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Album review: Tiny Horse - Darkly Sparkly (EP)





Album review: Tiny Horse - Darkly Sparkly (EP)

(Photo by Todd Zimmer) 

One horse. Very small. Packs a wallop.
 
Chris Meck and Abigail Henderson have given way more than their lion’s share to the Kansas City music scene. Whether through past efforts like The Gaslights or Atlantic Fadeout or being some of the driving forces behind the Midwest Music Foundation, Apocalypse Meow, and MidCoast Takeover, they should receive the deep admiration of anyone that sets foot on a stage in this town. Their latest musical endeavor, Tiny Horse, is no exception. Darkly Sparkly is a gorgeous collection of songs.
 
In the simplest of descriptions, the duo plays dark Americana. Ticklers of atmospheric instrumentation, provided by Meck, gambol upon the background, occasionally throwing the ball over the fence to take the melody reins or mingle with Henderson’s haunting vocals, but are quick to slink back to further delighting the sonic landscape.
 
But as everyone’s mother will tell you, life is not simple. Tiny Horse is the unfortunate poster band for this sentiment. You probably know the back story, but in case not, here is a link to an article from late 2012 by Timothy Finn over at The Kansas City Star that paints the picture.
 
Especially in that light, there are next to no words I can come up with to adequately describe the impact provided by the vocal performance. Henderson is able to speak from a place that few of us have ever been and she seemingly welcomes the opportunity to embrace these experiences and provide the listener with a small bathroom window into what it all has come to mean for her. Her voice is so beautifully imperfect—an ideal combination of coying, sweet and sassy as worked upon by the old rusty wood rasp from your grandfather’s tool shed.
 
Her lyrics say it best:
 
(Reviewer’s note: these are the best transcriptions these old damaged musician ears can figure out)
 
From “Ride”:
“There’s no one left to ask, pictures of the past just sit in boxes underneath the bed
Money’s just a noose, the old excuse that fooled you into what you did instead.
Ride with me tonight. Let’s remember what it means to chase a little something.”
 
From “Ghost”:
“Why do you need me? Why do you want me? Cause I’m not done here. Leave me alone.
Take your old songs. Take your old singers. Leave me to write. The only world I’ve known.”
 
From “Nashville Parthenon”: (Editor's Note: "Nashville Parthenon" is a cover by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone)
“It’s been so dark since you left Nashville. I’ve read the same books again and again.
Makes me wish I wasn’t bashful when it comes to other men.
But if I could have my way, darling, you’d come home.”
 
 
“Softly We Fall” is a tender ballad reminiscent of the final song of a junior high school barn dance somewhere in dusty West Texas circa 1958. Meck doesn’t offer his voice up too often on these tracks, but they are used to great effectiveness here. His mimicking vocals follow along on the chorus, “Softly we fall into each other’s arms. It was your fault when we kissed,” further adding to the nostalgic remembrances of adolescent courting. His guitar work also particularly stands out on this track, beautifully crafted and culminating with a simple yet scathing solo to carry the song home.
 
All in all, the music presented by Tiny Horse is just simply triumphant, the work of carefully seasoned (and hardened) musicians, also including multi-instrumentalist Cody Wyoming, bassist Zach Phillips, and drummer Matt Richey. It is sorrow meant to be remembered, celebrated, and enjoyed. The EP’s title, Darkly Sparkly, seems most appropriate. The KC music scene would be a much darker and less sparkly place without the efforts of Meck and Henderson.
 
The next time you can catch Tiny Horse will be at The Brick on Wednesday, June 5. The group will be supporting out-of-towners Michael Dean Damron and Matt Woods.
 
--Zach Hodson
 

Zach Hodson is a monster. He once stole a grilled cheese sandwich from a 4-year-old girl at her birthday party. He will only juggle if you pay him. I hear he punched Slimer right in his fat, green face. He knows the secrets to free energy, but refuses to release them until "Saved by the Bell: Fortysomethings" begins production.

He is also in Dolls on Fire and Drew Black & Dirty Electric, as well as contributing to various other Kansas City-based music, comedy, and art projects.

 
 
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