There are two sides to Doug Keith. He’s a self-avowed punk rock superfan, often blogging about how Fugazi is the greatest live band ever (hard to argue there) or about how Sonic Youth keeps him creatively healthy. But he also loves country music, and he brings these two sides together as a sideman for Sharon Van Etten. The songwriter tapped Keith to tour with her behind her 2009 album Epic, and he’s spent the past few years on the road, learning from Van Etten’s meteoric rise.
While the schedule stays busy, Keith finds time to write songs in between shows. With a little downtime, he recently retreated to a studio in the mountains of North Carolina and teamed up with Brad and Phil Cook from the alt-bluegrass group Megafaun. Van Etten also convinced Keith to ask for assistance from Dinosaur Jr.’s J. Mascis, whom the two had met on a tour. Mascis added his signature guitar heroics to a song, and in just a few weeks’ time, Keith had a new album in the can.
Pony sounds like the result of the road, full of weathered ballads and hard-luck tales. But the record is anything but hurried; Keith patiently teases out his songs at a folk-rock pace. “Harvest Home” finds the singer ambivalent about returning home, building tension with little more than acoustic guitar and piano.