Pale Horse and Rider – Moody Pike

No longer merely the country outlet for one-man band Jon DeRosa, Pale Horse and Rider is now truly a full-band project, adding singer/songwriter Marc Gartman as a full-time member and featuring a journeyman crew of backing artists, with Paul Oldham manning the boards. The result is a more truly country affair, with all the twang of lap steel and acoustic guitars, the mellow storytelling songwriting, and a penchant for folk and indie-pop mixed in.

On Moody Pike, DeRosa and Gartman trade off the songwriting and vocal leads. This results in a different feel between the songs, but never a disparate feel to the album as a whole. Some songs are lighter, some darker in tone, and you can pick out the styles from the songwriters, but the contrast makes the album a more enjoyable listen.

The more moody, quiet songs have a more folk feel to them, more of an alt-country sensibility. The opening pastoral feel of “Stoned in the Evening” is a laid-back country song, with just enough twang and impassioned vocals. “Bruises Like Badges” is moody and quiet, while “In the Cold of Your Room” is a storytelling country song, a bit more intense than typically found here. The vintage Gartman song “Winter Slides” is a little more pop in sensibility (and its piano focus), but it’s a lovely song and one of my favorites.

Some of the best songs are more upbeat and light in tone, like the fun “Lovely Lace,” and these are more traditionally country. Starting out like an old-time gospel tune, “Weight of My Soul” comes on with brash guitars and a Memphis-type bluesy swagger. The closing “The Drinking Boy” is more mid-tempo and lightly contemplative in its storytelling form, but it’s also very traditionally country in feel.

All of Moody Pike feels older, almost classic even when it was first released. I think a lot of that has to do with the production, which keeps enough edge and tone to the music without too much gloss and sheen. I think the band feels more true to itself than on Pale Horse and Rider’s debut, These are the New Good Times, and I expect more good things as the band gels further in the future.