Hares on the Mountain
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Hares on the Mountain

Denton, Texas, United States | SELF

Denton, Texas, United States | SELF
Band Folk Rock

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"Hares on the Mountain’s Sound Is Driven By an Ancient Soul"

Ryan Thomas Becker has a dilemma. When he performs with his friend and collaborator, George Neal, he has to keep his eyes trained on the floor or his guitar or the crowd, anywhere except the place George is standing. “I can’t look at him,” Becker admits. “I might burst out laughing or get nervous or scared. He’s just so intense.”

Anyone who has seen George Neal – formerly of Little Grizzly, currently of The Slow Burners, now of Hares on the Mountain – is likely to share Becker’s reluctance to look straight at George Neal when he is mid-song, irrepressible and shooting, as the former says, “fireballs from his eyes.” I have seen it for myself, George Neal practically unhinging his bearded jaw like some kind of maddened reptile, emptying his soul to the dregs. It is the kind of ingenuousness we are almost embarrassed to see in adults that, as Becker and others rightly observe, makes us squirm in our chairs and turn our heads before the honesty of it reduces us to raw and irrational emotion.

Neal and the reverential Becker, already band mates from The Slow Burners, have now applied their abilities to their newest project: Hares on the Mountain. The name derives from the South England folk song of the same name, predictably included among the 14 songs that make up their debut, self-titled album.

The recording bears every dent and pock of its haste, sounding like it was committed in some echoic hall by a worn troupe of musicians waiting out their exile. The rattled sound folds itself nicely around Neal’s voice, which itself sounds like cracked and thirsty, desert ground. Other than a couple early diversions, the Spartan sound is appropriate in context and would have been ruined with even a spot more of polish.

The songs are split evenly between Neal’s own compositions and those deriving from the English and Irish folk tradition, reaching back at least 500 years, when “The Cherry-Tree Carol” was purportedly sung at the Feast of Corpus Christi. Other venerable tunes include “Matty Groves,” in which Neal recounts the allure and danger of adultery and the violence of passion with chilling conviction, and the converted lullaby “Weela Wallia.” The latter of those two concludes with the practical advice, “don’t stick knives in babies’ heads,” if that gives you any indication of what passed for a jolly, pre-modern lullaby. Neal’s own version is considerably darker than the bouncy original. The album ends with a bold assertion of disbelief juxtaposed with the oldest of saintly tunes, the aforementioned carol reciting the apocryphal tale of Jesus commanding a cherry tree from within Mary’s womb.

It is not as easy as you might think to tell these recovered ballads of murder, regret and devotion from George Neal’s recently authored songs. Neal’s own composition, “Foreign Skies” is of a length and poetry that rivals the other folk tunes, an achievement given how easily modern lyricists run out of steam. The song employs Shiny Around the Edges’ Jenny Seman in a cross-oceanic lovers’ dialogue of grief and loneliness.

All of this leads me to believe George Neal is gifted or afflicted with an ancient soul. Neal is older than I thought, but older still when he sings. He might be carrying around all of antiquity in his guts and that might be what frightens audiences when they look directly into his eyes and catch something of every age there. Neal’s agelessness and temerity are perhaps more accurately captured by the work of Hares on the Mountain than ever before. On it, we find Neal in a state of hallowed wildness, where his feverish enthusiasm finds traction in the dirt of history.
--Dick Sullivan - D Magazine


"Hares on the Mountain"

"It's Denton church," Harlin Anderson, creator of the annual mini-extravaganza Lumberjack Fest, told me two months ago, when describing the weekly Hares on the Mountain residency at Dan's Silverleaf.

To be sure, one can draw many parallels between the earmarks of a more lively church service and a typical Sunday Hares show. For instance, a collection vessel is passed around. George Neal, unofficial front man of the band, is the consummate preacher, clenching the crowd's attention with relentless showmanship from behind (and in front) of his skinny black pulpit. His choir of Hares harmonize with him gorgeously, each of them singing lead at one point or another.

