The Oakland marina in California is a sparkling expanse of ocean, boats, and dock—sun-kissed and creaking against the wind. Day in and day out, Jessie Antonick, who performs under the name Pony Hunt, works the marina as a carpenter and sailmaker, tugging, tying, and crafting as the ocean laps against the bows. There, daydreaming among the masts, the Pacific soaks into her roots-influenced songwriting, feeding a creativity that is also nurtured in the other half of the year she spends living and playing in New Orleans, Louisiana. Pony Hunt’s new release Heart Creak, released Oct 7, incorporates the identifiable raw traditions of the New Orleans music scene—where the album came to life—while also bringing in the reverb-soaked psychedelia and Beach Boys-esque vocal conception of the California coast. Additionally, Heart Creak draws on the sounds of Chicago, where Antonick was born and raised, bringing in a subtle awareness of Chicago-style rhythm and blues. The result has Heart Creak ebbing back and forth with the tides pushing between three great American cities, moodily and soulfully edging Pony Hunt towards broader musical vistas.
Heart Creak was recorded in New Orleans, in the house of The Deslondes’ Sam Doores. It’s a house that’s become a creative nexus for many touring roots musicians seeking new inspiration and challenging current definitions of roots music. As the musicians push each other, they also draw on the inspiration of the early jazz, jugband, and swamp pop flavors of Louisiana, as subtly apparent in tracks like “Without a Fight,” and “Sittin Pretty.” Meanwhile, “Dream of You” and “Over you” feel so obviously born out of the late ‘50s, early ‘60s Chess Records blend of doo-wop, soul, and blues, as Antonick’s Etta-James-croon coasts over the top. This use of doo-wop stylings is augmented by the harmony vocals from Teri Sage, while Pony Hunt’s lo-fi rockabilly is further underscored by guitarist Chris Cummings’ slow, meandering style. Heart Creak also sees appearances from fiddler Lyle Werner, a roaming street fiddler fresh off the Hollywood movie “Jackie and Ryan” who adds further grit to the self-produced, self-recorded full-length debut. He is a perfect example of the sort of travelling musicians who come back home to New Orleans and join an impromptu band or recording project, revitalizing their creativity before heading back out on the road again.
A cleansing, melancholic baptism, Heart Creak represents the community of young folk revivalists in New Orleans committed to challenging tradition and encouraging rebirth and innovation. Heart Creak is no exception to this effort, as Pony Hunt tracks her movement between three major U.S. cities with a surprising mix of styles. In Heart Creak, the listener is whisked off along with Pony Hunt herself, sailing to an unknown shore.