Jeff ‘The Horse’ Horsey – Songs From The Old West
Self-Release – 2018
13 tracks; 61 minutes
Jeff Horsey is a UK musician who has played in Europe with visiting US musicians like Tabby Thomas and Eugene ‘Hideaway’ Bridges. Based in the far South West of the UK in Cornwall, Jeff mainly plays live in a solo acoustic format but on this disc he is supported by drummer George Sonny and keyboard player Josie Ghost, plus bassist Kenny Hodge on one track and, on one extended piece, bassist Josh Lewitt and guitarist Julian Piper. Jeff is on vocals, guitars and harmonica throughout and all the material was written, recorded and produced by Jeff over the period 2015-17, so this has clearly been a labor of love. The songs follow the theme suggested by the title with several songs imbued with images of the Wild West. The rear cover art follows that through with Jeff pictured in sepia tones with guitar, axe and cattle skull; on the front the image of Jeff sleeping on a bench in front of modern architecture suggests that the ‘West’ of the title may also be a pun about the West of Cornwall.
The album opens with a country blues “Sonnyland” which deals with a visit to the grave of Sonny Boy Williamson, Jeff on harp and resonator with George on drums. The attractive Americana tune “Oh Carolina” has similar instrumentation, Jeff harmonizing with himself on the chorus, a song about an attractive lady who has worked her charms on Jeff with plenty of good slide work. “Root Man” has some Mississippi Hill country influences with slashing slide as Jeff boasts of his romantic credentials, claiming that he is directly connected to the earth while “Good Enough For Me” drops the pace for a rather repetitive solo acoustic piece. The lengthy “Rattlesnakes” opens with Simon Dobson’s Mexican-flavored trumpet and the full band number adds Julian Piper’s electric guitar alongside Jeff’s slide. Jeff sings this epic number very well, full of appropriate imagery of deserts, rattlesnakes and vultures and the whole piece works well though some of Julian’s guitar work goes a little over the top mid-tune.
“Crazy Baby” is a real toe-tapper, another full band cut with Kenny’s bass adding depth to the rolling piano and harp accents, the lyrics also referencing John Lee Hooker’s “Mad Man Blues” with crackles from an old 78 at the beginning and the end. “Crown Of Thorns” brings a folksy dimension to proceedings courtesy of Jeff’s lyrical harp work and George’s busy brush work and “Orion” continues in that vein with a rather gloomy tale of not being able to “turn back the hands of time, however hard you try”. Jeff plays some eerie resonator on “Embers”, a tune with layers of guitars, piano and haunting harp, the embers dying on the fire being equated to the diminishing relationship. The drums are back on the uptempo slide-driven country blues “No Judge, No Jury”, a song that definitely fits the Wild West theme as the boys rob a train but then can’t go home again. Jeff wants to be buried under the “Sycamore Tree” where the branches will provide him with shade for eternity and the album ends on a similarly sombre note with “Sunrise”, a solo guitar instrumental with strange wind noises (synthesizer?) to close out the track.
There is certainly plenty here to interest acoustic blues fans while the fuller band cuts broaden the appeal of the album.