No Depression Radiant Review

Shimmering Country Beauty

Wild Ponies - Radiant


MAY 12, 2016

A more fitting title than Radiantdoes not exist for the new record from Wild Ponies. A shimmering country beauty, the music on the album seems to glow.

Whether singing about the troubled state of the world, a small town mom ‘n’ pop grocery, or the pains of a broken heart, husband-and-wife duo Doug and Telisha Williams have a magnetic chemistry that’s deeply compelling. They play off each other’s strengths -- both are dynamic vocalists and smart songwriters.

It’s always refreshing to hear country artists tout liberal values with forward-thinking lyrics, and a few songs on Radiant fit that bill. There's the subtle but effective “Love Is Not a Sin,” about the power of love, regardless of sex, gender, or race. As the two harmonize, it’s “what makes the world go round.” They continue:

It doesn’t matter who you love
When two lovers find each other
I’d say it’s sanctioned from above

It’s a protest song in the vein of old folk tunes, and they deliver it with grace and intelligence.

Another statement song comes in the form of the rock and roll blast of “Unplug the Machine,” which plays out like a checklist of everything wrong in the world today: gun violence, racism, hate crimes, inequality for women, poverty, animal cruelty, the war on drugs, climate change, and celebrity spectacle are just a few of the issues the pair touches upon in this tune. When paired with the exuberant, thrashing guitars, it’s just plain addictive. Nothing is too heavy handed here, though, as the duo maintains a sense of fun.

Other standouts include "Mom and Pop" -- an ode on the store that’s been around longer than you. There's the down-and-dirty anthem “Born with a Broken Heart” and the gorgeous title track, which was co-written with a 12-year-old student the pair met through volunteering with the Country Music Hall of Fame's Words & Music program.

Fans of Shovels and Rope will appreciate the way Wild Ponies' voices play off each other effortlessly, and fans of Amanda Shires and Zoe Muth will dig Telisha’s heavenly singing. 

Wall Street Journal Speakeasy


May 5, 2016 9:00 am ET

“It kind of floored us.”

That was the reaction of Doug Williams – and his music partner/wife Telisha Williams– after first reading a songwriting submission from a 12-year-old girl named Mariah Moore.

The couple, who make up the country duo Wild Ponies, had been serving as mentors in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum‘s Words and Music program, which nurtures school-age songwriters, when they received Moore’s lyrics. The East Nashville-based musicians were so impressed with the adolescent’s work that Moore now holds a co-writer credit on the contemplative title track of Wild Ponies’ new album, “Radiant.”

The song premieres today on Speakeasy.

“[We were like,] ‘I don’t want to let this go,’” says Telisha Williams, who, along with Doug, spoke with Speakeasy by phone while they were heading back to Nashville after a show in Washington, D.C.

Although the Williamses wrote all of the music, as well as contributed a verse, Doug is insistent that the idea behind “Radiant” is “100 percent [Moore's].”

“The core of the song is the line ‘I want to know how to be so radiant,’” says Telisha. “That is hers as it was written by her.”

Doug also praises Moore’s imagery in the lyric “When the earth and sky align/A mountainside of fireflies/I don’t know why my feet are on the ground/Watching tiny lanterns fly.”

“I think [that line] is one of the best lines of maybe any song I’ve heard, ever,” he says. “It’s about looking at that mountainside and seeing the fireflies on that mountainside, and then blending into the stars above and just wondering where your space exists in there and how it’s all connected. That was her. The real brilliance of the song is definitely hers.”

But “Radiant” could have missed its moment in the sun if it hadn’t been for the diligence of the Country Music Hall of Fame, which assisted in getting the Williamses back in touch with Moore, now 15 and a resident of Shelbyville, Tenn. It took them about a year and a half after first getting Moore’s lyrics – “we did the program with her in May of 2014 and we didn’t really find her until the end of 2015,” says Telisha – to find their teen songwriter again.

“By the time we tracked her down, we were getting desperate because we already recorded the song,” says Doug. “We were like, ‘We don’t know if we’re going to be able to put the title track on the record,’ because, even though we legally could, I didn’t want to do it without her permission.”

The album “Radiant,” which is a follow-up to Wild Ponies’ 2013 LP “Things That Used to Shine,” is out May 13 on No Evil Records.

Listen to the song “Radiant” below:

Huffington Post "Night We Never Met" Premiere

By Lisa Snedeker


Mark your calendar for Friday, May 13, because that’s when you can purchase your very own copy of Wild Ponies new album, “Radiant” out on No Evil Records. To tide you over, here is the exclusive premiere of the video for the hauntingly beautiful, “The Night We Never Met,” from the new album.

Telisha Williams, who makes up half of the duo at the heart of Wild Ponies, says, “The idea of a video of me in a slip would’ve terrified me a year ago, but about five months ago, I started taking burlesque dancing lessons, and my opinions of my body have completely changed. It’s my body, and it’s carried me through some incredibly beautiful and traumatizing moments. There’s a power in me and my body that didn’t recognize and appreciate before. Without my burlesque experiences and community, I don’t think I would have been able to lay confidently on a bed in the middle of a snowy field in Kentucky on a 20-degree night.”

