The Heavy Horses
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The Heavy Horses

Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF | AFM

Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Country Folk


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"The Heavy Horses Saddle Up At Swirsky’s"

Steady Brook, Newfoundland has produced more grizzly, bearded, guitar-slinging songwriters per capita than any other small town anywhere, and this past weekend the vibe in Swirsky’s was full-on saloon for Justin Mahoney’s return with The Heavy Horses.

Backed by most of the boys from Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case, Mahoney played two sets of material from “Murder Ballads and Other Love Songs” mixed with a great selection of covers from artists like Townes Van Zandt, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton.

Mahoney’s vocal delivery was grittier than the bottom of a dried out spittoon, and the lyrics veered from romance to murder with such precision that you almost forgave the anti-hero protagonists that seem to populate he Heavy Horses’ songs.

Shout-outs must be given to Sherman Downey on piano and Andrew Ross on the pedal steel guitar for pulling off so many solos when given the nod by Justin, sometimes with no more than a half-a-measure’s notice.

My favourites from the set were The Heavy Horses’ “Pale Rider”, and the final song of the night: a cover of Dolly Parton’s country classic “Jolene”, performed as a duet by Mahoney and Ross, which gave Justin a chance to show off his vocal range, and which featured some great playing by both of the boys.

I would like to say that after the show the band packed their gear up in rucksacks and rode off into the sunset on horseback, but really they packed up their cars and rode off into a snowstorm. Either way, it was a great night. - CornerBrooker

"Review- “Murder Ballads & Other Love Songs”- The Heavy Horses"

In high school and university English classes, like pretty much every other student in Canada, I was required to read many pieces by Canadian authors and poets. It was around grade eleven when I whispered to a friend beside me: “Why is Canadian writing so depressing?” It seemed like everything was about death and was pretty dreary. While I still enjoyed many of the pieces I read, death seemed to be impossible to not find in Can-lit.

Which brings me to Murder Ballads & Other Love Songs, the latest effort from Toronto-based country/roots band the Heavy Horses. Rarely does an artist ever give such a succinct statement of intent as an album title. Every single song on this album features a murder. Listening casually one might miss some of the references, but it’s true- this is an album about death.

The way the band tackles the murder, of course, varies from song to song. Whether or not lead singer Justin Mahoney is singing as the same killer in every song or a bunch of different killers is slightly unclear. All take the form of a ballad of some kind- storytelling as a country tradition has deep roots. Sometimes the character in the song is trying to escape deaths; other time he is welcoming it; other times still he is seeking it.

As far as instruments go, most of the songs put an emphasis on minor guitar chords. Many of the songs also feature mandolin, a rather sunny-sounding instrument that sometimes makes a song sound deceptively happy. Remember: every single song references death or murder in some way. So don’t be fooled by the intro to “Into the Earth”; you’ll be amazed at how quickly the mood changes.

Being an album about murder, generally the mood is a little lower, and sometimes the band uses this mood to create some truly haunting songs. “Pale Rider” warns: “Get your gun, kiss your wife, and lock up your daughter/Don’t let her fall in love with the pale rider.” In “Copper & Gold” the tortured narrator laments his inability to escape death; at one point he says how the devil will be coming for him soon.

Other times the narrator tells tales of glory; “Anyone Can Tell” casts the narrator as one of the greatest men who ever lives. He’s more of a violent killer in “Hell Awaits.”

In “Mexican Valley” the blood-soaked hero finally escapes his checkered past and hides in Mexico where he marries a beautiful woman. It almost sounds like a happy ending for the guy until… Well, you can probably somewhat guess how the song ends.

The final surrender to death comes during “In Darkness He Came.” The narrator is beaten down and just wants to die already: “I’ve been a terrible man/And there ain’t much left in my soul,” Mahoney sings.

Murder Ballads & Other Love Songs is certainly a melancholy work, and quite macabre if you think about it. But it’s also a bit of a thrill- regardless of their outcomes, The Heavy Horses tell some real tales.
- Grayowl Point

"Mahoney Excited About ECMA Nomination"

The fact that the East Coast Music Association was announcing nominees for the 2013 ECMA awards was not really on Justin Mahoney’s mind Tuesday.

So, he was a little bewildered when he got a text from a friend wishing him congratulations.

“I was like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’” Mahoney said of his response.

When he was told he had been nominated for an ECMA, the Steady Brook singer/songwriter didn’t believe it at first.

