Pale Horse and Rider – These are the New Good Times

Pale Horse and Rider
These are the New Good Times

The latest musical incantation of multi-talented singer/songwriter Jon DeRosa, Pale Horse and Rider comfortably straddles the line between classic country and modern indie slow-core. Backed by a group of friends that could almost be labeled a supergroup – Low’s Alan Sparhawk (who also produced), Marc Gartman, Rivulet’s Nathan Amundson, and Flare’s Charles Newman – These are the New Good Times is an album as rich in musical depth and range as in lyrical content.
While DeRosa’s other ongoing project, Aarktica, evoked lush and experimental soundscapes, Pale Horse and Rider is all acoustic and soft, filled with finger-picked guitar, banjo, harmonium, violin, and DeRosa’s mature-beyond-his-years voice. Striking perhaps the perfect middleground between Bonnie Prince Billy’s warm folk/country sounds and Low’s minimalist approach, this is a soft yet immediately enthralling album.
The opening “Jersey Coast Line” feels vintage in its approach, as DeRosa’s voice and finger-picked guitar sound perfectly suited to the down-home feel of the song’s lyrics. But it’s merely a tease for the intensely beautiful “Will We Be Blessed Someday,” a gorgeous track that has an almost gospel-like feel despite it’s quiet sensibilities. “Stars” is a quiet, heartwarming song possessing the kind of honesty of Low, and “Aura Lee” is a gorgeous, sentimental tune. The album ends like it starts, with the vintage, country-leaning “The Prettiest Girl I’ve Seen Tonight (So Far).”
Not all on These are the New Good Times is simple folk/country affairs. The more upbeat “Just Life” is a nice change, allowing DeRosa’s voice to flow in a Nick Drake style. On “Metropolitan Love Song,” soft violin accompanies DeRosa’s voice beautiful, making it feel more like a heartfelt plea than a country song. There’s also three covers here. DeRosa’s take on Brian John Mitchell’s (aka Remora) “I Told Jesus Christ How Much I Love Her” is a moody, personal song. He also covers Marc Gartman with “Sunday Matinee” and Rivulets with “Past Life.”
Like his previous acoustic effort, Dead Leaves Rising, Pale Horse and Rider showcases Jon DeRosa’s songwriting ability, with deep and intricate lyrics that match his strong voice and musical ability. Perhaps more developed – and certainly with a strong backing – Pale Horse and Rider will definitely appeal to fans of the softer, more folk-based approach to indie rock. Will Oldham may have set the stage, but Jon DeRosa may very well take it over.