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A Thousand Horses

Bridges – 2017 (Big Machine)

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

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How did A Thousand Horses get so good so quickly? They're already using the executive washroom everyone thought belonged to Florida Georgia Line and are a band with a monster debut country single ("Smoke" from 2015) and a spate of award nominations. Michael Hobby's tough-as-leather voice (with soul cred) is a big part of it. But unlike a lot of other acts, the story doesn't end with a front man.

This band rocks hard, a tight unit where every member is a potential soloist - they don't want the decision; they want to win by knockout. It's the Gospel According to Skynyrd, with some happy hippie style points from Black Crowes. And if that sounds like a whole lot of fun, you got that right.

Two years since "Southernality," the group delivered a double" EP - six tracks of new material and an acoustic set recorded mostly live at the Metropolis in London in 2016. The first half is leaps and bounds better. The mostly self-penned songs often concern pride in authenticity, so they work well with big, fist-pumping production. It's hard to imagine staying glum while the personal manifesto "Blaze of Somethin'" or the other top track, "Preachin to the Choir," play.

But then ATH goes in another, warts-and-all direction, for the unplugged songs. Whatever sounds were around in that room, from sniffles to clanking instruments, are on the tracks. The best acoustic case might be for "Travellin' Man." It exceeds the thick mix of the original and adds a tasty harmonica. But an acoustic version of tracks first appearing on this record? We get "Preachin to the Choir" and "One Man Army" twice - it's odd. Hobby's voice isn't in top form on the live recordings. And really - it hasn't been so long that time requires we revisit another side of brand new material.

So come for the party and leave at the after party on what would be side two of "Bridges." It's a digital-only release, which means you won't need to worry about scratches on a disc. This is an already-great band that seems to be getting better. When they have a slate of fresh songs (and avoid the living Room recording approach), watch for more Smoke.