The White Horse Lounge got a little heavier Friday night as country group The Heavy Horses celebrated the release their debut record. Led by singer/guitarist Justin Mahoney, the group melded dark tales of Wild West murders, with acoustic guitar strumming and toe tappin’ rhythms for a great night of what the singer himself calls “murder country”.
Though now based in Toronto, Steady Brook native Justin Mahoney makes up the core of The Heavy Horses. Mahoney’s debut under the Heavy Horses moniker, Murder Ballads & Other Love Songs, was recorded in Toronto with notable production engineer Laurence Currie. On Friday night, Mahoney released the CD to Corner Brook, joined by friends and local musicians, including Andrew Ross and Neil Targett from Sherman Downey and the Silver Lining.
The Heavy Horses performed Murder Ballads & Other Love Songs in its entirety on Friday, putting a new spin on the album’s tracks by adding drums and banjo. Mahoney’s gritty voice recounted stories of cowboys, heartbreak, betrayal, and death over minor chords and sombre pedal steel lines, blending diverse influences of country, honky-tonk, folk, and rock. The group’s set included everything from a slow country waltz to quick, folky marches.
The band built excitement toward the end of their set, incorporating some nice vocal harmonies, and interplay between Mahoney’s guitar and Ross’ pedal steel. The drums, though not on the album, helped drive the band and added a steady groove. After playing all eleven tracks from Murder Ballads & Other Love Songs, The Heavy Horses finished the evening with a fun second set of country and folk covers.
All in all, The Heavy Horses are sort of like Johnny Cash meeting Clint Eastwood in a dark alley, mixing the best parts of a dusty country record and an old western movie. Take a listen to “Pale Rider” below!