Wild Ponies saddle up for show in Ann ArborWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
With their September debut “Things That Used to Shine,” Wild Ponies galloped up the Americana Music Association’s airplay chart.
“We really wanted to make a record that meant a lot to us,” said singer and guitarist Doug Williams. “We put a lot of ourselves into it — a lot of our personal stories and our personal feelings into it.
“For that to resonate with other people, it’s definitely exciting and overwhelming.”
He and his wife, Telisha Williams, singer and bass player, co-wrote the 12 tracks on the disc.
On the title song, the couple sing, “I like things that used to shine/ Polished smooth by the grains of time/ Old and used and past their prime/ … A roughed up penny from the year I was born/ Old leather boots all scuffed and worn/ An old pocket watch that still keeps time.”
“If you could see our house, you could look around and see that song is pretty much what our house looks like,” Doug joked during a call from Nashville. “There’s a fine line between vintage and junk.”
After laughing, he said, “One day I was just taking an inventory of the physical objects that mattered most to me in the world. We don’t have a lot of physical objects, but it turned out that the ones that mattered most weren’t necessarily the most expensive things, but were the things that carried some sort of weight or meaning.
“And then at the end of the song, it turns out it’s really about the relationship and the life that you’ve built matter the most.”
The Williams also name-drop singer-songwriter Hazel Dickens.
“We both admire and revere and have a ton of respect for her career and the way she lived her life and the causes she worked for — progressive movements of labor, women’s rights — and she was doing that in a genre of music that’s relatively conservative, bluegrass, and she wasn’t afraid of that at all,” Doug said.
“She wasn’t necessarily contentious; she was just very strong and powerful, and she wrote these songs that had amazing meaning. They carried a real weight, a moral and political weight, but they weren’t overtly political. We work hard to try to do things like that, too.”
With “Truth Is” and “Trigger,” Wild Ponies rein in a difficult subject: sexual abuse.
“When all the Penn State and Catholic Church stuff was coming to light, the pattern that we were realizing — Telisha as a victim suffered herself — was that all this stuff had gone undercover for years; it was kept in secrecy. People were just trying to sweep it under the rug and pretend that it didn’t happen until finally it came out.
“That can be just as damaging as the actual abuse, so we wanted to confront that and at least have a little bit of a dialogue out there so people can talk about it,” Doug said.
“We have had a lot of good reaction from fans… They appreciate [Telisha’s] bravery.”
Wild Ponies — the Williams and drummer Jake Winebrenner — will play at 8 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Ark in Ann Arbor. Billed as “My Folky Valentine,” the evening also features The Laws and Annie and Rod Capps. Tickets are $15.