“I thought it was some cruel April Fool’s joke in February,” he joked.

The nomination is for “Murder Ballads and Other Love Songs,” which Mahoney released last year under the artistic pseudonym The Heavy Horses. Self-described as an “outlaw country” album, the CD is one of five nominees for Country Recording of the Year.

Mahoney was already going to Halifax for East Coast Music Week in early March, having been asked to perform at the Country Stage showcase venue. The location and time of that showcase have not yet been announced, but Mahoney has some extra motivation now that he will be going as a nominee.

“I haven’t played this (The Heavy Horses) material for a lot of people yet,” said Mahoney. “It will be exciting to go and play it for a whole new crowd and actually have people find out about it through this way.”

He’s already feeling the so-called ECMA bump, having sold several copies of “Murder Ballads and Other Love Songs” since the nominations were announced Tuesday morning.

The independently produced and distributed album has actually been on a bit of a roll lately. Just last week, a few copies sold in Europe.

“I get excited just to sell one to a friend of mine,” Mahoney said. “How do people in Europe find out about music randomly that is not being pushed by a label or a PR company?”

Mahoney is not the only western Newfoundland connection to this year’s list of ECMA nominees.

The Once, which includes former Corner Brook resident Phil Churchill, is up for three awards. The band’s nominations are for Fan’s Choice Entertainer of the Year, Fan’s Choice Video of the Year for “You’re My Best Friend,” and Roots/Traditional Group Recording of the Year for “Row Upon Row of the People They Know.”

Corner Brook native Lloyd Quinton, who is currently living and working in Japan, played drums on Jeff Torbert’s album, “Urban Poultry and Other Hopes,” which has been nominated in the Jazz Recording of the Year category. Quinton was taught locally by the late Denny Solo and graduated from the jazz music program at St. Francis Xavier University in 2010.

The award winners will be announced at the ECMA gala in Halifax on March 10. - The Western Star

"A Night of "Murder Country""

The White Horse Lounge got a little heavier Friday night as country group The Heavy Horses celebrated the release their debut record. Led by singer/guitarist Justin Mahoney, the group melded dark tales of Wild West murders, with acoustic guitar strumming and toe tappin’ rhythms for a great night of what the singer himself calls “murder country”.

Though now based in Toronto, Steady Brook native Justin Mahoney makes up the core of The Heavy Horses. Mahoney’s debut under the Heavy Horses moniker, Murder Ballads & Other Love Songs, was recorded in Toronto with notable production engineer Laurence Currie. On Friday night, Mahoney released the CD to Corner Brook, joined by friends and local musicians, including Andrew Ross and Neil Targett from Sherman Downey and the Silver Lining.

The Heavy Horses performed Murder Ballads & Other Love Songs in its entirety on Friday, putting a new spin on the album’s tracks by adding drums and banjo. Mahoney’s gritty voice recounted stories of cowboys, heartbreak, betrayal, and death over minor chords and sombre pedal steel lines, blending diverse influences of country, honky-tonk, folk, and rock. The group’s set included everything from a slow country waltz to quick, folky marches.

The band built excitement toward the end of their set, incorporating some nice vocal harmonies, and interplay between Mahoney’s guitar and Ross’ pedal steel. The drums, though not on the album, helped drive the band and added a steady groove. After playing all eleven tracks from Murder Ballads & Other Love Songs, The Heavy Horses finished the evening with a fun second set of country and folk covers.

All in all, The Heavy Horses are sort of like Johnny Cash meeting Clint Eastwood in a dark alley, mixing the best parts of a dusty country record and an old western movie. -

"Justin Mahoney surrenders to Outlaw Country"

He has a degree in jazz and has played in loud rock bands, but Justin Mahoney has found a passion for acoustic country music that even he finds hard to explain.

Maybe it was all of the old-time country stars like Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard that the Steady Brook native’s father, local musician Colin Mahoney, used to play when Justin was younger that subconsciously crept into his heart.

Wherever his love of the simple country style came from, Mahoney is all set to release his first full-length album of original country songs written under the pseudonym The Heavy Horses and entitled “Murder Ballads and Other Love Songs.”

“I don’t know what actually draws me towards it,” he said in a recent interview. “If you had told 15-year-old me that, in 15 years, you’re going to release a country record, I would have laughed that completely off.”