While I found the whole album to be brilliant, if you’re not sold on “The Night We Never Met,” buy it for the single, “Love Is Not A Sin,” alone. Trust me on this one.

Here’s a snippet of a verse: “It doesn’t matter who you love, when two lovers find each other, I’d say it’s sanctioned from above ...”

The tune was written long before North Carolina’s H.B.2 and similar legislation was recently enacted, but it addresses the issue head on in Wild Ponies unique rootsy, rock and oh-so eloquent way. Listen for yourself here.

Natives Doug and Telisha Williams came full circle on Saturday night for an album’s release party at The Rives Theatre in downtown Martinsville, Virginia. If you missed it, you can hear the band perform at Rooster Walk Music and Arts Festival on May 26-29 in nearby Axton, Virginia. Warning: Ticket prices go up May 1 and are going fast.

“My mom started hosting house concerts in early 2001 in her basement,” Doug explains. “She had Hayes Carll and The Green Cards as backup bands along with a bunch of others. We then helped start an organization called Artisan Cafe in town.”

That Artisan Cafe eventually merged with another group to form ARTS at The Rives Theatre, where the couple played on Saturday to an appreciative hometown crowd including parents, cousins and longtime friends. “We knew family that owned The Rives and we helped start the nonprofit ARTS at The Rives before we moved to East Nashville. We stayed for a long time trying to turn it around and make it an artisitic place.

“We’re thrilled with how it’s going. They are doing just an awesome job and we’re excited to have our album release party there.”

The Americana, folk, alt-country group also includes Megan Jane and Fats Kaplin who produce a sound on the album that seems to radiate from a much larger, fuller band.

“Radiant” is the sophomore album for Wild Ponies, formerly known as Doug and Telisha Williams. They decided to change the name of the group because it was more than just the husband-and-wife duo, who have been playing together since high school. Their longtime collaboration as musical partners — Doug on guitar and Telisha on stand-up bass — and life partners is apparent on stage and they say translates into a telepathy that other bands may not have.

“We changed over to Wild Ponies with the last record, ‘Things That Used to Shine,’ “ Telisha explained in a recent phone interview. “When you hear two names, it’s what you envision, pretty folk, acoustic and kind of not how our music was going.”

Indeed. “Born With a Broken Heart” and “Unplug the Machine” from “Radiant” are perfect examples of the band’s evolution to a harder-edge sound as well as “Trigger” from the aforementioned album. Doug added, “We felt like things are shifting and changing and even as a duo it didn’t accurately describe who we were. Wild Ponies shifted a little more electric.”

Telisha adds that she and Doug believe in building a creative community and participating in a creative community. “I feel like this is such a record of collaboration ,” she said, adding they co-write with friends on a regular basis.

One of the collaborations they are most excited about is the title track they co-wrote with 12-year-old Mariah Moore, whom the Williamses met through volunteering with the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Words & Music program.

“I have to admit, there’s probably a little defiance in all of this,” Telisha said in release. “Bucking the way things ‘should’ be done. We just want to make good art, and that usually means bending some rules.”

“Tower and the Wheel,” partly inspired by an old tree on Doug’s grandparents’ farm, signifies another theme — celebrating the past, with a few modern twists. The song includes details about the tree that’s stood for generations on the family farm, but the B-sections were inspired by tarot cards. I personally hear shades of Nanci Griffith in Telisha’s voice on this particular track.

“I’ve known that tree my whole life. It knew my mom and my grandparents even way back before that. That tree was really old before anyone in my family owned the farm. But she’s still there, strong as ever,” Doug said. “It’s where we’d tie the horses, and where we’d pull the porch chairs around in the shade and the dirt and play songs, where Telisha and I cut our wedding cake.”

But when Doug and Telisha were writing the chorus sections of the song, they took an unconventional approach “Nothing we were trying was working, so we laid out eight Tarot cards and wrote all those eight parts right from the way they fell. They lined up perfectly between our verses and finished the story for us.”

For Doug, “Radiant” is about reaching out from within, looking at the world around, relating to it, and trying to find some empathy. For Telisha, it’s also about standing still, tall, and true.

“Listening to our last record, I hear the struggle. I hear the transition of a victim pushing, pulling, letting go, standing up, and shouting,” she said. “This record is more stable and secure in some ways but raw and exploratory in others. There’s an acceptance and love for myself. I’m feeling confident in my own skin. A skin that’s full of battle scars and flaws, but that I’ve learned to love and appreciate, maybe for first time.”

There’s no slowing down Wild Ponies it appears. Doug says this summer the band plans to make an all-acoustic record at his grandfather’s farm in Galax, Virginia.

“My grandfather played with old-time players from Galax and around that area, so we’re going to bring some of our Nashville friends and hopefully throw them together with some guys from Galax right after the Old Fiddlers’ Convention.”


