‘Hello, we are Fallen Horse, and we are going to play some music for you.’ A second before these words were woven into the room by Toni Woodward, principal songwriter, and front person of Birmingham’s alternative ensemble Fallen Horse, the Rock and Roll Brewhouse was beer brave and bawdy. Free birthday cake was on the bar, it was Saturday afternoon, there was home brewed ale, and Birmingham knows how to alchemise these things for a weekend to remember. Trust me, Brummies drink to forget and rightly so, they work hard and think hard, and it was noisy.
I had gone to the show for Toni. The blonde one, the mysterious, spiky, skinny nymph, that knows a lot about religion, yet questions god, who is a multi-instrumentalist, a mother, a long-time member of the classic band Horse Feathers, a writer and journalist and most of all, a music fanatic. We have worked together previously, Toni played Cello and sang on my album, Winter of Desire, so I was excited to finally be witnessing what she had manifested from her own heart and soul of the creative cosmos.
As she sat front of stage at her piano and spoke those few simple words, I knew she was in her rightful place, and that this was going to be special. So did everyone else in the room apparently as all movement ceased, eyes and ears were released from previous distractions and were ready to be re-connected. That’s what Fallen Horse do, they pull you in and lift you up from everything earthly, as they sensualise your understanding of life with their graceful certainty.
Standing up straight, like two angel wings on each of her shoulders, she was flanked by the guitarists, Andy, and Andrew, and as the first song ‘Burnt Past’ brought thier fuzzed up and languid precision into the space, the three musicians were clearly the Perfect mix. The smooth, measured magnitude, of Toni’s voice multilayered the songs ‘Centre’ and ‘Lone Child,’ and I began to have visions of the list she had written in real ink and stuck on the fridge at her home in Kings Heath, to bring this together.
It went something like this, ‘give me thunder, give me bourbon, mix it with droplets of fevered tears, give me platinum hair, rose red lips, black chiffon, cowboy boots, give me anger, give it a voice in poison poems, give me your undivided attention.’ And she has done it.
There was only one slight lull in the momentum when the band covered the Mazzy Star song ‘Fade into You,’ the song might have been included to supply the Saturday vibes, or to guide the listener into what genre Fallen Horse could easily fit, but they didn’t need it in there. It momentarily woke me from the vividness of thier new dreamscape which is fresher.
All eight of their own poignant songs, from Low to The Sea, appear to have a theme, the core of otherness, a spirit walking in a liminal space, searching for what it wants, screaming for it at times, rejecting it at others. The lyrics might be making big decisions and we are encouraged to re-imagine our own as they turn each page of this adrenaline filled, gothic novel, of a band performance. Some might call it dream folk ecstasy. I would also call it imaginative mastery. Toni has earned this lead role. Go and see her sovereignty.
Review – Rachel Mayfield