BROWN HORSE – Reservoir (Loose Music)

ReservoirBrown Horse’s Reservoir is a brilliant collection (all the way from Norfolk, England!) of tunes sung by anyone who has “just pulled into Nazareth” and is “feelin’ about half past dead”.

That’s a huge compliment, indeed, but this band plays with an off-hand folk-rock ‘n’ lovely roll toss that swirls and curls like gothic smoke under the moist gravity of an August harvest moon. The music has scarecrow thoughts, as percussion, piano, banjo, pedal steel, electric guitars, and accordion add a beautiful haze to the band’s corn dusted barn floor sound.

And adding to the melodic instrumental dustbowl whirlwind, Patrick Turner’s lead vocals capture the quest of what Greil Marcus, in his brilliant book about American music, Mystery Train, calls, “the worried man”, a guy who has “come up from the netherworld for a breath of air” and “can now afford to have himself a good, long look around”. Let’s just say these vocals sound like a weary Bob Dylan, circa ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’, cross-circuited with Tracy Chapman’s emotive ‘Fast Car’ delivery.

The first three songs long for some sort of redemption. ‘Stealing Horses’ waltzes into the (always) mythical “Nazareth”, as that steel pedal (Thank you! Emma Tovell!) moans like a disturbed ghost who hovers over the slow country drawl of the tune. Nyle Holihan’s electric guitar plays with a passionate poker hand, while those sincere vocals are tattooed with lost chances and lonely confessions. Then, ‘Reservoir’ is the acoustic title tune of unleavened bread thoughts, with a slow banjo-plucked memory through an eternal shortcut graveyard walk. And ‘Shootback’ raises the tempo, just a bit, but still drifts with sagebrush uncertainty, with a lovely guitar solo and a tintype sepia melody.

My friend, Kilda Defnut, says, “This music is a reminder that we in America can still ‘hear my old hound dog barkin’” and “chasin’ down a hoodoo there’”.

Thank you, John Fogerty!

That said, the band enters into Neil Young territory. ‘Everlasting’ punctuates a “broken arrow” tune with passion to burn. But ‘Bloodstain’ gets electric with a Crazy Horse inspired fired hot-grooved 70’s rock ‘n’ roll labyrinth guitar barbecue fury. Nice! And, ‘Silver Bullet’ pulses with even more west coast guitar country rock euphoria.

The great guitar electricity continues and lights a fire under the folk melodies. ‘Sunfisher’, with a 70’s guitar sound, (and to throw a weird reference into the mix!) evokes the passion of Wishbone Ash’s Argus ending ‘Throw Down The Sword’ dramatic groove. Nice, again!

‘Paul Gilley’ slows the pace and stirs an acoustic cauldron of emotions that is gently touched by Rowan Braham’s piano, with backing vocals by (the before-mentioned) Nyle Holihan and percussionist Ben Auld. The Avett Brothers have an album called Emotionalism. Ditto, here.

Then, ‘Outtakes’ (not a bonus track!) continues the plaintive stroll into that mythical Americana “Nazareth”, where gospel keyboards, a tough electric guitar, and a vocal melody become a righteous sermon.

The final song, ‘Called Away’, puffs water from an ancient spring, as banjo and accordion caress the gentle vocal with some sort of unified country-soaked prayer.

These songs, all co-written and then recorded in “just more than four days in a quiet corner of Norfolk” by the six band members, breathe with a mythical communal spirit, which, with Big Pink homespun authenticity, follow the Richard Manuel maxim that good music should be, indeed, the sound of “One voice for all, echoing along the hall”.

Bill Golembeski

Artists’ website:

‘Sunfisher’ – official video: