“We’re not lost; we just don’t know where to go.” This is the central theme throughout The Show Ponies’ latest album. It is also a theme I can relate to more than just a little bit. As a younger man I spent a great deal of time alternately riding in the passenger seat of vehicles belonging to kindly strangers and standing on the gravel shoulders of filthy highways thumbing my way across the country, and then as one of the weary, unwashed patrons riding from state to state, city to city, in the cramped seats of Greyhound Buses. There was always this inexorable urge to keep on moving back then, to not stay in one place too long, and to experience and observe all that I could while I could. And there were more than a few instances in which I traveled without a set destination. I wasn’t lost. Nor did I know where I was going. Being in a band which tours frequently, The Show Ponies know all too well the feeling of needing to move on. So they write road songs. And…any worthwhile roots album needs a road song or two.
It’s a fairly rare thing for such accomplished musicians to come together for a single project as the five members did for the West Coast folk and bluegrass band The Show Ponies. Guitar and banjo player John Harris actually produced The Show Ponies’ debut album “Here We Are!” only to join up a short time later. Fiddle player Phillip Glenn is not your average violinist, but was awarded the Daniel Pearl Memorial Violin at the Mark O’Conner Fiddle Camp. The lovely Andi Schrock, guitar and vocals, is one of the two individuals that birthed The Show Ponies project. The other original member is Clay Chaney, on bass and vocals. And last but certainly not least we have drummer Kevin Brown who earned his Masters in Percussion Performance at CSU Long Beach. As I said, they are a group of very accomplished musicians.
With an all-acoustic and wholly organic sound that is definitely a credit to the current roots revival sweeping the fringe music scene, The Show Ponies play a well-crafted mixtures of indie-folk, old-timey bluegrass, and genuine country. Clearly influenced by the originators of these musical styles, it seems important for the Ponies to remain true to their traditional forms. And in their own way, this highly talented quintet’s songs prove that such music is timeless and can be appreciated just as much today as it was way back when.
“We’re Not Lost” is the standard eleven-song roots album, but the songs surpass standards insofar as musicianship, songwriting, lyricism, and execution. From the banjo pickin’, guitar strumming, and fiddle bowing, to bass pluckin’ and a-thumpin’, and tight drumming, each Show Ponies composition isn’t just an expressive work of art, it’s a spirited bit of fun. And not only is it a mark of admiration and respect to early roots music, it’s a vehicle for moving roots music through the present and into the future, so that it can be equally appreciated by all for years to come. Above all, I am a fan of the male and female vocal deliveries. In one song they trade back and forth, while in another the vocals are all male or all female. And there is even an instance or two in which the male/female vocals are beautifully interwoven and ride the instrumentation across the fabric of the song.
Yes, The Show Ponies are a roots band, yet they have punk values and employ DIY practices. Case in point, this new Show Ponies album, “We’re Not Lost,” was self-released. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they booked their own tours. Now, we know they don’t do their own promotion. That honor belongs to Devon at Hearth PR. And a wise choice that was on the Ponies’ part, since Devon dies a hell of a job and only promotes the very best roots-based music.
If you have the roots fever like so many other people in the fringe music scene, you might want to check out The Show Ponies’ new album “We’re Not Lost.”