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Trick Pony - R.I.D.E.
Album review by Cheryl Harvey Hill

The letters in the title of Trick Pony’s third album, R.I.D.E., stand for "Rebellious Individuals Delivering Entertainment;" an appropriate acronym for the dynamic, charismatic, unconventional and over-the-top energetic trio of Heidi Newfield (vocals), Ira Dean (bass, vocals) and Keith Burns (guitar, vocals). The promotion flyer accompanying the CD claims that this album expands the boundaries of what Trick Pony is and what they do; considering their award winning history, that could prove to be an impossible feat for any other group but, for Trick Pony, whose immense talent has easily taken them around, over, under or through any, and every, existing musical or stereotypical boundary to date like it didn't apply to them, well, piece of cake.

From first song to last, it definitely is quite a R.I.D.E.; an emotional, up, down, wild, honky tonkin', roller coaster ride. And they don't take it alone. Not only do they effortlessly rope in your consciousness, but on the very first track, "Ain't Wastin' Good Whiskey," they are joined by a pretty impressive group of background singers. Joining them to sing "'Cause I don't need Jose / Believe me honey I'm okay / Jack Daniels or Jim Beam / Ain't gonna pull me through / You wasted my time, my heart, and my mind, too / I ain't wastin' good whiskey on you" are Mel Tillis, Tanya Tucker, Joe Diffie, Darryl Worley, Tracy Byrd as well as "Ira's friend and a group of his friends (from a Cincinnati bar)." Keith says that this song has more cameos than "We Are the World" and with its great hook, and easy to sing along with tune, it's not at all surprising.

"It's a Heartache" is one of my favorite songs from years ago and Heidi's cover of it is first-rate. "When I Fall," written by Keith Burns and Billy Dean, is a beautiful song and Heidi delivers it with the perfect depth of feeling but just when you think it's safe to take a deep breath and relax, they crank up the tempo again with "I Didn't." The excellent instrumental lead in on this track gives no hint to the amusing lyrics that follow.

If I had to name a favorite song on the album, "Standin' in the Middle of Texas," would definitely be in the running and not just because I'm a sucker for a waltz. "But I finally came to my senses / It's time I blew out of this place / 'Cause you'd stand in the middle of Texas / And tell me you needed some space." It was not surprising to see that Matraca Berg and Sharon Vaughn had co-written this song; the lyrics are so visual and powerful and Trick Pony delivers them via some marvelous vocal harmony. Heidi has a great voice and part of its unique quality is its slightly jagged, albeit soft, edges but when Ira and Keith harmonize with her; well, they manage to slide their vocals into the most microscopic gap and their blended voices just slide right over your senses in a most pleasant way.

One of my favorite songs written by Henry, Joey and Ringo Garza is "Senorita." When I saw that this song was included on this album, the first thing I thought was that it could in no way hold a candle to the version by Los Lonely Boys; after all, they wrote the song. But Trick Pony manages to put their own unique stamp on this song without compromising the integrity of the song or the music. I think the Garza brothers will like it too.

The final song on the album, "Maryann's Song," is an emotional and touching tribute to Heidi's mother who passed away in February from multiple sclerosis. The song, written by Todd Woolsy (Trick Pony guitarist), starts out with a narrative that Heidi wrote about her mother; it is touchingly recited by Kris Kristoferson. The story (on their official website) of how the song came to be is as poignant as the actual song and the promo notes say that at the end of the song there wasn't a dry eye in the studio. When you hear the song, you will certainly understand why. It is a tender glimpse at the three remarkable human beings who bill themselves as "America's most energetic, hard working and orneriest barroom-rockin', butt-kickin', hard-core honky-tonk band."

Heidi says, "We’re a high-energy band, but there’s more than that to us." Toss this CD in your player and give a listen. By the final note of the last cut on this album, if you have listened to everything in between, what Heidi says will be abundantly clear. Get ready to take one of the most enjoyable, R.I.D.E.'s of your life.


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