Hitting Their Stride
Sam James Velde, singer of California hard rock band Night Horse, sounds more at home on his band’s latest release, Perdition Hymns, than in his previous band Bluebird or on Night Horse’s debut EP. In Bluebird, he attempted to fit the melodic alt-rock mold. And on Night Horse’s 2008 release, The Dark Won’t Hide You, he tried to croon along side Danzig-style crunch. Finally, on Hymns, he owns his style.
Velde may sound like a rawer, deeper Chris Robinson, but it’s not his fault. It is what it is; he doesn’t sound like he’s trying to copy anyone. And as it turns out, that kind of voice works best with riff-heavy Southern rock behind it. The album opens with “Confess to Me,” putting Night Horse’s rock foot forward. Hymns starts at the highest level, and doesn’t dare come too far down on any song. “Black Cloud” is as close as they come to a ballad, and “Same Old Blues” is a nice, light 6/8 soul/blues number. Other than that, they drive hard and fast behind guitarist Greg Buensuceso’s technically perfect riffs, recalling ZZ Top’s rocking years.
There’s only so much you can do with this kind of music, but the sensible approach is not to try to be innovative. While their first album was a little more original, it didn’t quite work as well as Perdition Hymns. There is nothing here that hasn’t been done before, but the familiarity is comforting. Night Horse are your local bar band, one that doesn’t demand attention but will leave an impression.