Album Review: Man About a Horse – Top quality bluegrass

If you’ve been reading our site for a bit, you already know about Man About a Horse, the Philadelphia based bluegrass outfit. If classic American music is your style, you’ll love these talented pickers.

Featured track “Grieve, Cry, and Moan” will have you tapping your feet. The strings and vocals are all top quality. The vocal blending, as is often the case with bluegrass, seals the deal. The lyrics highlight the depth of human experience, mostly with the hard to deal with elements. It resonates.

Opening track “Frankford Junction” does some great work in forging a classic bluegrass feel. The mandolin really steals the show on this one, with the banjo rolling into some delightful fills as well. As the typical train-rolling style comes through, you find yourself feeling really comfortable and on the adventure with the band. It starts the album beautifully.

“You can never go home again” hits really hard. It’s something that anyone nearing middle age can give a hearty “amen.” The dark style with the chords and expressive lines really help to punctuate a difficult and lonesome kind of sound. The lyrics add an extra element of complexity with a criminal element; it works well.

“A few hundred miles” might be my favorite and I can’t really explain why. It just strikes a chord, you might say. It sort of reminds me of that ancient connection between bluegrass and gospel. Maybe it’s because I spent many hours driving through the blue ridge mountains. But whatever you call it, the song really connects with me. I love the swing, the vocals, and the way it gets you moving. There’s some fine pickin on it too.

“Lady Rain” comes at bluegrass from a less conventional approach. It’s more Punch Brothers than Flatt and Scruggs, if you know what I mean. That said, MAAH can really make it work. It’s artful and almost “jazzy” in its flavor. Carrying the theme of outside styles, the bluesy vibe on “Lay My Head Down and Cry” also feels a bit out of place on a conventional bluegrass album but is nevertheless enjoyable. It shows the versatility of MAAH.

“She Should Be You” is a love song… well, a heartbreak song. It’s sweet and reminds me of a Hank Sr. tune. Yeah, that’s high praise, but it’s deserved. Whoever wrote this one had someone in mind and channels the emotion well. The final track “Electioneering” is dark and mysterious. I suppose it’s about politics and instability, so the minor key and stultifying rhythm work to reflect the condition of modern American politics.

This is an intriguing album from start to finish. It’s easy for me to like the traditional tunes more than the others, but really it’s a “no skip” bluegrass album. I am hoping to catch these talented artists live some day. If you only have time for one, check out “A Few Hundred Miles” and it will convince you to enjoy more. It’s for fans of the gamut of bluegrass, but especially fans of Nickel Creek.

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