Red Horse is an experiment in folk chemistry that worked

By Rege Behe,
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Last updated: 9:38 am

So many aspects of the music business have been forever altered by technology. But at least two elements have not been compromised.

"It's about the songs and the live shows," says folk musician John Gorka. "They haven't been able to virtualize that yet."

Gorka appears Saturday with the trio Red Horse, which also includes Eliza Gilkyson and Lucy Kaplansky, at Carnegie Lecture Hall in Oakland. The show is presented by Calliope: Pittsburgh's Folk Music Society.

Gorka, Gilkyson and Kaplansky had previously performed together in various incarnations as duos, but not as a trio, until last year. As Red Horse, they released an album of the same name in 2010.

While part of the premise of the group is to expand the members' individual fan bases -- "If I want to stay at the same level I'm at, I have to reach new people all of the time," Gorka says -- the alliance would not have worked if the parts didn't mesh.

"The dynamics of the three of us are different than any other combination I've been a part of," Gorka says. "We have very good chemistry, musically and personally."



Part of the charm of "Red Horse," the album, is how the performers mix and match songs. Kaplansky sings Gorka's "Blue Chalk," Gilkyson takes on Kaplansky's "Promise Me" and Gorka turns in a rendition of Kaplansky's "Don't Mind Me."

Gorka says that he's akin to the third man out in Red Horse, saying of his cohorts, "They're both really good at harmony parts, and I tend to stumble on my parts. Lucy and I have been singing together for 26 years. It's almost like we're relatives at this point. But it's always interesting to see how people will come up with new songs, and how they'll present new songs, and how they will interpret existing songs."

Gorka serves as "the hapless emcee," he jokes, but he's gradually come to embrace the concept of being part of a band. He enjoys the camaraderie and repartee on stage, and hopes that Red Horse will record again.

But there's also a surreal aspect to the trio.

"It's like being surrounded by two angels," Gorka says. "When we first started, I kept thinking to myself, 'Am I dead? Is this what heaven is like?' "


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