‘ALL YOUR PRETTY HORSES‘
Like most of what we do post-pandemic, Strakerbarlow, the solo project of Perth singer and songwriter, Gareth O’Neill, was born out of necessity. After lockdowns and social distancing killed the very last band he was part of, O’Neill struck out on his own, determined to get the world to listen.
The growling guitars are nicely restrained and O’Neill’s voice has all the age and wear of a vintage Telecaster wearing its buckle rash with pride…
“I think when you’re in a band it’s one of the best things in the world, but it also can be like trying to steer a cruise ship,” said O’Neill. “I feel like I’m getting to the age where I don’t really have time to compromise. I just want to do it myself, the way I think it should sound.”
So, Strakerbarlow could go one of two ways. O’Neill could either be the Victor Meldrew of the music world or the distillation of years of pent-up genius masked by the constant compromise of being in a band. Thinking about it like that makes a first listen of Strakerbarlow’s new release, ‘All Your Pretty Horses’ an intriguing proposition.
I won’t talk about how old O’Neill is, suffice to say that ‘All Your Pretty Horses’ is steeped in a British folk tradition that reached its peak in the 1960s/70s (last Century!) with the likes of Roy Harper and John Martyn, among others. That should be enough for you to make an estimate. But does that mean his music is aged, or ageless?
Happily, ‘All Your Pretty Horses’ sits in the latter category with its slow burn artmospherics and its deft arrangement creating plenty of space for the dark widescreen shadow world that O’Neill has created. The growling guitars are nicely restrained and O’Neill’s voice has all the age and wear of a vintage Telecaster wearing its buckle rash with pride and the treble pot turned just to the edge of breaking up.
‘All Your Pretty Horses’ may be steeped in tradition, but it’s as valid today as any of the susurrating folkies that are just starting out. In fact we owe the current resurgence of folk to artists like O’Neill who are still plying their trade and searching for an audience long after many of their generation gave up or, not to put too fine a point on it, died. O’Neill and ‘All Your Pretty Horses’ are proof positive that age is no barrier; even an old stager can keep it fresh and intriguing. And dark, just like it should be.