The frostiness of winter can always bring out the worst in someone. Whether it’s a bad-tempered manner or worse, a chillingly harsh outlook, the winter time has the ability to change anyone. When you think about it, the same could be said about any of the seasons, even spring. And yet, when thinking of spring one sees the sun slowly beginning to shine more and more, the weather slowly beginning to heat up and the blistering snow, melting away. Much like a melting snow that will soon turn into a pot of water, the spring needs time to transition and move over.
If you analyze Horse Feathers’ last album and cover, it’s well known that the music was sparse and rarely moved, if at all. And now, with their new album, Thistled Spring, we are greeted with the optimistic arms of spring to bring us to the light. Unlike its predecessor, where the music was always hushed and required a strong listener to catch everything, their new album is a fresher, livelier look into folk music. And just looking at that cover, it is clairvoyantly clear that Justin Ringle and his band are out to make splendid music.
The ten songs that fill these walls are always begging for attention because if you’re not careful, they’ll pass you by. They demand listens, as if they know that while you may have other intentions, music like this doesn’t normally come out unless there’s a special occasion. This time the occasion is the changing of time and the result is a winner of an album that blows you down all the way until the very end. Even when the bottom is missing on “Heaven’s No Place,” the growth and maturation elevate it to great heights. This is only a small tidbit of what Thistled Spring is all about: ravishing and stunning.
The music filling these spaces is still very much a personal affair, where listeners will need to invest time and effort to catch everything. Ringle is a talented songwriter that crams every song with songwriting gems that are just waiting to be discovered. And although Peter Broderick is no longer a member, Ringle feels comfortable and at ease. It’s the very first time we’ve seen him like this and for that, it deserves a huge heap of credit. Even when everything around them is entirely quiet or even, extremely loud, Ringle always brings forth music that while being hard to pinpoint, is something we can all enjoy. It ends up succeeding in making folk music that is quietly intimate, while stuill sounding universally-connecting.
The opening songs lead into a message that is about moving on, looking forward and relishing in the sun’s life-approving rays. Slowly, Ringle and Co. move into movements of Americana where his singer-songwriter skill is placed onto a pedestal where the songs are fleshed out and much more substantial. Such is the case with “The Widower,” a song that swells with strings that grow and move behind Ringle as he and his band attempt to focus back on the music. And on top of that, these style shifts make songs like the lead single, “Cascades,” dance behind terrific composition. At first quiet and deceiving, the music gradually grows into something magical with the help of banjo and more strings. They not only give the song the feeling of warmth but the depth they add is undisputable.
Don’t be fooled either, the upbeat nature has nothing to do with the music moving any faster. This is still folk music that is built around the foundation of combining great songwriting with corresponding, great, music. Ringle is easily one of the few that can do it so well and lucky us, Thistled Spring is an exemplary example of what folk music is capable of when done right.
“Belly of June” by Horse Feathers