Portland band Horse Feathers might just serve as the perfect music soundtrack for the end of another great Northwest summer. Their 2008 sophomore album, House With No Home, was certainly the perfect backdrop for the winter. For years, singer-songwriter Justin Ringle, Peter Broderick, and sister Heather Broderick have served as the core trio. On their new album, Thistled Spring, the band features Ringle, Nathan Crockett on violin, Catherine O’Dell on cello, and Sam Cooper on banjo. After listening to the new album, we think it might just have cheered them up a bit. In a lot of ways, Justin Ringle’s voice is a perfect accompaniment to the heavily-stringed folk sounds of Horse Feathers. Their modernist take at acoustic folk isn’t exactly something out of the backwoods, but it’s clear they’ve been out there a few times. Despite the lack of any real percussion, you don’t miss them when it’s done this well. They’ve certainly got the sounds for the bigger stage, but we can’t wait to hear them up-close in an intimate space like the KEXP Music Lounge.
At the Bumbershoot Music Lounge, Horse Feathers had the audience in a trance with their quaint and weighty acoustic folk music. What separates Horse Feathers from other acoustic folk bands is their wonderful utilization of the cello and violin, as well as Ringle’s distinctively airy and thoughtful voice. While many bands that feature a violin or cello playing due so only to provide complementary undertones or even as a novelty, Crockett’s violin and O’Dell’s cello are just central to Horse Feather’s style of folk as Ringle’s guitar or Cooper’s banjo. Both Crokett and O’Dell were impressively versatile and used their string-instruments for everything they were worth, adding a weighty gravity to the songs that was an interesting and effective complement to Ringle’s light but emotionally-rich voice.
They played some songs off Thistled Spring, including “Belly of June” and “Starving Robins,” during which Crockett played a saw he had situated between his knees. They also played an equal number of older songs such as “Mother’s Sick”, “Curs in the Weeds,” and “Helen,” which saw the band truly showcase their versatility, with Cooper alternating between banjo and a miniature xylophone, while Crockett and O’Dell plucked their violin and cello respectively before the song started to intensify and the band members engaged into a more traditional folksy jam.