Album Review

Wild Ponies' Gentle Walk Home

Wild Ponies - Galax

Like Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch, Doug and Telisha Williams find a common bond in tradition and the timeless qualities that come when roots are relished and celebrated with reverence and finesse. 

The Williams; new album under the Wild Ponies moniker makes that commitment clear in ways both real and distinct. Recorded at Doug’s grandparents’ family farm in Galax, Virginia, in a now abandoned barn, it taps tradition with passion, not pretence, emulating the sound of the backwoods and front porches, complete with all the vintage trappings necessary to bring heritage to life. Whether it’s the rollicking sing-along that graces the old time opener “Sally Arm” or the mournful remake of Hazel Dickens’ “Pretty Bird,” there’s an authenticity that echoes through every note, making that passion and purpose resonate with every pluck, strum and solitary sound. Teisha’s vocals refuse to bow to modern fixations; when she expresses her determination on “To My Grave,” it sounds more like an age old gospel hymn than the original composition they’re credited with co-composing.

For the most part, covers abound, but all are of such a singular style, tone and treatment that the record remains a unified whole rather than the work of many contributors. That said, the support cast is superb, with the multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplan, the ever reliable guitar slinger Will Kimbrough and ace producer Neilson Hubbard all helping to propel the proceedings. All told, that makes Galax a work of distinction and devotion -- authentic, arcane Americana imbued with both ease and authenticity.