Wild Ponies - Galax
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Galax (Gearbox, 2017)

Wild Ponies

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

Doug and Telisha Williams boast a bond that finds them on common ground, both personally and professionally. It's a connection based in wedded bliss, of course, but also built on their common desire to tap tradition, one that stems from a core appreciation for the sound of music that rises from its roots while also finding its contemporary credence.

The pair's latest album under the The Wild Ponies handle makes that commitment clear. It was conceived with the help of an all star supporting cast - among them, multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplan, guitarist Will Kimbrough and producer Neilson Hubbard - at Doug's grandparents' family farm in Galax, Va.. Although the barn where the music was recorded is now abandoned, the setting proved appropriate when it came to recreating a backwoods sound, complete with all the vintage trappings. The celebratory sing-along that characterizes the old time opener "Sally Arm" may contrast with the mournful remake of Hazel Dickens' "Pretty Bird," but both find commonality in an implied authenticity, one that informs the arrangements and echoes through every pluck, strum and vocal. Teisha's singing in particular reinforces that notion, especially on a song such as "To My Grave," which replicates the feel of an age-old gospel hymn even though it's an original composition.

Not surprisingly, the duo also return to the roots by including appropriate covers in their sturdy set list. Yet, with all the music cut in vintage style, the album record comes across as a unified whole rather than a series of disparate songs. It's that sense of devotion, distinction and dedication that makes "Galax" so unerringly authentic, a work that binds past and present in an arcane yet enthusiastic way. Credit the Wild Ponies with yet another superior stampede.

CDs by Wild Ponies

Galax, 2017 Things That Used to Shine, 2013

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