Blue Horse, by The Be Good Tanyas
Suggested by Dreena Jane
Back in 1998, I saw Blade at the cinema.
If you’ve seen it, cast your mind back to the opening scene. It’s in a dance club, an urban concrete box with low ceiling and sprinkler pipes. There’s harsh strobing lights and pulsing industrial techno music. The dancefloor is crammed, claustrophobic, sweaty, as the camera pans around the mesmeric writhing mass of limbs.
The music reaches a peak, and the sprinklers kick in. They’re full of blood.
The crowd begin to frenzy. They’re vampires, ready to feed on any non-vampire clubbers that are in the building.
This is the best opening scene ever made, I thought, gripped, on the edge of my proverbial. This film is going to be INCREDIBLE.
*Morgan Freedman’s Voiceover* The film was not incredible. After such a brilliant start, Craig could only be disappointed from here on in.
Similarly, Blue Horse starts with a sweet shuffling bang. The Littlest Birds is a fantastic song, bluegrass-tinged folk with a resonant message, underscored with picked guitar, mandolin, banjo and what appears to be washboard percussion. The triple vocals harmonise well, despite there being distinct styles at play, from a good-natured smoky country to a perching indie pixie tone. They sit together in complementary layers, and the song is sweeter for it.
Unfortunately, after such a strong opener, the rest of the album fails to reclaim such giddy heights. The following song, Broken Telephone, is a much more straightforward country ballad, sung with a southern drawl over first a single guitar and then a Hawaiian slide and brush drumming. There’s nothing wrong with it, as it’s dynamic and heartfelt and true… it’s just a little less interesting than the track that precedes it.
So many of the tracks fall into this downbeat country mould. Lakes of Pontchartrain, Dogsong (AKA Sleep Dog Lullaby), Don’t You Fall and more, all doing their best to wring every drip of emotion from your trailer park pickup truck rodeo clown heart. Again, they’re fine, but they feel like stock images, cut and paste stickers from the Dollywood Commemorative Brochure.
There are a few more highlights, but nothing to match the standout My Littlest Birds. Up Against the Wall begins a run of three songs that bring the album home with style. Oh Suzannah is a fresh take on the Stephen Foster classic, and Light Enough to travel picks up the pace just enough to sign off with a smile. I suppose you’d expect the band to end things on a high, but their efforts still don’t quite reach those of The Littlest Birds.
Just like with Blade, I found myself very excited after Blue Horse’s introductory gambit, only to feel that the band had left the door open after track one and watched their steed bolt into the night. From an initial 8, Blue Horse drops to a medium 6/10, leaving a slightly bitter yearning for what could have been.