They had another weekly spot at the Free Man in Dallas for a while, but it seems the band feels more at home at Dan's. "I don't know if there's some inherent difference that I see between the Dallas crowd and the Denton crowd," Neal explained, with Ryan Thomas Becker adding that those shows helped to build their fan base more than any other residency.

The comparison to church is something Neal and co-creator Becker don't find as apt as some, but the theme kept coming up. "We don't really try to put on a performance as much as we sort of throw a party," Neal said. "It's almost like a little revival or something."

You can also compare the show to a stand-up comedy act, with Neal spewing out joke after joke. Right before their fifth song, as he was about to pass around the collection vase, he used bassist Tony Ferraro, dressed adorably in a red pajama onesie, complete with a butt flap, as his call for the good congregation to give tithing to local charity. (The theme of the show was pajama party and, as Neal would explain later, it came to fruition after a drunken conversation from a prior night of debauchery.)

"Please give generously," he said. "Because it seems that our own Tony Ferraro has fused with his union suit. He needs a union suit-ectomy! And, to accomplish this, two sets of spatulas are required to be inserted in through the butt flap."

Laughs abounded, and the Hares continued with a streak of covers, including an old 19th century traditional folk song The Pogues recently covered, "I'm a Man You Don't Meet Every Day," sung by mandolin player Cory Coleman, as well as a foot-stomping rendition of "Whisky in the Jar."

Their second to last song, "Ain't No Big Man Living In the Sky," sent Neal gracefully, yet chaotically, dancing through the audience, shoving the microphone into their collective face, screaming his atheist anti-paean: "There ain't no big man living in the sky/ There ain't no angels sittin' up on high/You're born, you live, and then you die/ There ain't no big man living in the sky."

If you get a chance to see the Hares anytime soon, especially at their weekly 5 p.m. Sunday shows, be prepared to leave your personal problems at the door, because they won't let you bring them in.
--Brian Rash - Dallas Observer


"Hares on the Mountain’s Sound Hewn Through Year of Yeoman Musicianship"

When I reviewed Hares on the Mountain initial, self-titled release a year ago, I could scarcely envision what they have become now. Those first recordings were the product of scarcely more than George Neal, Ryan Thomas Becker and a four-track recorder. The mixture of traditional and novel tunes came out well, if grainy and meek. These days, Hares on the Mountain has evolved from the brainchild of Neal and Becker to a full band, brimming with some of Denton’s best talent. Their new album, It Will Only Hurt Forever, is a representation of a year’s worth of performing and developing as a full band.

I remember seeing Hares on the Mountain at The Free Man in Deep Ellum, where they used to hold a Thursday night residency. I heard a couple of their first shows, when the band was not quite yet formed. A year later, they were scary tight, six capable musicians who seemed to know exactly what to do at any moment. Violinist Petra Kelly walked in the door as the band was just beginning their second tune. She grabbed her violin and picked up the tune in stride. For her and the other musicians in Hares, music comes as easily and vitally as breathing, and you can glimpse it in the care with which they treat each song.

Hares on the Mountain listens like an old friend. These are the melodies with whom you share a drink, a laugh and a sneer. As Becker sees it, it is folk music in the proper sense: music for folks. Like the initial, ad-hoc release, It Will Only Hurt Forever is a shuffled deck of tunes from antiquity and new ones, most written by Neal. I found out which those were, but I will let listeners make their own guesses. The answers are surprising. As I have said previoiusly, Neal has a talent for composing tunes that sound like they were penned with a quill. As much as anyone I know, he is a man for all eras.

Four of the ten songs on …Hurt Forever can be found on the first release, but they have grown and evolved with the band’s formation. These are different snapshots, a better representation of a multi-instrumental band that has developed a natural feel for one another. Hares on the Mountain have held a residency at Dan’s Silverleaf for about a year, performing every Sunday in the late afternoon. This slough of performances has polished the band’s instincts, hence the aplomb I glimpsed at The Free Man.

