocals were muddy, and though expertly executed, the music was lost inside the three walls of the inset stage. The crowd in the outer room missed out.
During the set highlights included: Hobby on harp and a bit of country rap mixed with southern rock. These boys had a hard sale in this space but it is evident they have what it takes. This Ain’t No Drunk Dial with it’s beautiful fiddle intro, expertly executed by Brian Purwin, and sing along catchy lyrics, is a crowd pleaser. Trailer Trashed - a bit Kid Rock a bit Jason Aldean - was also a hit. Background vocalists, Kristen Rogers and Brianne Angarole, brought a full gospel sound and beauty to the music.
The song Back to Me is the best of the night. Thankfully it is a stellar ballad and therefore the sound issues were more forgiving. The dreams and the connection to this song are evident in the lyrics, reminiscent of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ but with a Country Rock sound: “Boy, just a rebel boy - raisin hell, making noise...Girl, just Small town girl...one way town with no way out... I’ll be the one who will set your heart free, if you come back to me.” A familiar but heart pulling theme. Stellar.
Among a plethora of accolades, ATH were nominated for the Academy of Country Music Awards New Vocal or Duo Group 2016. Though they may emulate familiar sights and sounds this band is making a unique mark; melding different influences that become distinctively A Thousand Horses. This is a gift. They don’t wear t-shirts and baseball caps. They look and perform like stars. And they are extremely comfortable doing it.
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*The material included in this article is the sole property of the writer, (Katharine W. Poole,) and the photographer and President/Founder of WMMW, (Cilene Bosch.) All elements may be used in other publications as determined by the owners. Permission must be obtained for reproduction.