Billed as something of an alt. country supergroup, Tired Pony are the brainchild of Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody, whose line-up includes various members of his main band, along with the likes of Iain Archer, Belle & Sebastian’s Richard Colburn, producer du jour Jacknife Lee, Tom Smith from Editors, She & Him’s M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel, as well as REM’s Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey (full-time REM touring member since 1994).
Almost like a slightly down-home version of The Reindeer Section, Lightbody’s previous indie-tastic collective, Tired Pony’s debut belies the suggestion that this is the Snow Patrol man’s long-dreamed-of country record. Sure there are elements of pedal steel and even banjo pottering around in the mix, but for the most part, The Place We Ran From doesn’t deviate greatly from the blueprint that has served Gary so well in the day-job, as evidenced by jangly lead single, -Dead American Writers’. The dreamy, waltz-like -Held In The Hands Of Your Words’, for example, could be one of the slower, less anthemic out-takes from any of Snow Patrol’s last three albums, albeit with M. Ward’s harmonies.
That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with this record. Far from it. The aforementioned -Held…’ is beautiful, and compares favourably with anything from the Northerner’s back catalogue. Meanwhile, -Northwestern Skies’ sees Lightbody on echoey lead vocals for a gently strummed confessional and he duets with Zooey Deschanel on the fragile -Get On The Road’. Indeed, it’s not until -I Am A Landslide’ that the country tendencies start to show, courtesy of some Neil Young-esque torch -n’ twang. Similarly on -Point Me At Lost Islands’, Scott McCaughey’s suitably, ahem, rustic banjo is more -Down By The River’ than Deliverance. Editors’ Tom Smith sounds very Tindersticks on -The Good Book’, while the closing -The Deepest Ocean There Is’, complete with Peter Buck’s vibrating baritone guitar, is classic Lightbody which, given the Snow Patrol treatment, could have been another lighters-in-the-air stadium-pleaser.
So not exactly Lightbody’s Nashville homage, then, but proof positive that he remains one of the most important songwriters this island has produced in the last decade.