Trick Pony captured center stage of the national music scene only three years ago when they were named Top New Vocal Group by the Academy of Country Music.
This was due in no small part to the supercharged vocals of lead singer Heidi Newfield, dynamic guitarist Keith Burns and bassist Ira Dean. The singing trio are sensational on stage and are now releasing their third CD.
Keith and Ira had known each other for five years when they decided to form the band in 1996. Keith was raised in Atlanta and moved to Nashville to tour with Joe Diffie. Ira is from Raleigh, North Carolina, and was majoring in Jazz performance at Southern Illinois University when he quit in his junior year to pursue Country music. He moved to Nashville and was working with Tanya Tucker when he and Keith formed Trick Pony.
The guys decided that a two-man, one-woman format with shared vocals would be the ideal configuration. They searched for the perfect one-woman and found the fit in Heidi Newfield from Healdsburg, California, in the Sonoma wine country. She had been singing from an early age and played the guitar and harmonica, too—a triple threat and a bundle of energy to boot.
The band spent several years developing its own sound while working out of Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon and touring the Southern club circuit. The threesome started out with the 1970s’ sounds of Outlaw Country and Country Rock, and built from there. They soon began writing more and more of their own material.
In 2000, they were signed by Warner Brothers, and a year later released their first album. This self-titled CD is chockful of Traditional Country music supercharged with a contemporary, high-energy sound. The majority of the tunes were self-penned, but the disc includes a dynamite version of Johnny Cash’s “Big River” featuring vocals by the Man in Black and Waylon Jennings. The band had several hit singles from the release and within a year, this album went gold and then platinum.
The success of their first CD had Trick Pony on the road pretty much full time. So much so that although the basic tracks for the follow-up CD were recorded in the studio, the bass and vocal overdubs were recorded in a variety of hotel rooms across the country. They took a mobile studio with them and many nights, while still high from the energy of their live performance, they would lay down tracks. This led to Trick Pony’s second album, On a Mission (released in 2002), which produced another Top 20 hit single with the title song. Willie Nelson is guest vocalist on the disc and plays his “gut” guitar on Johnny Bush’s classic “Whiskey River.”
This year brings the release of R.I.D.E. on Curb Records. Unlike On a Mission, this CD is a product of the band’s undivided attention toward the songs and the recording. They went into a Nashville studio and turned the clocks “toward the walls,” so there would be no deadlines, only a focus on their music. This project builds on the throwback raw vibe that they had reintroduced to Country music with their first CD. It also touches upon two important events from last year in Heidi’s life. “Maryann’s Song” is a haunting, Gospel-flavored song influenced by the illness that took the life of Heidi’s mother last February. On a lighter note is the girl-talk humor of the first single from the album, “The Bride.” Any resemblance to Heidi’s actual wedding last June is coincidental, True West is assured.
Trick Pony is on the road all year, so keep your eyes peeled for when this hot Honky-tonk band comes to your town.
Bill Groll calls Austin, Texas, home. Visit www.CountryRootsMusic.com to learn more about his taste in music.