More People Really Should Know About: Wild Ponies

Wild Ponies are husband and wife, Doug and Telisha Williams, now living in Nashville but, importantly, originally from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. They have produced three wonderful albums as Wild Ponies and are a real force of nature live.

On listening again to ‘Things That Used To Shine’ (2014), ‘Radiant’ (2016) and ‘Galax’ (2017), I was struck by how strong each is and how well they all compare to, for example, the best albums of this year. It’s a close thing, but ‘Radiant’ would be my pick of the three. The tracks on all are consistently memorable with great melodies and compelling lyrics which paint pictures that stay in your head. There is a clear influence of Appalachian music in their work with lots of fiddle and banjo, but they have updated it with steel and electric guitar and some rock influences at times.

There is a lot of love and warmth in their songs but they don’t shy away at all from the darker sides of life; this makes their words very human. For example, the first track on ‘Things That Used To Shine’ deals with casual sex from a woman’s point of view and then the second has the singer describing herself warts and all. The third track ‘Trigger’ (spoiler alert) tells of a woman’s revenge when she finds that her partner has abused her children and revenge and abuse come up in other songs. However, this is balanced by, for example, tracks like the excellent ‘Home Is Where The Road Goes’, which is written, probably autobiographically, about a loving touring couple on the road driving through the snow. Their pro-LGBT+ song ‘Love Is Not A Sin’ is very moving.

When I saw them live at the fabulous Greystones in Sheffield, Telisha did most, but not all of the singing and played upright bass, Doug was on electric guitar and they had a drummer. The show was passionate, enthusiastic and full of life with them appearing to be so pleased to be performing, even in front of a smallish audience.

They seem to want to grasp all the opportunities that life gives and particularly to build relationships with people in their community. In Covid times they started Dreamers Food Truck to make money to help them get through the pandemic, but also to help struggling Nashvillians; they gave away 5000 meals to those in need. They have an annual weekend of distillery tours with fans, have a weekly Whiskey Wednesday radio show and produce a music podcast The Long Ride where they interview their musical heroes.

They are also embedded in the Nashville music community and got some of their music friends from Nashville to play on their last album ‘Galax’ alongside old-time players from the mountain town of Galax. The album, recorded in a shed behind Doug’s family farm in the Appalachians, has a really evocative bluegrass feel to it.

Doug and Telisha met at High School and formed a band there. The band broke up but they continued to play folk music and eventually quit jobs to become full-time musicians. They produced three albums as Doug and Telisha Williams: ‘No Evil’, ‘Rope Around My Neck’ and ‘Ghost Of The Knoxville Girl’, which contains a song from the point of view of the woman in the famous murder ballad. The albums, which are slightly more traditional than the Wild Ponies, are worth checking out.

Although they have not produced an album in seven years, a new one, ‘Dreamers’, is upcoming. They have recently had a first child, who seems to be absolutely the apple of their eyes. They say that the album concerns “exploration beyond the traditional nuclear family and into the community, joys, and heartbreaks they’ve experienced as part of a queer, polyamorous (I had to look this one up, just to be sure) family undergoing fertility treatments and becoming foster parents”.

The album is something to look forward to in 2024 and you can only hope that one day they will be able to come back over to the UK to play some shows.

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