Dead Horses, an enlightening folk outfit from Milwaukee, is the musical vehicle for guitarist and singer-songwriter Sarah Vos and upright bassist Daniel Wolff. And the duo had seen its popularity rising in recent years, especially just before the pandemic — a few months prior to the shutdown saw Dead Horses making appearances in the Northwest with their friend, the great Charlie Parr, to help promote what was back in 2019 his new self-titled release.
Since its inception, Dead Horses spent a lot of time on the road, and the band had just released a 5-song EP of its own, Birds, in February 2020 as the lockdown loomed. So, it was no doubt a relief and a release for Sarah and Daniel to set out this fall for a run, fittingly, with their old pal Charlie, which included a stop on Dec. 11 at DC9.
Stream Dead Horses’ 2020 EP Birds via Spotify:
A double-bill, and a potent one at that for the tight, cozy confines of a venue like DC9, the night provided Sarah, Daniel and their recording and touring drummer Jamie Gallagher the chance to deliver a compact, but an absorbing, fanciful set which followed Charlie’s.
Though its catalogue goes back to 2014, Dead Horses celebrated its recent offerings, sharing tracks from the Birds EP as well as the abiding 2018 release, My Mother The Moon, including the title cut, “Turntable” and a “A Petal Here, a Petal There.” While the group has invited a variety of different musicians and live performers into its fray at various times, it’s stayed true to its ancestral sound with Sarah’s soulful voice and Daniel’s rustic bass tones as the foundation.
Stream Dead Horses’ 2018 studio album, My Mother The Moon, via Spotify:
Somber and fascinating, Sarah’s voice projected over top of bracing rhythms and illusory melodies, casting the distinctly contemplative mood that emits from all of Dead Horses’ studio work going back to the 2014 premiere, Space and Time.
Meanwhile, Daniel showed just how much dynamic sound an upright can bring to the stage, quickly grabbing his bow to inject barrenness and timbre to the swell, in addition to the remarkable lurching sounds that he creates with his bare hands — adding texture to every composition. In the back, Jamie flowed with a focus to provide what felt like the perfect amount of action to carry these songs and, when appropriate, help them rock within their folk constructs.
Watch the Dead Horses on Audio Tree Live performance via YouTube:
And, of course, the band was thrilled to invite Mr. Parr back up to the stage to close their set with an amplified take on “Lost Highway,” with Charlie smiling ear to ear and, along with the audience, taking in Vos as she threw her head back to put a gorgeous, mesmerizing vocal touch on this Hank Williams Sr. classic.
A Petal Here, a Petal There
My Mother The Moon
Birds Can Write The Chorus
All I Ever Wanted
It’s All Good
Lost Highway (with Charlie Parr)
Here are images of Dead Horses performing at DC9 in Washington DC on Dec. 11, 2021. All photos copyright and courtesy of Casey Vock.