Black Horse Motel – Parable

Black Horse Motel – Parable

Something like five or so years ago Mumford And Sons set a standard for alt.folk that spawned a legion of tributes, with any number of country-punk influenced performers emulating their hard-edged, raucously crowd-pleasing and relentlessly upbeat sound. Inevitably, after a year or two that format began to lose its inspiration somewhat, and it seemed as if an important strand of folk-rock had run its course. I mention this asĀ Black Horse Motel seem to have sprung from another corner of the alt.folk world, and while their music is energetic, intricate and raw-edged in significant quantities, a lot of its strength is derived from their departing from that 4/4 rhythmic folk-rocking style that, let’s be very honest, had got just a little too repetitive.

Parable is a mini-album whose only flaw is that it consists of just five tracks. This isn’t anything like enough of Black Horse Motel for my (and one or two other reviewers) liking. The reasons for this are BHM’s musicianship, their songwriting, with its unsentimental tales of rural life and occasional hardships, and a production sound in which each and every instrument is presented with resonant clarity. This brings an added depth to their slower numbers, although it doesn’t do the frenetic pace of first track “Run Rabbit Run” a lot of harm either, a song that’s fast-paced enough to make an inspirational nod towards the Mumfords, although BHM aren’t putting too much into the floorboards with their story of leaving the homestead. “Bones” is an altogether slower piece, a tale of familial woes told with an evocative lyrical imagery which reveals that BHM aren’t just great musicians, their words can carry an emotive weight that bolsters the strengths of their instrumentation.

“Where The Money Comes From” takes us back into folk-punk, with its story of underhand dealings and echoes of KT Tunstall, but it’s next song, the elegiac “Take It Back” which displays the talents of BHM to their utmost, and the production brings every instrumental nuance to the fore, whether it’s the percussive tones, the strings, the ringing playing of the mandolin, and the measured keyboard parts that end the song are together a work of quite some distinction, a song that needs to be heard more than once to appreciate its qualities.

“Dear Mama” ends ParableĀ on a raucously foot-stomping note, and it seems as if half the story is left untold after its sudden conclusion. Fortunately, BHM have seen fit to include their previous two mini-albums/EPs and a number of live tracks on their Soundcloud page, for anyone needing to hear more of their consistently accomplished words and music.