Horses embarking on four-state fall tour

Updated: Sep 4, 2020


The ROYAL HORSES are heading out on the road for a safe and responsible, socially-distant tour of Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas with their friend and musical collaborator, Hattiesburg songwriter MARK MANN.

The tour is in support of the upcoming RECORD STORE DAY re-release of A Modern Man's Way to Improve, the Horses' 2019 debut album released on the Okemah Roads label. A limited number of copies on 180-gram green marble vinyl will be available for order or purchase on Oct. 24 at independent record stores nationwide.

Billed as the 2020 OKEMAH ROADS REVUE – the tour officially kicks off Tuesday, Sept. 1 with a special livestream performance from T-BONES Records and Cafe in Hattiesburg. Limited, socially-distant seating is available and the performance will be streamed live simultaneously on YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook.

Virtual tips received during the TBONES performance will be earmarked to help cover the cost of fuel, lodging, and meals for the tour. You can contribute via Venmo: @feedthehorses and @mark-mann-music or via PayPal: and

With a musical style rooted in Country, Bluegrass, Rockabilly, Folk, Blues, Southern Rock and even the wind-up turf of jam bands, music critic Mik Davis called the Horses' debut album "a stunning first chapter" for the South Mississippi trio of Shelby Kemp, Kenny Paul Mann, and Daniel Firth.

"Guitarist/vocalist Kemp sings with an open-mouth style where his words matter as much as any modulations in his silvery voice," wrote Davis. "From behind his kit, drummer Firth is wildly inventive, serving up parts that are always nimble and never busy. Finally, the earthy rumble of Mann on his double bass is most often the coal that fires this locomotive new Americana band."

Featuring 10 original tracks produced by John Michael Early and recorded in New Orleans at Downman Sounds Studio, the record was recently voted "Album of the Year" in Signature Magazine's annual Best of the Pine Belt competition. The band was also voted "Best Live Musical Act." Kemp was voted: "Best Front Man," "Best Local Songwriter," and "Best Local Guitarist."

In his 2019 review, Davis compared the album's sound to their "scintillating live shows."

"While many of the songs focus on subtle changes, their mixtures of different musical facets truly illuminate the road ahead. Hill Country Blues meets Merle Travis on the mixture of gritty Blues and florid finger-picking of "Who Do You Know?," while the title cut meshes the unlikely pairing of Meat Puppets and the Allman Brothers on an Americana song that swings hard thanks to Firth's percussion. "Rattlesnake Smoking A Cigarette" lets the whole band run wild, and "Ruby Do" juxtaposes rockabilly slap bass from Mann with its funky, jammy verses.

"You might hear the banjo on "Call It War" or the Chuck Berry-ish chug on "Ruby Do," but these 10 tracks are that rare instance where the element does not define the song.

"The organ-laden "There She Walks" is the closest to a blueprint of a Royal Horses song. While it is the most riff-heavy cut on the album, their skillful arrangement routinely distracts from the anthemic melody that buoys the track. Opening with an almost funeral organ, Firth's incessant drums drive the song effortlessly toward its shimmering chorus. Where Kemp's guitar is mainly minimal but heavily-chorused chords, Mann's bass takes a turn behind the wheel before a careful dramatic build unfolds, allowing Kemp to then drive it home with a blistering solo."

When the album was originally released on Nov. 1, 2019, the Horses embraced a unique, vinyl-only strategy and purposely kept the album off of traditional streaming sites for the first 12 months and instead relied on the support from their fans and independent record stores. That all changes on Nov. 1, 2020 when the record will begin streaming on Apple Music, Spotify, and other premium services.

Hattiesburg songwriter Mark Mann has been making original music for more than 30 years and has 10 albums under his belt – including his most recent effort, "Brand New American" available on Skeeter Hawk Records. Mann, whose thoughtful and lyric-driven melodies reveal subtle influences of Steve Earle, Tom Petty, and early Mellencamp, has a unique knack of beautifully capturing the raw, grittiness of the blue-collar household in which he was raised. With new material coming in at breakneck speeds, the prolific songwriter is heading back into the studio this winter to work on a new album.

Like most performing artists, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruption to the active touring schedules of the Horses – and Mark Mann, too – and Kemp said the band is looking forward to getting back out on the road, but doing so in a "safe and responsible" manner.

"We're thankful for these venues that are giving us the opportunity to play our music," said Kemp. "And just as important, we're thankful they're taking the appropriate steps to keep us – and their patrons – safe while we do it. To say we have missed being out on the road is an understatement. We can't wait to get out there with Mark and share some of our new songs."

Following the Hattiesburg performance, the band leaves for a quick stop in Norman, Oklahoma, before continuing on to Colorado where they have five performances planned including stops in Denver, Palmer Lake, Vail, and Manitou Springs. While in Denver, they're also scheduled to record at Color Red, a record label and recording studio owned by Eddie Roberts, guitarist for The New Mastersounds.

From there, it's off to the Sunflower State and performances in Salina, Wichita, and Hutchinson, Kansas, before heading south to Tulsa, Oklahoma for the final stop before heading home to Mississippi to prepare for Record Store Day.


David Gustafson, Okemah Roads Records

(601) 596-7183 •


9/1 • T-BONES RecordsHattiesburg, MS

9/3 • Red Brick BarNorman, OK

9/4 • Broadway RoxyDenver, CO

9/5 • Palmer Lake Pub • Palmer Lake, CO

9/6 • Vail Farmers MarketVail, CO

9/7 • Armadillo Ranch • Manitou Springs, CO

9/10 • The Voo • Salina, KS 9/11 • Kansas City, MO

9/12 • Brickyard • Wichita, KS

9/13 • Tulsa, OK

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