There has been a resurgence of American Roots music over the past decade.
Americana, blues, and folk have bled into the world of popular music on all fronts – indie rock, electronic music, and even hip-hop have been borrowing bits and pieces of our shared musical heritage as they shape the new music landscape. The exchange has had a reciprocal effect, with roots artists layering new pop sensibilities over centuries old traditions to create their own fresh but familiar sounds.
Even so, there are some artists who are able to channel those roots in such a pure and powerful way that the experience feels entirely new while the formula remains the same. Such is the case with Dead Horses.
The latest album by the Wisconsin trio is Cartoon Moon, recorded with Ken Coomer (Wilco) in Nashville, TN. The album bears the name of Coomer’s studio, when talking with lead singer and songwriter Sarah Vos she said that the name was a tribute to the experience at Coomer’s studio and his role in the creation of the album. “I think the name was also appealing to us, in an aesthetic way, ” says Vos.
It is that attention to aesthetic and detail that is apparent throughout Cartoon Moon. Every lyric and every note have the force of careful intention behind them and serve to create an album that feels perfectly complete.
There is a lot to sink your teeth into with Cartoon Moon, Vos’s songwriting unfolds with each successive listen to reveal a poetic articulation of the human condition. Vos crafts each song with care and with a reverence for the power of language. A huge fan of John Steinbeck, Vos’s songwriting mirrors his novels as she explores universal themes of humanity like love, our relationship with the land, loneliness, and self-discovery.
“It’s the energy behind the music that is most important,” says Vos “on Cartoon Moon we gave the songs a lot of space, it’s more patient. Patient is maybe the best way to describe Cartoon Moon, the songs are not in a hurry to get somewhere or prove anything, a refreshing experience for the listener, after all, patience is a virtue.
Cartoon Moon is an album that is wrapped in authenticity and skill. The songwriting is deft and insightful and the musicianship is top notch. Standouts include “Red Pony” (named after a Steinbeck novella), “Ain’t Got Time” (which feature banjo from Punch Brother’s Noam Pikelny), and “Brothers” a swaggering soul ballad that really shows off Vos’s voice.
The Dead Horses are on tour in support of Cartoon Moon with fellow roots band Mandolin Orange. They’ll be here in Charleston Sunday night, October 23rd. Doors open at 7:30, tickets are $15 in advance and $17 at the door. It’ll be the Dead Horse’s first time in Charleston, so let’s be sure to give them a warm Lowcountry welcome!