Georgia’s Horse – The Mammoth Sessions

Georgia's Horse - The Mammoth Sessions

Georgia's Horse - The Mammoth Sessions

A woman and her guitar can be a transfixing presence. But, especially when attempting a direct approach, a woman and her guitar can often take the form of a victim’s pulpit, whining on from an empowered stance about the great pain felt from minor slights. Thankfully, Georgia’s Horse, the vehicle for Texan songwriter Teresa Maldanado, falls squarely into the first category. Playing a brand of spare but big-sounding balladry, on The Mammoth Sessions Georgia’s Horse weaves strands of folk, blues, honky tonk, soul, and gospel into a tapestry that is bare and striking, but also atmospheric and haunted. The arrangements are uncluttered and minimal, relying mostly on pianos or guitars, and occasionally supplemented with cello, but the music looms large. The melodies sit out in the open with nothing else to rely on, mixed at the same level as the vocals. Confident but not screaming for attention, this music is indeed transfixing, intimate, and pure. At times, it gives the feeling of voyeuristically listening through a peephole as a woman makes sense of her lonely experience.

Maldanado doesn’t go for the gusto vocally, instead, turning in more straight or slightly nuanced performances that embed themselves thoroughly into the musical accompaniment. Typical lyrical fare includes imagining animals as mythological messengers, following the old highway, pensively assessing the situation, tempting the forces of nature, and speaking terms of endearment to those parted. The whole affair is fairly impressionistic, with the feelings coming from the music more than from the lyrics. Her lack of enunciation could be seen as problematic for a singer featured so prominently in the mix. It’s difficult to know for sure what Maldanado is singing, and therefore what the songs might mean individually. Still, there is no mistaking when you might want to and might not want to listen to this type of music, and the affective quality of the whole package overrides concerns about individual differences.

Unsurprisingly, Georgia’s Horse is most intriguing when adding less traditional elements into the mix. “As It Stops Raining” takes the basic structure and lyrical approach of most of the other tracks on the album, but it sets aside the guitar to execute the song in a style that sounds like Stevie Nicks sitting at an electric piano covering Nick Cave. Maldanado projects a more tender and flirtatious girl-next -door character on the relatively bright-sounding standout “Bloom”. You can almost hear the Dirty Three playing along with her on “Summer’s Ending and Evenings”. “TZSOTVOFASB” is a beautifully narcotic folk song that ranks up there with Mazzy Star’s finest moments. Final song “Bugg Super Love Song” is a semi-discordant piano ballad that cruises along for 4 minutes before playing the album out in a coda of phased electronic sounds and reverbed vocalizations Grouper would be proud of, sonically reproducing the final and fatal descent into the murky waters of oblivion hinted at earlier on the song and album.

That Maldanado is so open to experimentation is refreshing, though she seems uncommitted to variety, experimentation, tradition or any other particular mode. The songs just seem right the way they exist, entities unto themselves, more like natural phenomenon than anything else. The Mammoth Sessions is a fine debut with personality and playfulness amidst the anchoring emotional heft. The titular sessions for this album lasted over 4 years. Let’s hope the next Georgia’s Horse album takes less time to come to pasture.

Georgia’s Horse

Fire Records