CORY HANSON – ” Pale Horse Rider “

Posted: April 20, 2021 in MUSIC
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Wand moved further away from the garage-psych beginnings on 2019’s great Laughing Matter, and now frontman Cory Hanson takes his songcraft in subtle, but no less awe-filled directions on his second solo album. Inspired by country music and the classics (Neil Young, Bob Dylan, David Berman), “Pale Horse Rider” is an absolutely gorgeous record that is heavy with sadness while still floating off into space. Things get only a little twangy, but pedal steel plays a huge part in the album’s sound, creating an otherworldly, angelic yearning that is felt even without paying attention to the lyrics. An atmospheric swirl surrounds Hanson’s simple but affecting folk/country melodies, and it’s big, lonely and beautiful.

Made just before the pandemic, at a desert home studio surrounded by six-foot tall sculptural psychotropic cacti, “Pale Horse Rider” is an impressionist look at the state of our nation. Hanson is using water colours, not a fine-point pen, letting its intent seep in via osmosis, but it’s not that obtuse either. On the elegiac chorus of the album’s best song, “Angeles,” Hanson sings about his hometown — “I’ve been driving through darkness / Through the smoke and fire / On the ground / Risin’ like a phoenix or a bird of paradise” — as the harmonies and pedal steel rise like that phoenix.

Pale Horse Rider is full of sublime musical moments like that: the ethereal chorus of voices on “Limited Hangout”; the ragged solo that rips up the pretty “Another Story From The Center of The Earth”; and that weepy pedal steel that tugs at your heartstrings on “Vegas Knights” as Cory mixes gambling metaphors with thoughts of loss. “Can I turn back the turnstile? And parachute us back to the paradise we left.” Hanson dedicates the album to David Berman and, while Cory’s style is nothing like Silver Jews‘, you can feel his ghost all over the record. On “Birds of Paradise,” another album highlight, he sings, “I’ll find you in the end alive in the mirror / Your eyes painted on with dots / Yet hold me in your heart,’ as his delicate guitar arpeggiations intertwine with the pedal steel into the cosmos. The words are moving but it’s that musical lift that really gets you.

Wand frontman Cory Hanson releases a new album Pale Horse Rider, via Drag City Records. Myths and truths of a country on the way down, viewed through a deep-focus lens trained on the city from the deserts on the east; a terminus of unoccupied residential parks and streets fading into craggy footpaths to nowhere, where our passage is seen as diligent, ephemeral and grotesque by turns, forgiven and made beautiful again by the sound.

“Pale Horse Rider,” to be released on LP/Cassette/CD/Streaming on March 12th, 2021, from Drag City Records.

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