Published Thu, May 17, 2012 9:36 am Dateline
Updated Thu, May 17, 2012 10:45 am
Horse Feathers is one of those bands that is essentially the project of one man. In this case, it's Justin Ringle.
A native of Idaho, the singer/songwriter moved to Portland, Ore., in 2004 and started collaborating with muti-instrumentalist Peter Broderick. The two released Horse Feathers' debut album, Words are Dead, in 2006.
Since Broderick's departure a few years back, Horse Feathers now features a rotating roster of musicians backing up Ringle, with the exception of violinist and string arranger Nathan Crockett who has been a collaborator for four years.
In April, Horse Feathers released their fourth album, Cynic's New Year. The sound is similar to the previous recordings, showcasing Ringle's voice and mostly finger-picked acoustic guitar, along with a cast of 11 vocalists and instrumentalists conjuring a chamber music, indie-folk feeling (Paste magazine called the album "baroque-pop").
However, the palate is a bit broader this time out, with the occasional banjo, horn or woodwind making an appearance. Overall, the tone is somewhat delicate and hushed with an emphasis on cello, violins and harmony vocals. There is something quite "Portlandian" about this recording.
If I were to write an Amazon recommendation for "people who also liked these artists," I'd have to include Alexi Murdoch, Sam Amidon, Jose Gonzalez, Fleet Foxes and most obviously, Nick Drake.
It's been 40 years since that English folkie recorded his third and final album, but Drake's influence on today's indie-folk scene is greater than ever. Comparisons are often drawn between his sound and that of Ringle's Horse Feathers.
Horse Feathers are performing on the Porch Stage at the Nelsonville Music Festival on Sunday, May 20. Visit www.nelsonvillefest.org for a complete schedule.