Sunday, 15 November 2015

Wild Ponies - Holy Cross Parish Hall, Lichfield. Saturday 14th November 2015

This evening’s show in Lichfield was further visible proof of the Wild Ponies blossoming as a live touring act. The first time Doug and Telisha Williams played the Lichfield area it was in a support role to Rod Picott and they impressed sufficiently to get an invite back to play a headline duo date a year later. Follow the timeline on another twelve months and you arrive in the present with on this occasion the duo format expanded to a trio with a guest percussionist added. Each performance built upon the previous show with enhanced impact and indications are that the band’s profile in the UK is growing too. Quite simply Doug and Telisha are in the throes of becoming an established touring act well supported by a UK network which advocates the view that the true soul of Nashville music exists east of the Cumberland River.

On the topic of soul, you would have to travel a long way to experience a more gut wrenching rendition of a song than the version of ‘Iris’ that flooded out of Telisha just after the break. Written in tribute to her grandma, the song adopted a greater element of poignancy in light of the fundraising aspect to this evening’s show and took pride of place as the night’s golden moment. There is an incredible amount of authenticity and southern class in Telisha’s voice whether it’s acting as a song’s focal point or merging in the more upbeat rock ‘n’ roll material that the band excel at. Throughout a performance that spanned two sets, deliciously punctuated by a serving of Hot Burrito Promotion’s famous chilli, the Wild Ponies shared all facets of their repertoire, obviously steeped in traditional country but also extending to wider roots and a spicy dose of indie rock ‘n’ roll. This sound has enormously contributed into attracting an expanding fan base this side of the pond.

To share some of the Wild Ponies ingredients, Telisha adds the stand-bass input to her vocals, while Doug effortlessly flits between his trusty old Gibson acoustic and more lively Fender Telecaster. For this tour, a hired native percussionist known as Tobias has provided the third dimension, with Telisha anointing him as the ‘Posh Pony’. Seriously though and despite the ribbing, the contribution of a percussionist at these shows can be immense and this evening was no exception. Before delving into some of the band’s song analysis, you have to mention the encore when all three performers left the stage, brought their unplugged instruments onto the floor (including the hefty bass) and beautifully serenaded the audience on their way with Telisha’s appetising version of the Patsy Cline standard ‘I Fall to Pieces’: Pure live gig heaven.

The two sets the band played prior to the encore were sprinkled with material from the latest album THINGS THAT USED TO SHINE, the Doug and Telisha Williams duo album GHOST OF THE KNOXVILLE GIRL and enticingly, three songs from an upcoming record due to hit the shelves in 2016. This trio of tracks titled, ‘Radiant’, ‘Broken Heart’ and ‘Unplug Your Machine’, was the most intriguing part of the night and the first listen was mightily impressive. The first track is set to be the record’s title, while the second one was the standout of the three with such a remarkable likeness to the style of Angaleena Presley. The final one was the most memorable of the trio with a distinctive appeal, new wave indie rock backbeat and a sentiment we all need to adhere to sometimes. Stay tuned for further new Wild Ponies stuff shortly.

THINGS THAT USED TO SHINE has been given a renewed press boost during this tour and tracks from the record continue to sparkle in a live setting. Tonight’s highlights were the vigorous ‘Broken’, the Amy Speace co-write ‘Trouble Looks Good on You’ and the NASCAR story told in ‘Massey’s Run’. As per last year’s show, Doug introduced the latter with an insightful tale of being raised near to the famous speedway circuit in Martinsville Virginia with this year’s take including a recent return visit to the town. At this point it is worth mentioning that Doug takes lead vocal on this track and a few others as well as singing harmony on many more.

There is no lead status in the Wild Ponies with both artists adding vital components. Telisha is a proud fan of the murder folk ballad and amongst the set this evening included the wonderful title track from the GHOST OF THE KNOXVILLE GIRL album along with a couple of others defined by the killing theme. Of course this is the artistic side of Doug and Telisha with undoubtedly their literal side being represented in the defunct protest song ‘Love is Not a Sin’. To conclude the song analysis, there was no finer up tempo part of the show than ‘Graveyard Train’ which precluded the encore and contained two of Telisha’s major song inspirations.

Just a word about the backdrop to this evening’s show and its fundraising purpose of supporting the British Heart Foundation which included a short opening set by local artists Ben and Chrissie. The cause was very dear to the heart of a few folks in the room and an extremely well attended show displayed an enormous amount of support for the cause. The sheer quality of the Wild Ponies performance gave the event the content it deserved and it was a pleasure to attend the evening with all the subtle and honourable trappings.  You are certainly missing something if you don’t add the Wild Ponies to your 2016 gig and listening schedule. This was definitely not the case for those in Lichfield this evening.

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