Ditch Horses provide a rollicking ride at Only Café two Tuesdays a month
If you’ve ever been to charming little pub The Feathers on Kingston Road in TO’s Upper Beaches area without knowing anything about it beforehand you’d probably be very unlikely to guess that its owner is Country musician and songwriter.
But maybe it does help to explain why Reid Pickering doesn’t often bring his own band The Ditch Horses into his own room –the high-energy vibe this 4-piece kicks out might just be too much for the English pub-style venue and its darts and whiskey-loving denizens.
(Pickering does, however, have live entertainment every Saturday night at The Feathers, with the roster mostly populated by high-calibre local singer-songwriters and bands performing original material.)
Fortunately for fans of bright, lively Country music with catchy, danceable melodies and interesting lyrics, however, the Horses do appear two Tuesdays a month (including tonight) at another east Toronto venue: Only Café at 972 Danforth Ave. around the corner from the Donlands subway station.
With Pickering on lead vocals and uber-versatile ace second guitarist and backup vocalist Chris Bennett, the group is already a cut above your average band. More backup vocals and solid bass come from Sean Ryan (who’s also a songwriter and artist in his own right), while Dino Maccarato demonstrates versatility and taste (not to mention power when needed) on the sticks.
On their website an amusing and somewhat accurate description of their what they call Roots-Rock music suggests “they have been described as Wilco meets The Barenaked Ladies meets Neil Young meets Blue Rodeo but with hats.”
Pickering’s lyrical gifts shine on songs like “Kensington Cowgirl” (a send up of the faux-western posers common in the hipper parts of the city) and the lovely “Beautiful Face” (about devotion to just what it says). They are just two of the delightful numbers that jump out from the 11-track untitled album on cd that I picked up when I caught their show last month.
You’ll hear the Blue Rodeo echoes in the lead-off track “Down Down Down” and on “Holy Water”, but their sound is also distinctive. There are also story songs (“Thompsett Louder Swung” and “The Murder Of Dickie Hovey”) and some more Pop-Rock styled entries like “Kings and Queens”, which reminded me of one of my all-time favourite Canadian bands, The Kings (particularly on the chorus, where it intones “I wanna be a king on Queen” –coincidence?) and also a little of The Rolling Stones. From start to end, this is not only a listenable album it’s very re-listenable time and time again.
Although I couldn’t find an actual link to hear the tunes online on their website, fortunately, when the group does their twice-monthly Tuesdays 9-11 at the Only for no cover, they almost exclusively do original tunes, including the ones I mentioned and others from their gem of an album, which you can also pick up from the band at the show.
-Gary 17, www.torontomoon.ca
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