Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Henry Derek Elis has followed up his 2018 album The Devil Is My Friend with a new four-track EP, All The Pretty Little Horses. On previous releases from his various other bands, Elis has made his presence known to be that of a monster guitar player (his work on this year’s Cave Flowers album was especially evocative). On this batch of intimate covers, he demonstrates his ability to enhance a song by way of restraint as much as he can with instrumental muscle.
Featuring unique interpretations of one standard and three distinct rock, metal and folk classics, All The Pretty Little Horses creates a warm, ghostly atmosphere not unlike the work of modern goth-folk mainstays Marissa Nadler and Chelsea Wolfe. That dark and tender ambiance permeates each recording through both the delicate instrumentation and Elis’ grievous howl, the latter of which lends a particularly haunting quality to what are otherwise gentle songs.
The delicate lullabies of “All the Pretty Little Horses” and “Dancing With Myself” are presented as stark acoustic silhouettes, pretty enough to be the backdrop for a beautiful dream and poignant enough to soundtrack a terrible heartbreak. A welcome contrast in tempo and loudness, “Heart of the Devil” flexes Elis’ doom-metal roots with a steady guitar groove and menacing riffs, while his rendition of Steve Young’s “Alabama Highway” finds comfortable ground between dark Americana and melodic country rock.