With every new year, there’s always going to be new country acts emerging. It’s still quite early in 2015 and we’ve already been introduced to some new acts. One of them is band called A Thousand Horses. They’re signed to the major label Republic Nashville and they’re releasing their debut album Southernality on June 9. The band consists of Michael Hobby (lead vocalist), Bill Satcher (lead guitarist), Zach Brown (guitarist/vocalist) and Graham DeLoach (bass/vocalist). They describe their sound as a combination of southern rock and country (as they mention on their site, they say Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers influence their sound). Their lead single “Smoke” has rocketed up the Country Airplay chart quickly, placing 26th on last week’s chart. This surprising surge in popularity has certainly caught my attention, so let’s take a look at “Smoke.”
Right from the beginning of the song you can hear the steel guitar and the mandolin, which provides a nice sound. This is pretty much consistent throughout the song. It’s a nice sound, but it’s also very safe and radio friendly. There isn’t an edge at all. No risks are taken instrumentation wise, which isn’t surprising with a lead single. When it comes to an act’s first single they want to play it as safe as possible to appeal to the largest amount of people possible. So I completely understand this. With that being said though, it makes for just a decent performance.
As for the lyrics in this song, they’re also pretty safe. Hobby sings about a woman in his life, which he compares to smoke. Here’s the chorus lyrics, which are repeated ad nauseam:
I pull her in nice and slow/She’s a habit that I can’t let go
Blowing rings around my heart
Once she stole, watching her sway and glow
It’s killing me and I know/I can’t stop her once she starts
These lyrics aren’t terrible and at least it isn’t another song comparing a woman to alcohol. Then again these aren’t great lyrics either. Just like the instrumentation these are very safe, in-between lyrics that won’t offend anybody nor make people cry “bro country.” Basically what this song is saying is the man in it is addicted to this woman and can’t her out of his head. It’s a simple, straight forward love story. At least that’s what the story that is being told by just listening to the song.
As for the music video for “Smoke,” which you’ll see below, it tells a slightly different story. In the music video the band hits a club. And in this club there’s a woman who is on stage stripping, which has caught the eye of lead vocalist Hobby. Oh and one more thing. The name of the stripper is “Smoke,” as you’ll see in the video she walks into her dressing room and there’s a sign that says “Smoke.” So what I thought was just a harmless love story before is now a story about a man becoming enamored with a stripper named “Smoke.” Now music videos don’t have an effect on my grades of songs, but it’s really hard to shake the image this video gave me of this song after watching it. I don’t think Florida Georgia Line has even put strippers in their music videos.
If I was grading this music video, I would give it a 0/10 because it’s unoriginal, dumb and once again a country song objectified women. These are the kind of things that impede mainstream country music from moving forward. But fortunately for A Thousand Horses I’m only reviewing the song. It’s certainly better than the video, but this song doesn’t leave me in awe like the band was with the stripper in the video. It bores me more than anything and at best makes neutral background music. I think this band’s talented and has potential. They’re certainly capable of much more. I hope their album is better and I’ll certainly give it a chance. But when it comes to “Smoke” it’s just meh for me. This is just another average country song.