In just three years, local band -Escape on a Horse has grown from a small group of loosely affiliated players to a powerhouse with its smooth and loud amalgamation of rock, -country and soul. The brainchild of former -Anthony Leon and the Chain drummer Daniel Jaramillo, the band is practically everything you'd want in an alt-country act, but Jaramillo and his bandmates tweak the formula just enough to create something entirely more individual. This has resulted in consistently packed shows and a 2019 nomination from the New Mexico Music Awards in the Best Country CD category, and Jaramillo says they're only getting started.
Prior to forming the band, Jaramillo says his work with Anthony Leon and the Chain felt a little more commercial, like a day job in band form. These days, however, he writes to please himself.
"We have normal jobs, so we aren't doing this to make money," he explains.
"We can be ourselves."
He insists that drumming for The Chain was a great learning experience that not only tightened his ability, but led to some stellar opening slots for bands like Lucero. Still, by the time the band officially dissolved in 2016, he had written a number of songs that never came to be. He struck out on his own.
"I knew [they] had a better chance of exposure if I dropped the drums and grabbed a guitar," Jaramillo says, "which is exactly what I did."
He took cues from the old-timey gospel he'd heard in his grandmother's church as a youth, and from the punk and grunge explosion of the '80s and '90s.
"I wanted to mix bands like -Soundgarden and Ramones with old country jams and soul," he says.
Once he'd fleshed out the songs, it was just a matter of assembling the -members. Classically trained violinist and vocalist Allisyn Stanfield joined first, followed by David Fellenz on drums. -After alternating session musicians in the bassist slot, Andrew Stoker became the band's most consistent -addition, adding ska and reggae elements as a sort of counterpoint to Jaramillo's punk sensibilities. Rounding the band out are pedal steel guitarist Ryan Little (who fans of Greg Butera will know) and -David "Dog House" Holtkamp, a mandolin player from Albuquerque with a jam band pedigree.
Together, they form a cohesive project that might not work properly if any one piece fit any differently—but it is working: The release of Escape on A Horse's self-titled LP last year felt like a bit of a game changer as far as local alt-country goes, semi-familiar with subtle nods to post-rock country-ish acts like Deertick or even Ryan Adams. But while the songs are recognizable and draw listeners in with what they -already know, they're also fresh and exciting enough to expand any preconceived alt-country notions.
Jaramillo says this might be because he likes a challenge when it comes to songwriting, but also because Escape on a Horse is a democracy.
"I always want different points of view," he says of their collaborations, "because I can't see every creative option."
Album track "Blood in the Water," for example, was co-written by his wife Samantha, and carries a multi-generational theme about the challenges facing blue-collar New Mexican workers and water rights. It even touches on the -Battle of Glorieta Pass during the Civil War for a song as powerful as it is somber.
"There's magic in spending time with my band mates. Since Horse formed, I've felt us turn our music into a living, breathing thing," Jaramillo says. "And when you add the energy of the crowd at a show, it no longer becomes just the band, but simply 'us.'"
Escape on a Horse:
8 pm Saturday Nov. 2. Free.
Mine Shaft Tavern,
2846 Hwy. 14, Madrid,