Milwaukee-based Americana group Dead Horses played a show at the Evening Muse Sunday night. I didn’t make it over to NoDa to see them, but our paths did cross while I was sipping a dark roast at Grind. Front woman and songwriter Sarah Vos teamed up with collaborative artist and bassist Daniel Wolff to form the band; they tour with Ryan Ogburn on mandolin and Jamie Gallagher on drums. Traveling by van and all wearing sunglasses, they had good energy that permeated my Nina Simone-induced work trance. Freddie, the best barista for beans and counter side banter, was intrigued. I listened to a couple of Dead Horses’s latest Spotify releases, “Turntable” and “Water.” Oh, the joys of a serendipitous morning!
“Turntable” opens with the kind of strings that feel like jam and toast for breakfast when the leaves are crunchy and it’s just barely jacket weather. Sarah’s vocals are real like organic carrots: they supplement the air to put something good in your life. The lyrics speak to the music found in nature, both the nature you find outside and in humanity, invoking imagery that combines human anatomy with machinations of music, such as a turntable in the place of a heart.
“Water” opens with percussion you can cozy up to and mandolin that makes me wonder what the fingertips of a touring mandolin player look like. The strings are personal and inviting, nudging the listener to look beyond the riff to the larger picture. Sarah’s vocals sprawl over the layers of percussion, guitar chords, and melodious mandolin, starting calm and picking up steam, like a hang glider running and taking off to soar on the up drift of sound, as she sings of the reviving qualities of water. Then, a mandolin solo flows in, flooding the listener’s ear canals with a melody that is delightful and pure.
Dead Horses have dates announced all over the country through the beginning of May of 2018. I hope to catch them when they play at the SXSW Music Festival in March. Their previous albums, Cartoon Moon (2016) and Space and Time (2014), are available on Spotify.
Photo by Jackson & Co.