Review: Horse Feathers @ Luminaire, Kilburn. March 2nd 2009

mp3: Horse Feathers – In Our Blood

After a distinctly average at best support band, Martin James, I’m in need of some musical therapy, a cleansing if you will. Horse Feathers are thankfully next up. As I sit with a friend inches from the stage of the dimly lit, red curtained Luminaire in Kilburn, I’m confident they are up to the task of soothing my soul.

From Portland, Oregon tonight’s incarnation of Horse Feathers is Justin Ringle on vocals and guitar, Nathan Crockett on violin, saw (yep that’s right!), vocals and Catherine O’Dell on cello and vocals. On record and in days of old Peter Broderick, now going solo to some considerable acclaim, and sister Heather Broderick also featured adding extra strings and vocals. Peter was apparently responsible for encouraging a lot of the beautiful string arrangements that remain today. Well done sir!

Make no mistake this is music of the most beautiful and affecting kind. Opener ‘In Our Blood’, from the album Words Are Dead, is breathtaking, its perfect three way harmonies instantly showcasing the immense vocal talent on offer this evening. Justin’s presence is instantly felt even from his humbly adopted stage right position, his thick arms holding his acoustic guitar high, his pick strapped thumb gently strumming and a clear fire in his eyes.

There’s no wasting time with soft openers here as the band play ‘Finch On Sunday’ and the marvellous ‘Curs in The Weeds’ back to back. They immediately settle in, sharing their appreciation for the quiet attentiveness of the audience who are ghostly quiet during each song, hanging on every word and feeling every gap between notes. Despite some post song tuning I think it’s only violinist Nathan, made fun of by Justin for his ‘perfect pitch’, who picks up on anything.

Horse Feathers @ Luminaire, London. March 2nd 09 by musicmule.co.uk

While there are similar sounding bands out there (Iron & Wine are first to mind) these guys have a style of their own and as I watch them this evening I don’t want anyone else in their place. The string arrangements, now integral to these songs, give them a real edge over their peers. Catherine’s cello provides the bass line and Nathan’s violin lifts the songs to seemingly impossible heights. Just listen to the song ‘Honest Doubter’ or ‘Falling Through The Roof’ for an example of what I mean.

The band have been on the road for a while doing a mini tour of the UK and Europe and once done with that they head back to the States to impress at SXSW festival in Texas. There are no signs of flagging so far as they deliver another highlight, ‘Mothers Sick’, a real tear jerker with lines like ‘Life don’t always fold up neat, sadness will come in different shades’. But I’m ultimately uplifted despite the slow pace and melancholic nature of a lot of the songs. ‘Walking & Running’ does pick up the tempo a little, its ‘sucking and fucking’ lyric painting a cheeky smile on people’s unsuspecting faces. Its beautiful chiming guitar carries the track along at an easy jog with strings as ever nipping closely at its heels.

Horse Feathers' Justin Dingle @ Luminaire, London. March 2nd 09 by musicmule.co.uk

Listening to Horse Feathers’ music with its countryside imagery of Lavender, Finches and Weeds is like taking a train ride and seeing beautiful trees and landscapes moving in and out of view. I’m just sitting back taking it all in, happy and at peace, not sure where I’m going but I don’t want the journey to end. Luckily we’re not quite there yet as Justin and co play their Daytrotter favourite ‘Helen’ before leaving the stage. They re-emerge to a hell of a racket seconds later with drinks magically replenished and ask the crowd whether they’d like a ‘slow one or a fast one’?  ‘Slow!’ my friend gets in first and his request is met with unanimous audience and band approval. I almost wish they’d asked ‘long or short?’ instead so we could drag this gig on forever. As it happens great minds think alike and the crowd, with minimal resistance, manage to get one last song out of the band before they come to a well-earned finish.

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3 Responses to “Review: Horse Feathers @ Luminaire, Kilburn. March 2nd 2009”

  1. Robyn Kimber Says:

    That is your best viedo yet it looks amazing… everyone shoud watch this… He looks like Bonnie Prince Billy.
    x

  2. Yes, its a good one Nick. You have done well there.

  3. He sounds a bit like Bonnie Prince Willy too.
    Glad you guys approve.

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