Horse Feathers “Appreciation” (Kill Rock Stars, 2018)

Made in Kentucky but with nods to Wigan. Now that is a strange thought on which to begin any review but for this, their 6th album, Horse Feathers have built upon the guitars, strings and keyboards that have been their backbone until now and added just a touch of Northern Soul to the mix. 45 seconds into the opening track ‘Without Applause,’ acoustic guitars are joined by Hammond organ and these unlikely but highly impressive bedfellows are exposed for the world to see.

That soulful influence is repeated at various stages throughout this terrific album. The wonderful ‘Best To Leave’ has a soft shoe shuffle feel running through its heart with longtime violinist Nathan Crockett adding a memorable hook. For all the drift towards a fuller and more dynamic sound on the album it will be reassuring for established Feathers fans that it is these strings that create the lasting impressions here. Look no further than ‘Broken Beaks’ and ‘Altamont’ for high-class examples of how these strings bring a distinct and memorable sound to the mix.

‘Faultline Wall’ reprises that earlier shuffle, adds a killer guitar riff that dominates proceedings and creates perhaps the most atmospheric and striking track on the album. It is a brilliant piece of songwriting and playing on an album full of highlights and variety. Rhythmic banjo lead on a soul song? Look no further than ‘The Hex’.

It is to his credit that lead singer and songwriter Justin Ringle has, on songs that work brilliantly in their own individual right, fused these subtle shifts in tone into one excellent collection that work effectively together as an album. 70s style country pop, supple soul, ballads, lush strings and rhythm steeped in Northern Soul, it’s all here as a backdrop to Ringle’s distinctive vocals.  ‘Appreciation’ is a high-quality piece of work that deserves to bring this talented band to the attention of a wider audience.

8/10

Summary

Highly impressive piece of soulful americana

Author: Peter Churchill

Lover of intelligent singer-songwriters; a little bit country; a little bit folk; a little bit Americana. Perfect Day - early morning round of golf, afternoon at Dean Court watching AFC Bournemouth, evening gig at a cosy smallish venue with a pint and a packet of scratchings.

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