PopMatters - Graveyard Train Premiere

by Sarah Zupko

East Nashville’s Wild Ponies are a rockin’ Americana band with one hell of a lead singer. Telisha Williams has a powerful set of pipes with an instantly recognizable sound and she plays with a band that can rock the house on amps set to 11, starting a fire with twang-tastic riffs and killer harmonies. Wild Ponies have a new album, Radiant, coming down the pike May 13th via No Evil Records and we are sharing the new single “Graveyard Train” today. The tune is raucous and righteous, highlighted by monster heavy guitar riffs, a ton of attitude and that wondrous voice of Telisha Williams, who evokes Miranda Lambert at her best.

Doug Williams tells PopMatters that “this is one we wrote a while back. Some friends told us about a cemetery in Garland, Texas that is divided by a train track. The train just runs right through there seven times a day. How can you not write a song about that? They even sent us pictures. It’s just a lot of fun to play, in the studio and live. We just kick it off and let it go. Sometimes it gets kind of wild.”
Telisha Williams adds, “My dad was a train man. He worked on them since I was a little girl.  From that, we developed a love for trains and the sounds they make—the whistles and clacking, just rolling along. One of the things we love about living in East Nashville is that we can hear those sounds in our bed at night. It’s actually kind of calming, in a way. Imagine the folks in that cemetery—they get to hear it forever!”

Well, hop aboard the Wild Ponies train because this band huff and puffs and smokes with intensity and passion. With music this good, Wild Ponies are going places.

Huffington Post on Love Is Not A Sin!

Nashville's Wild Ponies Release 'Love Is Not A Sin' In Support Of LGBT Equality

The Huffington Post  |  By Curtis M. Wong
Posted: 04/10/2015 11:37 am EDT Updated: 04/10/2015 2:59 pm EDT

Nashville-based band Wild Ponies is speaking -- or, rather, singing -- out in defense of same-sex couples with a new, pro-equality anthem.

Doug Williams say he and his wife/songwriting partner, Telisha Williams, penned "Love Is Not a Sin" in an effort to "show that it's all the same love." Musically, the new tune was partly inspired by Wild Ponies' cover of Patti Smith's "Gloria," which the band has performed live on the road.

Shot by Stacie Huckeba, the video features photos of the band's friends, family and fans in a symbolic, interconnected web.

Interestingly, Williams went on to thank Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who sparked a media firestorm after singing his state's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which many initially interpreted as legalizing discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

"I think it’s been a real catalyzing moment -- now we all know how everybody feels, and I don’t think it’s going to go away," he told The Huffington Post in an email. "If anything, I think this is going to accelerate the march towards the inevitable, which is legalized gay marriage in all 50 states."

M Music and Musicians Magazine

Formerly an acoustic duo, Doug and Telisha Williams plug in for these 12 country tunes, cut in three days with Ray Kennedy. The producer has worked with Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle, and like those artists, Wild Ponies swing emotional wrecking balls with great delicacy, sometimes waiting until the third verse to deliver devastating revelations about their characters—and themselves. On “Trigger,” Telisha doesn’t say until the end why she pulled the gun that’s left her hubby dead, and on “Truth Is,” she saves until the final line a reference to her painful childhood. “Everything I own is just a little bit broken,” they sing on a brisker cut, romping with heavy hearts that won’t weigh them down.

Read More

Wild Ponies Just Might Be Americana's New Dark Horses

Michael Bialas - Huffington Post/No Depression -  November 29, 2013

Wild Ponies Just Might Be Americana's New Dark Horses

...Comparisons to Lucinda are inevitable, along with rough-and-tumble daring duos such as Shovels & Rope and honeyhoney, and Americana’s current power couple, recent newlyweds Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires. All of them know how to capably cover shaky ground, but exploring deep, dark places seems to come naturally for Wild Ponies. ...

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American Songwriter - Album Premiere

Sometimes, the best songs come from the worst places. Just ask Wild Ponies, whose debut album shines a line on the skeletons that’ve haunted frontwoman Telisha Williams’ closet for years.

“A lot of this album came from dealing with the recognition of abuse in my past,” she says. “I had to figure out how to let go of the trauma I’d lugged around for years. I finally got some real therapy, and — hopefully — some good songs out of it.”

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The Alternate Root - Review of "Things That Used To Shine"

You could always tell that Telisha Williams woman was trouble. Sure, she comes off all sweet with that sunshine smile. When she and hubby, Doug, walked the boards as a duo there were clues. Maybe it is the anonymity of the band but Telisha has come out of her lace and leather closet and taken on the role of the seductress for the husband and wife teams new incarnation as Wild Ponies. There is no hesitation on Things That Used to Shine. Track number one and Telisha has her dominatrix drag on for “Make You Mine”. The tune sets the stage but all you can hear is Telisha’s siren call pulling you in, and down, down, down.

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Jon Lohman, Virginia State Folklorist

Makes you want to fall off the wagon, take up smoking again, let your girlfriend’s cat out on purpose, while at the same time feel a precise awareness of some long lost forgotten beat of your heart.  A tour de force

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