Formed in Muscle Shoals, Ala., in 2000, this quartet has produced bluegrass tribute albums to Metallica, Led Zeppelin, and Ozzy Osbourne, among other rock acts, but their focus with Horse And Pen is on self-penned material. The ten-song, thirty-five minute results are well-planned and well-executed.
Vance Henry (guitar), Ricky Rogers, (bass), and Tony Robertson (mandolin) share lead and backing vocal duties, while talented banjoist Anthony Richardson contributes baritone and bass harmonies. Their picking is seldom flashy, but all the breaks and instrumental interplay are tasteful and fresh, supporting an interesting batch of songs with vocal arrangements that, again, aren’t spectacular, but extremely nicely done.
“Look At Me” is a gentle, slow number with some of those fine vocals and perfect backup picking from Anthony Richardson, while “My Daddy’s Life” is a mid-tempo train song with relaxed, inventive banjo patterns. “Mary’s Not In Kansas” and “Just A Dream Away” are two more of the smoother numbers, but the band proves they can kick it up a notch with the likes of “Letter To You,” “You’ll Live On,” and the quite catchy “I Don’t Wanna Think.”
“Oh Moses” provides a little gospel flavor with some soulful lead and harmony vocals and some swampy resonator guitar, proving that when Iron Horse comes rolling down the track, they’ll be bringing a load of inventive and varied music. (Vance Henry, 6190 City Rd. 34, Killen, AL 35645, www.ironhorsebluegrass.com.) AKH