By Anna VanHorn
Roots rock band, Charliehorse, has become something of a staple here in their hometown of Fayetteville, along with a steady following beyond Northwest Arkansas. It is with much sadness that fans might have heard the band is planning to hang up their metaphorical spurs. But fear not! This horse isn’t out to pasture quite yet. The band is quick to point out that this is just a break and not a break up.
A good-timing, country band, Charliehorse is the type to drop the “g”s from their verbs when they sing about lovin’, drinkin’ and livin’. And it’s in that spirit of livin’ from which this hiatus is born. The members are taking some time to do some exploring of their own lives that include travelin’, playin’, workin’ and schoolin’. “It’s not the end of Charliehorse.” says guitarist Isayah Warford, “It’s just that everybody has additional priorities now.”
It’s been 10 years since Charliehorse began their ride, and you’d be hard pressed to find a person whose life hasn’t drastically changed in a decade. Multi-instrumentalist, (including lap steel guitar and banjo), Cody Russell says, “It’s not that we don’t like playing music together anymore, because we all still do.” But this is a band that sometimes plays 8-12 dates a month, which can be taxing on family life, day jobs and such.
Multi-Northwest Arkansas Music Award wins, invitations to play the iconic South by Southwest Music Festival, Wakarusa & YMSB Harvest Fest, along with gigs supporting big names like Levon Helm, (Academy Award Winner) Ryan Bingham, Jason Boland and the Stragglers and Cross Canadian Ragweed are commonplace to this band. Theirs is a music that embodies the south, packed with a lively and intricate musicality. Front man, Ben Wardlaw, provides the lyrics that fall directly instep with the band’s signature sound. Filled with heart, their music is packed with gumption and fortitude.
Drummer, Dave Bright, says, “We play music well together, we write music well together and we have a lot of fun.” Along with their technical ability, it’s that good-time, hell-raising attitude that personifies what has made Charliehorse into such a well-loved group of musicians. Their appeal expands beyond the typical country music fan, and you’re just as likely to see them in a smoky bar with sawdust floors as you are at a wedding reception or a “hippie” music festival. Russell says that their run as a band has been filled with a “lot of good times, lot of good people and a lot of loud country music.”
The band isn’t actively pursuing dates or touring the way that they have in the past, but no doors are closing to future prospects either. “This isn’t goodbye,” says Bright. There is a batch of shows that are booked through September and the beginning of October. Their Facebook page says that it is doubtful that these boys will never share the stage again, but warns that these will be the last chances to catch them together for a while.
While Charliehorse may not be making appearances as a whole, you will still have the opportunity to see the new/additional projects from the individual members.
Warford plans to continue to move forward with the already well-established “Isayah’s Allstars,” in addition to taking on guest spots and other collaborations. Bright is taking this opportunity to move from behind the drum kit to pick up a guitar and do some lead singing, teaming up with Warford and Charliehorse bassist, Chad Cearly. And Russell has plans to take to the road with Colorado-based band, Mosey West. While this already sounds like a lot, it is a safe bet that there will be even more music to come out of this talented group, so be on the lookout for their individual names.
In talking to them, it’s clear that this break is a decision made out of love for one another and the desire to see each member get the chance to explore their individual interests. “Everybody in the band is a friend, very much like a family,” says Bright. While it is disappointing to hear that these boys won’t be back around for a bit, it is with the utmost support and love that their fans can enjoy this next batch of shows. It is a pause in the Charliehorse trajectory, but a moment of growth for the individuals that make up the band.
Winston Churchill is quoted as saying “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.” While it’s obvious that Churchill wasn’t talking about this band, the quote is no less applicable to this situation. Charliehorse has grown together in music and friendship as a band and as individuals. Their time “in the saddle” together has been time well spent.
Join Charliehorse for their last batch of shows on:
September 7 at Jose’s in Springdale
September 14 at Jose’s in Fayetteville
September 15 at Arkansas/Alabama tailgate part at SE corner of Bud Walton
October 5 at Kingfish