A more fitting title than Radiant does 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.