Iron Horse with Pickin’ On Your Mama’s House 10.5.13
Fort Collins, CO
Words, Photos & Video By Nicholas Stock
Iron Horse takes the concept of a cover to the realm of high art. It’s not often that a band that makes a living performing other people’s music that creates so much fervor and dedication in their fan base. The Pickin’ On segment of bluegrass has been around for quite some time, but bands like Iron Horse do it justice. The opener was Denver’s recent incarnation Pickin’ On Your Mama’s House. They could also have gone by Tori Pater and Friends, but this group was a tight string band. They had a rowdy and raw take on many of the classics that have made Widespread a band to follow. Pater’s voice aligns nicely with the road that John Bell paved. Considering the theme of the evening was "homage" they fit in nicely. I will say it felt like their set seemed to drag towards the end, but that may have had more to do with everyone’s anticipation for Iron Horse. They did a solid version of “Tallboy” that seemed to smooth everything over.
Iron Horse came out to a solid roar from the crowd. This being my first time seeing them live I was surprised with their reception. MM Editor J-man himself had touted them as a huge influence. Billed as a Pickin’ On Led Zeppelin show, what followed was a best of Iron Horse throw down that demonstrated the range of their repertoire. The first thing I noticed was their classic look that seems to ooze with polish and authenticity. The vocals are strikingly accurate and very reminiscent the classic Appalachian greats. It’s this technical attention to traditional musicianship that lends itself so nicely to the metal and indie bands they focus on in their covers. Songs like Metallica’s “Unforgiven” and Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” dotted the first set. However, the highlight may have been an incredibly delicate take on Ozzy Osborne’s “Moma I’m Coming Home.” The song showcased the amazing vocal interplay between guitarist Vance Henry and bassist Ricky Rodgers. Zakk Wylde himself would have nodded in approval. Iron Horse also snuck in a Modest Mouse tune with “Float On”. Their reverence for both the traditions of bluegrass and rock was evident with each song.
The second set included another Ozzy track “Crazy Train” which was absolutely top notch. It became a massive sing along with the entire audience joining in the fun. By this point there was a healthy crowd, with the house about half sold out. I entered thinking there was a decent turn out, and I left wondering why it didn’t sell out. Again, there are few cover bands worth real consideration. They are like a Twinkie; fun to consume, but rarely satisfying. Bands like Iron Horse bring a vitality and originality to both the genres they embody. A version of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” was yet another peak from this robust performance. Iron Horse is a band that goes beyond simple explanation and is definitely worth a further look. If they come to a town near you, make the trip.