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Album review: The Silver Maggies - My Pale Horse





Album review: The Silver Maggies - My Pale Horse

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)

The origin of The Silver Maggies can be traced back to 2009, when musician and Jaykco Guitar Strap peddler Patrick Deveny did what many other makers of music do: he got a bunch of friends together and formed a band. Early returns were good, and the country-rock sounds being made were fine, but after taking part in the Murder Ballad Ball of 2010, Deveny wanted something a little different. He recruited American Catastrophe’s Terrence Moore soon after, and fellow AC member Amy Farrand a couple years later, thereby taking The Silver Maggies to a place much darker and pensive, but still stylish and sophisticated. After some tweaking and fine-tuning, the band released My Pale Horse, its first full-length album, earlier this year.
 
Having seen Terrence Moore perform as a solo artist numerous times, I’m familiar with a few of the songs he brought to the band. Hearing “Trouble” as a fully-formed work is a revelation, as the starkness of the singer-songwriter is replaced with the muscle and polish of this seven-piece juggernaut. Moore’s voice has a natural sinister quality, which lends itself well to the lyrical content of this opening track (“proceed to the exit quickly / cause I’ve got a match that’ll burn this place down / to the ground”).
 
By contrast, in the second cut, “To the Quick," Deveny’s well-weathered voice slides over the music, coercing the listener to join him on a desert drive, windows down, the landscape lit by the waning light of dusk. When the chorus hits, I hear a perhaps-unintentional-perhaps-not taste of ‘90s alienation of “Nearly Lost You” by Screaming Trees, giving the track that much more of an isolationist feel.
 
When the distant horn comes in on “It All Went South," you may get a sense of influence from Arizona legends Calexico—and you would be absolutely correct. The band’s signature trumpet sound comes from the embouchure of Jacob Valenzuela, who lends his services to My Pale Horse in a most distinctive and impressive manner. To further the connection between the two bands, the album was mixed by long-time producer-engineer and Calexico collaborator Craig Schumacher in his Tucson, AZ studio.
 
Labels such as “gothic country” and "high desert noir" are not so cut-and-dried as “rock” or “blues”; they are far more descriptive and far more challenging to attain, as they hint at music that is very cinematic in scope. This isn’t the sound that you want as low-level background ambiance—these genres should take the listener into a far more visual realm. A daunting task to live up to, and The Silver Maggies—which also include Jonathan Knecht on drums, Felix Dukes on guitar, Steve Tubbert on bass, Samon Rajabnik on Hammond B3 organ, and guest vocalists Claire Adams and Katy Guillen—have risen to the challenge. When I listen to My Pale Horse, I not only feel as if I’m watching a sepia-tinged Western movie; I feel as if it’s getting to the part where the good guys and the bad guys are getting ready to settle things once and for all.
 
Sounds like trouble—but a kind of trouble I’m happy to bear sonic witness to.
 
My Pale Horse was released on March 28 by KC music collective Money Wolf Music. The Silver Maggies' next live appearance will be at Cowtown Mallroom on Sunday, April 28 at 3:00 p.m. It'll be a free, all-ages show in one of KC's most historic venues. 
 
--Michael Byars
 

Michael Byars may or may not be pickling things at this moment. It’s possible that he’s already had four or five bottles of Mountain Dew by now. There’s a chance that he is at a hookah bar somewhere. You may say he’s a dreamer. But most of all, he spells pretty well and he works for free, so we let him write stuff for us sometimes. 

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