A couple years ago I was trying to set up an interview with John Darnielle when he came through town with The Mountain Goats. I exchanged a few emails with a guy from Shorefire who eventually told me that there wouldn’t be enough time for me to get in there. As expected, I suppose. During these emails he did send me a record to check out by another artist, and even though I didn’t get that interview, I did discover a new artist to pay attention to. Heidi Spencer And The Rare Birds’ Under Streetlight Glow ended up landing a song in my Best Tracks Of 2011 list, and I’ve been waiting on a follow-up. It still hasn’t been made, but in the meantime Spencer has been working with Buffalo Gospel on their new album and it is equally brilliant.
We Can Be Horses kicks off with “Song Of The Ox,” an upbeat toe-tapper featuring great guitar work, gorgeous harmonies, and whip-smart wit. As the lead song, it isn’t completely representative of the album-the following five songs are all much slower campfire ballads. But that’s okay. It’s a fun way to kick off the album and introduce the listener to how capable these musicians are.
“Mule” might be my favorite song on the whole record. It’s a bit sad, but has an uplifting message, “You never know that a little love is all you need til a little love is all you got.” Lead vocalist Ryan Necci has a voice as vulnerable and hurt as any I’ve heard, and he delivers each of these songs in a woeful manner. He always seems to be searching for something that’s just out of sight.
Spencer makes her first noticeable appearance on “Hoarse As A Crow.” It’s a real pretty love song that’s made all the stronger by having her voice coupled with Necci’s. It could almost work as an a capella tune because they harmonize so well. The problem is if they did that, they wouldn’t need the beautiful strings that come on subtly and then rise to the forefront at the end. That would be a travesty, so I’m glad they kept it the way it is.
The album continues with the quiet numbers until we get to “The Eastern,” which kicks off with Necci making a loud declaration followed by a wicked riff. It’s nice to get some loud guitar and drums, just to balance out the rest of the album. This song feels like Necci making his final stand, and reminds me a bit of a bluesier version of “Bad Company” for some reason. The slide guitar part, I think played by Allen Cote but maybe not, really is the icing on the cake here.
I really love the lyrics in “The Hill Outside My Home.” It’s not as soft as some of the other songs toward the top of the album. The vocals are pushed way out front on this one, and I’m so glad they are. It almost feels like a traditional song from the civil war era the way it’s written. “God give but he pretty damn good at the take/Took my ma and my pa and got his hand on my neck/Three boys buried way down low/In that hill outside my home.”
I’d never heard of Buffalo Gospel before I saw Spencer was involved. They’ve been making music in Milwaukee for at least four years now, and I hope we get to hear a lot more from them. For you country music haters out there, just give this album a chance-I know you’ll find something you can relate to. And you don’t have to commit right away. The album is streaming on Spotify, or you can listen and purchase on Bandcamp! Just check it out and I know you’ll want to own it.