Wisconsin’s indie-folk duo, Dead Horses, release a gorgeous fourth album of exquisite song-writing and understated power.
Brady Street is the fourth album from songwriter and vocalist Sarah Vos and bass-player Dan Wolff, and if there is any justice in this screwed-up world of music, it should propel them up to the dizziest heights. It is a superb album.
Without turning their backs on their strong, traditional folk-influenced previous work, Vos and Wolff have created an album that reveals more of their indie influences and points to an exciting direction for the band. While it’s still their well-established mix of tasteful acoustic guitar and stand-up bass that dominates, there’s more electric guitar on this album. But it fits perfectly, and never even comes close to overpowering these ten beautiful songs. ‘It’s All Good’, opens with softly strummed acoustic guitar, rolling stand-up bass and gentle percussion, but moves through the gears seamlessly, to a closing section that introduces some beautiful cello before being powered to a final crescendo up with some heavier guitar playing, bass and drums that reach an almost-early-Radiohead intensity. Closing track, ‘Days Grow Longer’ even features some smile-inducing, Byrd’s-inspired, jangling guitar work that could be prime-time Teenage Fanclub.
The musicianship is faultless throughout, with Wolff’s fluid and truly musical bass-playing combining perfectly with Vos’ impressive guitar work. But it’s Vos’ voice and her lyrics that linger in the memory long after the final chords. Her remarkable insight and empathy for suffering was earned the hard way. At 15, her world was turned upside down when her family were expelled from the rural Wisconsin church where her father had long served as pastor.
“My older brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and my twin had mental illnesses and cognitive disabilities,” explains Vos. “When the church kicked us out, they basically told my dad, ‘If you can’t lead your family, how can you lead your church?’ At the time we were expelled, we lived in the church’s parish house. Suddenly, my father was unemployed and my family was homeless. My parents couldn’t afford insurance for the medical care my siblings needed. We were kicked out and completely abandoned.”
As her family began to get back on their feet, Vos headed to Milwaukee for college, where she found herself opening up about her sexuality that her strict religious upbringing had forced her to repress. The mix of freedom and relief and shame and guilt was overwhelming, and a depressive breakdown ensued. It was around this time she met Wolff, and their remarkable music partnership was established. Music offered her up the possibility of a better way ahead and together they embraced it, playing everywhere and anywhere they got the opportunity. That work-rate seems like it’s been a significant factor in creating such a strong unit.
Aside from the memorable melodies, brilliant playing and performance, there’s a serious weight to all these songs. Vos has a gorgeous voice and she is also a very talented songwriter. And despite all the hurt and pain she sees around her, she has written an inspiringly optimistic album, celebrating love and sending a message of hope to all those who also find it hard to find their place in the world. I can’t recommend it enough.