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7Horse


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You can’t go wrong with the word “Horse” in your band name. Whether it’s Neil Young’s grungy backup group or new Indie superstars Band of Horses, the word just oozes cool. Perhaps it’s that these creatures are just as wild and free as music itself. Maybe it’s the mystical, mythical traits that Native Americans once ascribed to them. In any case, it’s now time to add 7Horse to this illustrious equine company. With their all-important third album, Livin’ In a Bitch Of a World, this raucously poetic duo is poised for big visible success. Their gorgeous, guitar-heavy sound, punctuated with thunderous drumming, is just the thing to wake you up from the never-ending parade of pop poseurs clogging the airwaves.

The two men who anchor this bluesy, kick-ass crew, are guitarist/singer Joie Calio and singer/drummer Phil Leavitt. Both were members of the smart Alt/Pop band Dada (best known as the auteurs of the bleakly comic “Dizz Knee Land”). But only when these two split off from there, found their inner truth and started spitting it out as bullets of blues, rock ‘n’ roll and gorgeous noise, did they become the band they were supposed to be.

Their upcoming disc is where it all comes together. The record is as edgy, angular and modern as tomorrow, while retaining the timeless feel of your favorite classic albums.

Livin’ In a Bitch Of a World shows that as superb as their previous work is, the past is prologue to this, their crowning achievement. On ‘Bitch,’ there’s an unquestionable sense that 7Horse has come into their own. It features thrilling tales of grifters, gun owners and drug runners, as powerful as any in hardboiled fiction, and punctuated perfectly by doomy drumming, vicious strumming and lacerating slide-guitar playing. In short, these guys may just have made the most rocking, catchiest album of 2016.

“We went in feeling both pressured and confident,” says Calio. “We had the material, the chemistry, the road experience. The third album is always a big one. We knew it had to be good. And it is. Maybe it’s because we knew how to approach it. We took our time, but it was all in service to the record. Phil and I would get together in the desert, jam on some songs, get the ideas for them, then stop. Then write the songs carefully. And record them like that too. We produced, because only we knew what we wanted.”

Their first album got them going. Let The 7Horse Run was an unsettling blast of musical noir that nobody had heard since forever. Imagine if Jim Thompson decided to commandeer Junior Kimbrough’s band or The Stones were back at their nihilistic peak. That space was empty. 7Horse filled it. And, unsurprisingly, found that music fans were waiting for such a sound.

“We began the band without any contrivance,” says Leavitt. “Joie and I sent short voicemails back and forth to each other at first. Fragments, hooks, pieces of songs. But it sounded right. When we had enough material, we believed in the music so much, we borrowed money from family and friends, in a real legitimate business way and decided we were going to make our debut with just us two. No extra instruments, no sweetening.”

The album was a triumph. Lead singing drummer Leavitt has traces in his hurried, clipped phrasing not just of classic bluesmen, but also of edgy rockers like Warren Zevon. His wonderfully direct drumbeats are as strong and bold as they are full of dread. Calio’s open-chord strums and slashing slide playing compliments his partner’s intense, ominous bangs. They sound as much like the trigger-happy Reservoir Dogs as they do musicians. Bonus? This edgy, uncontrived music paid big commercial dividends. And caught the ear of America’s greatest film director.

“One day I got an email that said ‘Martin Scorsese is interested in using one of your songs for The Wolf of Wall Street,’” says Calio. “And he really was.”

The tune in question, “Meth Lab Zoso Sticker,” a cross between a Native American tribal dance and a twisted Chicago blues song, was indeed used in Scorsese’s classic about greed and depravity. Since then, it’s had over 900,000 views, gotten over 90,000 downloads and been used by FoxSports on the pre-game show for the NFL playoff seasons. And that ain’t all. These funky brothers have also gotten their tunes on TV shows Hart of Dixie and Rizzoli & Isles and snagged a Jeep Wrangler campaign. They’ve also opened a world tour for rock legend Sting that started at The Greek Theatre and toured the USA with blues maestro Kenny Wayne Shepherd. One can understandably expect such trends continuing in 2016. Especially in regards to the all-important third album. Something Leavitt and Calio have been working toward their whole musical lives.

From the fuzz-stoked opener, “Livin’ in a Bitch Of a World,” you can tell that Calio and Leavitt haven’t just hit their target, they’ve destroyed it. As with every classic rock 'n' roll album there’s a uniformity to this disc. It’s full of tales of desperate, hardscrabble guys struggling for a few bucks to buy food, the dope to calm a desperate jones and, finally, what money can’t buy: mercy and redemption. There’s a sweaty intensity here that everybody, from the hungry homeless to the white-collar guy, will be able to relate to. Fittingly, 7Horse has also recorded a rocking version of The Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive.” That’s what this album is about. And what this band is all about too. Struggle and survival.

Finally, there’s “Two-Stroke Machine,” a tale of intergenerational violence, legal trouble and gunplay, all set to a catchy beat and inescapable chorus. Expect this one to be in more movies next year, and all over the airwaves as well. Because it’s like the rest of the group’s music: hear it once and you’ll never be able to shake it. So get in the car, pop this baby in the CD player (if your car still has one) and let 7Horse be the fuel that drives you. Until you finally get wherever it is you need to go.

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