A trio of exceptional artists on the roster at St. Paul’s Red House Records decided to get together, call themselves Red Horse, and record an album by the same name—and it’s something quite a few lovers of acoustic music are going to find highly listenable. Red Horse is a solid outing by Eliza Gilkyson, John Gorka, and Lucy Kaplansky, the kind of disc you can slap on the stereo, press the repeat button, and just hang out around the house, enjoying the thing over and over again.
There’ve been some pretty good covers of Neil Young, starting with his Buffalo Springfield bandmate Richie Furay and going on to the likes of, say, Nicolette Larson, Buddy Miles, and a whole lot more. Eliza Gilkyson’s rendition of “I Am a Child” is as distinct as any of them, giving the song sweet gravity with a wry delivery that holds to melody and, the point of a cover, strikingly enhances it. “Don’t Mind Me” is in the same beautiful vein that Gene Clark tapped singing and writing with the Byrds. It’s soft, laid-back country rock at its most exquisite and a fine introduction for folk (like me) who haven’t listened to John Gorka before. Lucy Kaplansky sings and writes in about the sultriest groove since Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark. Here, she wields her accustomed hand, mesmerizing with, for instance, “Scorpion,” a sensual, flowing gem.
For a bit of background, Grammy-nominated Eliza Gilkyson, a politically minded poet, has appeared on NPR, Austin City Limits, Air America Radio, and toured with the likes of Richard Thompson, Patty Griffin, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. A member of the Austin Music Hall of Fame, in 2006 she won three Austin Music Awards and four Folk Alliance Music Awards, including Song of the Year for her tune “Man of God.” Her most recent Red House release Beautiful World had critics at the All Music Guide and the Utne Reader giving love-letter reviews. John Gorka, award-winning and world-renowned, has seen his material covered by, among others, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Nanci Griffith, and Mary Black. John has recorded eleven solo albums, six on Red House Records. His latest album, So Dark You See, featured the song “Ignorance & Privilege,” which was highlighted as one of the top folk songs of 2009 by NPR Music. Lucy Kaplansky, with 7 Red House releases under her belt, has been called “a truly gifted performer with a bag full of enchanting songs” by the New Yorker, appeared on the CBS Morning Show, NPR’s Weekend and Morning Editions, and West Coast Live. Kaplansky’s newest album, Over the Hills, had critics falling all over themselves to lavish praise on her work.
Red House artists generally spend a lot of time on the road, so there’s a chance of Red Horse swinging through the Twin Cities sometime on tour. Be on the lookout and cross your fingers, because that likely will be one show you’ll end up talking about for quite awhile. Meanwhile, don’t pass on this album.