Album Review: The Show Ponies – How It All Goes Down (Winners NewMusicFriday Ep. 32)

Obviously we like folk music around here, so when we heard The Show Ponies for the first time we were thrilled to tap our toes along with the music they make. But goshdarnit these folks have gotten better since we’ve known them. This recent album How It All Goes Down is a step in the right, rhythmic and groovin’ direction. We think you’ll like them!

It opens with a raucous track “The Time It Takes,” which is in one way a jam track to get you into the album. But it also has a message of looking back on your life and take stock of who you are. It’s a much more introspective song lyrically than the overall vibe might allude to. “This World Is Not My Home” is pretty unapologetically a gospel tune. It reflects on the bluegrass roots of the style of music The Show Ponies play. The thing about gospel is that it’s about more than just the uptempo style or even the lyrics; gospel is known for a certain style of vocal harmony that these folks really get down. It’s a great track and one of the best on the album, honestly.

The following “Kalamazoo” is just a wonderful track. I love the fiddle work on this one. The vocal on it is at another level. Honestly, I wish that the vocalist, Andi Carder, on this one would do a full album of this style. It’s really an exceptional sound. It reminds me of a band we covered last year called the Harmaleighs (who I also loved). The sentiment of the song is really great, too, because it’s not just a breakup song. There’s a healthy dose of spit and frustration there that’s REALLY relatable.

“Someone to Stay” is positively a rock song. It’s sure to be a toe tapper for some folks who like more of that southern rock sound out of a gospel folk outfit. “Shoulda Showed Him” is a bit of a hybrid track, using some modern rock syncopation and attitude, it reminds me a little of something Nickel Creek might do; it shows off an attitude not typically found from this type of band. “Folks Back Home” feels like a Celtic folk song more than a typical American song. It’s a bit more lyrically busy and forges yet another direction for the band. “Only Lie” is a creative track, taking a unique track that we don’t really hear anywhere else on the album. It has a mysterious quality to it and a differentiated rhythm that keeps you wondering what’s next.

The opening of “Something Good” calms me right down. I appreciate the raw sensitivity to the vocal as it lays over the simple acoustic line. It’s the kind of thing that drew me to folk music in the first place and I’d love to hear more like that from The Show Ponies. When the vocal harmonies enter and the female lead… well, it moves right up there with “Kalamazoo” in conversation for the best on the album.

“Sweetly” is a lovely track, too. It builds well with the characteristic strings and good vocals. I think it fits the title with the lead vocal working nicely over the strings for a comfortable melody and love-provoking content. So then the acapella part on “Bravery Be Written” sends chills straight up my spine. The Show Ponies are at their best when they stick to the rootsy core of who they are, especially when the female lead vocal dances so eloquently with the fiddle. Honestly, I wish the album had ended with this song. It’s exceptionally good.

It’s probably obvious from anyone who knows this album well that I don’t love all of it, but the four or five songs that I love are seriously some of the best folk music I’ve heard all year. I’m really eager to hear where Andi Carder goes in her career. She’s a superbly talented artist. If the band continues to work in the roots/mountain/gospel direction, we’ll definitely be interested in covering them more in the future.

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