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Horse Feathers - Thistled Spring

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 7 / 6 / 2010

Horse Feathers - Thistled Spring
Label: Kill Rock Stars
Format: CD


Urgent-sounding indie-folk on third album from acclaimed American act Horse Feathers, which with former front man Peter Broderick now having branched out into a solo career finds the group continuing to blossom with singer-songwriter Justin Ringle as lead singer

Anything but a household name he may be, but Peter Broderick has at least established himself as a cult concern, with his album of gentle, wistful ballads ‘Home’ cropping up on recommended releases shelves on a regular basis for most of the last two years. Spare a thought, however, for the one he left behind. Horse Feathers had been a collaboration between Broderick and singer-songwriter Justin Ringle, delivering two albums of very pleasant indie-folk, inspired by the old time music of the American West. Broderick’s distinctive textures had been the dominant feature of the previous two Horse Feathers albums, but his success as a songwriter in his own right meant that he absented himself from the band’s touring line-up last year, and Ringle has now recorded his third album without his old accompanist. But far from paling in the comparison with his own band mate, Ringle has allowed his Horse Feathers to glisten. In the place of Broderick, he now has a full band - violinist Nathan Crockett, cellist Catherine Odell and musti-instrumentalist Sam Cooper, who pops up to add banjo and various forms of percussion. Where Broderick’s arrangements brooded beneath the songs, the new band push and pull against each other, giving the songs real urgency where before there had been a gloomy drone. Ringle’s vocals bear a striking similarity to those of Damien Jurado - but where the Seattle-based songwriter tends to let his world weary voice match muted music, Ringle lets the songs be swept away on the arrangements into places they would never otherwise have got. Don’t go thinking that Ringle has cheered up - the mood of this album is almost entirely forlorn. On ‘The Widower‘, his voice barely rises above a whisper as he curses, ‘damn the winter’. Neither ‘The Drought’ or ‘Starving Robins’ add much cheer to proceedings. And yet, I am cheered by the fact that, instead of missing his acclaimed ex-partner, Ringle has blossomed in his absense - and appears to have unearthed three musicians who are comfortably a match for their predecessor. Over half an hour and ten songs, Horse Feathers have offered a lovely listen.

Track Listing:-
1 Thistled Spring
2 Starving Robins
3 Belly of June
4 Cascades
5 This Bed
6 The Drought
7 Vernonia Blues
8 As A Ghost
9 The Widower
10 Heaven's No Place

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