` Jesusfreakhideout.com: Paper Horses, "Paper Horses (Bandcamp Exclusive Deluxe EP)" Review
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Paper Horses, 'Paper Horses'

Paper Horses
Paper Horses (Bandcamp Exclusive Deluxe EP)

Street Date: January 23, 2024
Style: Americana / Acoustic
Buy It: Bandcamp

Paper Horses is a supergroup of tremendous veteran songstresses and friends. Members Sandra McCracken, Leslie Jordan (All Sons & Daughters), Jess Ray, and Taylor Leonhardt (both the latter of which make up Mission House) have joined their formidable talents for a stellar Americana band worthy of every bit of your attention.

Their debut project started with a few singles released in 2023 to all the usual streaming services, which were then pulled and released as a twelve-song Bandcamp exclusive in January of 2024. Among those twelve songs are six originals, with additional live versions of each. And there's not a clunker in the bunch, live tracks included. In fact, I love the front porch feel of the live tracks where cicadas and birds can be heard joining the songs.

Right from the start, listeners are greeted with the gently convicting lines from "Why Don't We," "We who have had much forgiven/should give as we've received/but we without amazing grace/and shame the wretch like me/if the Father's quick to love, why aren't we?" Ouch, in a good way. Next comes a plea for God to "teach us to love/to give to our neighbor/as you've given to us" in "Have Mercy."

However, perhaps the biggest highlights are the final three songs, "An Honest Word," "Jesus Is," and "Hope Has Come Near." The first of the three is a recognition that our Savior doesn't need our defense as much as our surrender, while "Jesus Is" also puts us in our rightful place as the dependent sheep and Jesus as the good shepherd. My favorite lines fall in the middle, as Leonhardt achingly sings, "I may be lonely without a friend/But I will carry my heart to Him/He knows my sorrow, my grief is His/I am no shepherd, but Jesus is." Yes, the gentle guitar strum, mandolin, and slide guitar with the soothing background vocals make for a true standout.

Lastly, McCracken takes the lead on the final track, "Hope Has Come Near." It's no surprise that it's lyrically meaty like many of the modern-day hymns she has been releasing for years. Lyrics co-written with Leonhardt like the following direct us to trust a God who is always with us, "Hope has come near us/old ways set aside/helping us see more than we can see with our eyes."

It's still early in the year, but this is the first and only album that has captured my attention for multiple listens and even driven me to purchase it to do so. As such, it's an early favorite for the top ten year-end list, and worth a listen if you like any of the individual members' solo work or Americana music in general. Featuring tight harmonies, terrific background vocals, and acoustic instrumentation, this is a group to keep up with. These are seasoned songwriters at the top of their game.

- Review date: 2/4/24, written by Josh Balogh of Jesusfreakhideout.com

(JFH Sponsor Spot)

Listen to the debut EP from the band Hopeful.!

. Record Label: None
. Album length: 12 tracks
. Street Date: January 19, 2024
. Buy It: Bandcamp

  1. Why Don't We (4:03)
  2. Have Mercy (2:59)
  3. In Everything (5:12)
  4. An Honest Word (4:01)
  5. Jesus Is (4:44)
  6. Hope Has Come Near (4:19)
  7. Why Don't We (live from leslie's) (3:59)
  8. Have Mercy (live from leslie's) (2:56)
  9. In Everything (live from leslie's) (4:42)
  10. An Honest Word (live from leslie's) (4:00)
  11. Jesus Is (live from leslie's) (4:14)
  12. Hope Has Come Near (live from leslie's) (4:13)



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Listen to the debut EP from the band Hopeful.!

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