Blue Horse

Be Good Tanyas - Blue Horse

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Track Listing

1. The Littlest Birds
2. Broken Telephone
3. Rain and Snow
4. Lakes of Pontchartrain
5. Only in the Past
6. The Coo Coo Bird
7. Dogsong (aka Sleep Dog Lullaby)
8. Momsong
9. Don’t You Fall
10. Up Against the Wall
11. Oh Susanna
12. Light Enough to Travel


Mar 2002

Who’d have thought that the freshest, rootsiest, most infectious debut so far this year would come from a trio of Canadians? Samantha Parton, Frazey Ford and Trish Klein are the gals who are already drawing comparisons with every other female artist who’s picked up a banjo or mandolin. Think early Dixie Chicks with a dusting of kd lang’s outsider perspective, and you won’t be far wrong. Add a handful of musical pals on drums, upright bass and fiddle and you have it. There’s a dozen tracks to absorb, encompassing old, new, borrowed and blue. New compositions rub shoulders with traditional tunes such as Lakes Of Pontchartrain and The Coo Coo Bird, yet they all blend seamlessly like a collection of well-thumbed sepia snapshots. Highlights are the old faithful O Susannah and Parton’s Dogsong, which conjures up visions of Grandpa Walton on the front-porch swing. A treat.

Feb 2002

The Be Good Tanyas are a trio of ramblin’’ gals who roamed the world individually yet trod strangely similar paths that eventually led them together in 1999 to share songs and stories, evoked in the rustic and charming music they create. A mixture of deep country, early American folk, old-tyme jazz, blues, gospel and folk – their sound is often reminiscent of a bygone era. Combining original material and traditional tunes, the Tanyas seamlessly navigate their musical journey, making the standards seem as though they were being recorded for the very first time. Utilising instruments ranging from the standard guitar to the more eclectic banjo and mandolin, these girls are master players; more important than this, however, is their uncanny ability to convey feelings so universal and yet so personal.

The Music Box

The album’s heart lies with old-time bluegrass and folk songs — Rain and Snow, The Coo Coo Bird, Oh Susanna, and Lakes of Pontchartrain are all tackled admirably — but the core guitar, mandolin, and banjo arrangements are beefed up with electric violin, electric guitar, and drums. Even originals, such as the playful The Littlest Birds and the gentle Dogsong aka Sleep Dog Lullaby, play like something from a simpler era. In that sense, The Be Good Tanyas take a page from the book of Iris DeMent and straddle the line between traditional and modern folk, and that’s not a bad place to be.

Comes With A Smile
Blue Horse is a thoroughbred on just about every level. Between them, Frazey Ford, Samantha Parton and Trish Klein play guitars, banjo and mandolin, all with an assured and natural spark. But it is their engaging voices, either individually, or collectively in sumptuous harmony, that really captivate. There is both vulnerability and sass; they trill and warble and cry and sneer. These gals are getting a lot of attention in their ‘hood, and wider acclaim is seemingly assured, but the whole being the sum and that, it won’t be for the voices alone. Naturally, they dominate, but this is musically gorgeous aside. A forceful, pristine production (by the band and one known as Futcher) gives space for every element to breathe, creating a live, intimate feel. Of the Tanyas, Klein’s breezy banjo particularly impresses, but drummer Paul Clifford’s crisp and light delivery, and Andrew Burdens soft, rubbery double bass give their companions a solid spine on which to build. Of the 12 tracks, 5 are traditional or a cover and the remainder self-penned, but they’re all amazing. Broken Telephone is a treasure, featuring Ford’s high-lonesome slur, and there’s a rush when the band lurches in midway. There’s a raw stab at The Lakes of Ponchartrain, so beloved of Nanci Griffith, a key figure in the gradual acceptance of country as cool. The loping Only In The Past, with its electrifying harmonies and filigree banjo, is sublime. The Coo Coo Bird shuffles along on train-beat drums and walking bass, gypsy violin piercing the canvas as the girls layer mystical musings above. They also take Stephen Foster’s Oh Susannah (it all dovetails, you see) and transform it from a thigh-slapper to a bedside lament from Mama. It’s beautiful, and does justice to the pure melody of the traditional rendition. This is a deeply rewarding roots listen, and as good an album made by country women as Dolly, Linda and Emmylou’s first Trio project. (And of course, there’s a Parton present!).But where that was of the honky-tonks and Tennessee stages, Blue Horse is of the punk clubs and coffee shops.

Almost Cool
This mellow release of 12 tracks falls somewhere along the lines of rootsy folk, with a touch of the blues and a rough-around-the-edges feel that gives it a great deal of charm. Comprised of three ladies from Canada and a backing group of musicians, The Be Good Tanyas have that down home feel that made the finger-picking, female led songs on the Oh Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack so good. Banjo, mandolin, double bass, violin, and three-part vocal harmonies sink a light hook and tug you on down the road with them.

JFPRODBe Good Tanyas Blue HorseJFENDPROD