The singing duties are also more distributed. Whereas all of Hares’ first songs were sung by Neal himself, he now delegates vocals to band members who he believes can tell the tales best. He does not treat band members like the sock puppets that the band has been known to pull out during live sing-a-longs. Rather, he utilizes his band mates as proxies to speak on his behalf.

There’s an eternal pall hanging over the appropriately titled album. The songs, old and new, belong to the tradition of treating death with frankness and humor. These are dense story songs with characters whose humanity shines through the savvy musicianship and human voices, especially George Neal’s emphatic, gravelly delivery. Whether it is an outlaw facing the noose or a pair of forlorn lovers or Joseph, father of Jesus, they all speak with intimate voices in vivid landscapes.

Hares on the Mountain are the perfect testament to the archetype of the Denton yeoman. The band first made the album available weeks ago at 35 Denton. Their version of a press release was a throwaway comment Neal made at a show. They are writers and instrumentalists who care about little beyond music, which compels me to care about them very much. It Will Only Hurt Forever is nothing less than a solid album by some of DFW’s top musicians.
--Dick Sullivan - D Magazine


"Puppets Rock & an Historic Marker for the Texas International Pop Fest"

As was proven this past Sunday nite @ Dan’s Silverleaf, puppets and rock (or at least a rocking style of folk music) do mix. For those who haven’t heard about the Sunday residency of Hares on the Mountain at Dan’s (are there any of you left?), consider this your wake up call. Of course, Jim Henson knew about the power of puppets…
-Miss Emily - The Denton Public Library


"Hares On The Mountain CD Release Show at Dan’s Silverleaf"

Football season is over. So what the hell are we gonna do with our Sunday evenings now? Here’s an idea. This Sunday night, Feb. 20th, the greatness of Ryan Thomas Becker of RTB2 and George Neal of The Slow Burners will be having their CD release show at Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton for their new project called Hares On The Mountain. This project includes a wide array of traditional folk songs as well as some collaborated originals. It’s a really easy, enjoyable listen with beautiful melodies and well-versed lyrics.
-[c] - Subservient Experiment


"Hares on the Mountain at Dan’s"

In a way this could be one of Denton’s first supergroups made up of members from some of Denton’s best bands.
-Travis McAnelly - My Denton Music


"Lyric Leak: Hares on the Mountain"

"Last Sunday I saw the resident band Hares on the Mountain play at Dan’s Silverleaf. Wielding their mandolins, violins, and electric guitars, the Hares delivered their energy and sound to the young and old. There was whistling, there were ballads, there were smiles, and the people were merry. Storytelling seemed to be at the core of their music and they brought the bard tradition to life. So I sat down with front man George Neal to talk about lyrics—about the musician as a poet. We talked about lyrics in general, but focused in on one song, Matilda Jones, and here’s what the troubadour had to say . . . ."
-Liz Hopper - We Denton Do It


Discography

It Will Only Hurt Forever - CD/LP - 2012

Hares on the Mountain (self-titled) - CD - 2011

"Save Me" & "Matilda Jones" featured on Adventure Club with Josh & The Local Edge 102.1 KDGE (Dallas, TX)

All tracks from both albums can be streamed at http://haresonthemountain.com

Photos

Bio

Hares on the Mountain play folk music. Rowdy, messy and loud folk music. Hares' mission is to return it to its roots as a music that expresses the experiences of everyday folk. Hares combines original music with traditional American and European songs in a way that probably pisses of purists, but honors songs passed down for generations.

The current live configuration now consists of Ryan Becker, George Neal, Cory Coleman, Justin Collins, Petra Kelly and Tony Ferraro. This line-up recorded the band's latest release entitled "LAMBS" which was released March 2015.

Hares have built a loyal following in the DFW area due to their fun and chaotic live shows.

Band Members