Released by: BMX
Release Date: Out Now!!!
Genre: Southern Rock
Michael Hobby (lead vocals),
Bill Satcher (lead guitar),
Zach Brown (guitar and vocals)
Graham Deloach (bass and vocals)
Heaven is Close
Back to Me
Hell on My Heart
Where I’m Going
Southern Rock can trace its earliest roots back to the late 60’s and early 70’s when bands like the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd combined the influences of traditional rock’n’roll, blues, country and elements of soul. A predominantly guitar based genre, the musical style drew on elements of jam band writing styles and the crisper structures of country and blues to given birth to a new sub-genre of Americana. The genre’s longevity, however, was short-lived and by the mid 80’s its predominance on the music charts gave way to the more edgy alternative rock sounds of the early 90’s. It is thus a pleasant surprise when one comes across a genuine Southern Rock act from this era and A Thousand Horses (“ATH”) offer listeners just that.
Out with their first full length record, the Nashville based quartet have put together an album which incorporates the lyrical and vocal structures often found in country music yet delivers these over some edgy guitar riffs that scream The Black Crowes and Skynyrd alike. Sourthernality, as the name so appropriately articulates, offers a glimpse into what it means to be ’Southern’. As the band puts it in a few of their interviews, “we’re from the south, it comes across in every song and is not something that we force, its just who we are” which comes across on the album as the tone, the writing and the music all fit together seamlessly. An extensive nine-member line-up on the album, comprising two guitars, a bass, keys / fiddle, drums, three backing vocal and Michael’s booming southern accent leading the charge makes for a full bodied sound to their songs. After all not many bands get a chance to throw five part harmonies into their compositions, setting ATH apart from their contemporaries. And that’s just it, there are only a handful of similar acts and an even fewer number from the 2000’s making ATH modern day proponents of the genre.
First Time is a great opening track for the album with an acoustic guitar, distorted les paul and ringing keys paving the way for a classic rock four bar verse chorus structure. The backing vocals add subtle colour to Michael’s vocals through the verses and take off in their own right during the lead vocal reprieves of the chorus. Upbeat, full of energy and with enough vocal melodies to humble a church choir, the opener to the album is sure to be a hook for most listeners.
Travellin’ Man, another high tempo track riddled with echoes of a howling harmonica, starts off painting a picture of the stereotypical early 1800’s frontier town, tumbleweed in tow, before making way for rhythmic verses coupled with descending guitar riffs. Likewise, Trailer Trashed, with its choppy chord strums and harmonised chorus, is yet another example of the heavy sound that ZZ Top and Skynyrd brought to the genre.
The album also offers listeners a variety of slower and softer songs each of which are reflective of the versatility of ATH’s writing on the album. The mix of acoustic and electric sounds on tracks like Heaven is Close, Sunday Morning or Where I’m Goin’ showcase the band’s country influence both in song structure as well as the laid back feel that the acoustic guitar brings to such songs. Equally, Satcher’s slide tones on Back To Me clearly show the blues influences of the Allman Brothers band incorporated into their sound.
The title track, Southernality, does a wonderful job of describing the day-to-day cliques that the world may imagine when one mentions the US south. With lyrics like “boots and the buckle that’s how we lean” or “laid back, way back, simple Southernality” one can’t help but imagine sunny southern US ranches peppered with barbecues and beer kegs, their occupants enjoying the simple things in life.
Smoke, the band’s signature track for the past 8 months, stands apart from the rest of the album in how the band manages to bring the various elements of their sound to life over the course of the track. A simple four note guitar riff sets the tone for the song, brings in the acoustic led verse which finally makes way for a full bodied chorus with a descending slide guitar. The end of the song slows with a simple acoustic guitar layered with vocal harmonies and Michael’s lead concluding a track that definitely plucks at some emotional chords.
Overall the album is a great example of a modern day band establishing a place for themselves in the music world despite playing a genre that currently has a limited global following. Its not often that a band is thus able to break out of their focused market and reach across to fans and music lovers but ATH’s sound is something that will have global appeal as is evident from their touring around the world in recent years. Moreover, the band clearly establish their sound on the album and I’m sure that if one were to hear their tunes over the radio or in a bar, having heard the album before, would be easily able to recognise their music.
So if you’re looking for a new Southern Rock sound that departs slightly from the Allman Brothers / Skynyrd tones we’re so used to hearing, given ATH a spin and you are likely to fast become a fan.
Written by:- Karan Dutta