Mahoney described his tunes as outlaw country, influenced by the likes of Nelson, Haggard and Townes Van Zandt who made that emerging sub-genre popular in the 1960s and ’70s.

“It’s like watching an old wild west movie and then writing a song about it,” he said.

After graduating from St. Francis Xavier University with a music degree, Mahoney moved to Toronto to pursue his musical career in 2005. He recorded original music with rock bands the Evelyn Room and North Amorica. He has gigged with former I Mother Earth frontman and fellow Steady Brook native Brian Byrne and has toured with rising country music star Tara Oram, who also hails from Newfoundland.

His bands have opened for big-name acts such as Taylor Swift, INXS, Dwight Yoakam, Blue Rodeo, Johnny Reid and Sam Roberts, just to name a few.

Many of the Heavy Horses songs were originally written for an album Mahoney was hoping to record with Byrne, but he decided to record them himself after that plan never materialized.

The album was recorded and produced in Toronto by Laurence Currie, who has worked with other Newfoundland acts like Hey Rosetta!, The Once and Amelia Curran. Currie enlisted a slew of musicians to add their own flavour to Mahoney’s musical concoctions.

Each of the guest musicians, some of whom Mahoney recruited himself, added a dimension he had not envisioned.

“Laurence had some ideas and he was a huge help,” said Mahoney. “For this record, he was the biggest help I possibly could have had.”

There are no drums on the record, but lots of guitars and other stringed instruments, including pedal and lap steel guitar, dobro, mandolin, upright and electric bass and piano. There’s even a little tasty accordion.

“I had no pre-conceived notions of how these songs would sound in the studio,” he said. “It was refreshing, after playing them for so long with just guitar and vocals to have these other musicians listen to them and play what they heard in it.”

The recorded versions may have many layers of musical accompaniment, but Mahoney said they can still be played live with just himself and a side musician.

Mahoney hopes the album will stand the test of time and stay relevant in any era. That’s also why he opted to use the pseudonym the Heavy Horses, rather than his own name.

“I try to stay away from calling it my name because I don’t want to ever be lumped into playing one style of music,” said Mahoney, who released a limited edition EP of acoustic songs under the name Hunting Winter in October 2010.

Mahoney has been back western Newfoundland since November to finish up the work on “Murder Ballads and Other Love Songs,” not to mention enjoy home, but plans to soon head back to Toronto’s hustle and bustle. The album should be released this spring.
- The Western Star


Murder Ballads & Other Love Songs (2012)
**Nominated for 2013 ECMA Country Recording of the Year**
**Nominated for 2013 MusicNL Folk/Roots Artist or Group of the Year**

Produced by: Justin Mahoney
Engineered/recorded/mixed by Laurence Currie (Amelia Curran/Wintersleep/Holy Fuck)

Christine Bougie: Lap Steel
Patrick Brealey: Piano
Tyler Beckett: Mandolin
Andrew Collins: Mandolin
Brad Kilpatrick: Percussion
Max Heineman: Upright Bass
Rob Fenton: Dobro
Jon Steen: Pedal Steel
Andrew Schaak: Accordion
Mandy Keeping: Harmony

Justin Mahoney credits: Please visit



Nominated for Country Recording of the Year at the 2013 East Coast Music Awards and 2013 Folk/Roots Artist of the Year at the MusicNL Awards - Murder Ballads & Other Love Songs is the debut album by The Heavy Horses, the pseudonym under which Canadian musician Justin Mahoney writes and records songs about outlaws, angels, and murder.

The album was recorded and mixed in Toronto by Laurence Currie (Amelia Curran/Wintersleep/The Once), and features Canadian talents including Andrew Collins (Creaking Tree String Quartet, The Foggy Hogtown Boys), Max Heineman (The Foggy Hogtown Boys), Christine Bougie (The Good Lovelies, Amy Millan), and Brad Kilpatrick (Hawksley Workman), among others.

Steeped in tradition, and raised on a healthy diet of "the old country", The Heavy Horses are naturally drawn to writing in the same style of music, and make no excuses for it. Although they have never raised a pistol to a man, fled to Mexico, murdered out of love, anger, or murdered "just to watch him die" as Johnny Cash once put it, these themes are abundant in the writing.

If youve always wanted to relive the Wild West, or the 70's outlaw country movement well, those days are gone, but The Heavy Horses aim to get you pretty damn close...

"Cuz I was never pretty anyway and never cared anything about that."
- Waylon Jennings

Band Members