Band: USA’s Independent Music Collective presents Wild Ponies
Date: Friday, Sept. 22, 7:30 p.m.
Venue: Satori Coffee House, 5460 Old Shell Road, www.satori-coffee.com
Tickets: $5 donation at the door (free with USA student ID)
Even though Americana duo Wild Ponies claim Nashville, Doug and Telisha Williams know their hearts are in Galax, Virginia.
The Williamses grew up just down the road from this Blue Ridge mountain town, but their regular visits to Doug’s grandfather over the years led this couple to embrace the sights and sounds of Galax. According to Doug, Galax is a music-rich town that has been an endless source of traditional mountain music. In fact, he says, some argue that Galax is the birthplace of “hillbilly music.”
“When you come out of the hospital, they look at you, and they’re like, ‘You’re a fiddle player. Here you go,’ he joked. “Almost everybody plays, but it’s not a place where people play professionally. The best players in the world live there. They do it purely for the joy.”
With help from their friends in both Galax and Nashville, the Williamses captured the soundtrack of Galax on an album that shares the town’s name. The beautifully raw and poignant nature of this album transports the listener to a shed on Williams’ grandfather’s farm where the album was recorded.
The pristine quality of “Galax” is the next best thing to being at the actual recording session. From the casual banter between artists to the chirp of the crickets, the musical ambiance of the recording environment brings a bit of magic to the album’s tracks.
“The shed is one of our favorite places to play and be, and there’s an amazing energy there,” Williams said. “Music sounds really good there. There’s a tin roof at the top and has this cool, natural reverb that sounds glorious. We just set up a bunch of mics in a circle.”
Another great aspect of this album is the musical connection between the past and present it demonstrates. While many songs are heavily steeped in old-timey mountain attitude, The Wild Ponies brought modern overtones to several tracks.
Their cover of the Hazel Dickens classic “Pretty Bird” brings this mountain song into the modern world with a refreshing injection of soul. “Will They Still Know Me” is a venture into the modern Americana realm.
“What we wanted to do is draw a line and create an arc between the traditional and the current,” Williams said. “It’s a different record than what we’ve previously done.”
One way the past and present are connected is through the talent recruited for this album. Williams says they first tapped two Galax locals. In his mind, Galax natives Snake Smith, Kyle Dean and Kilby Spencer are celebrities. As they planned this album, the Williamses wanted to make sure this trio of musicians were included. From Nashville, The Wild Ponies imported session musician Fat Kaplin and Mobile native Will Kimbrough.
“We wanted to put [Kaplin and Kimbrough] in the same room as Snake and Kyle Dean and see what happens,” Williams explained. “I wasn’t going to get Snake and Kyle to go to Nashville.”
The Wild Ponies’ concert at Satori promises to be just as versatile as the tracks on “Galax.” Multi-instrumentalists Katie Marie and Greg Horn will be joining the Williamses. For the first half, the group will deliver an acoustic set filled with cuts from “Galax.” For the second set, Marie and Horn will take the drums and lap-steel, respectively, and Williams will grab his Telecaster. The group will spend the rest of the night rocking for their Azalea City crowd.