After three decades away from the music industry, Americana, folk rock singer and songwriter Todd Apfel’s return now includes a four-track EP titled One Horse Town.
The Wisconsin native taps into two emotionally-laden, interrelated events he went through in the year preceding the August 2015 release of this EP: the sudden passing of his mother, and him inheriting the role of caretaker for his father, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. These events have encouraged him to enjoy and even celebrate the simple joys of living in a small town like Vining (Iowa), where he currently resides along with the other 50 or so people who call it home.
One of the most interesting aspects of this EP is the use of a keyboard and the alteration of the vocals to make them sound almost robotic at times. This is something that one doesn’t expect from an Americana or folk album, but once one let’s go of previous expectations, the EP is enjoyable. In one case, this unique twist gives extra meaning to the lyrics. The up-tempo “One Horse Town”, built on guitars and drums, seems to hint, with the use of this type of electronically altered vocals, that small towns might be a lot less complex and simple than big cities but can be just as much fun.
The mid-tempo “Not the Only One” is an attempt to get people to realise that they are not the only ones whose lives are difficult or that they go through periods of crisis. Throbbing at times, the track is melancholic, heavy, built on a plucked acoustic guitar, rhythmic and has a very simple drum line.
The up-tempo and upbeat “Paradise” is more of a pop rock number. It encourages listeners to have a positive mindset and find one’s piece of paradise even amidst a very difficult set of circumstances.
The most poignant contribution to the EP is “Shadows in Your Mind”. The slow number is gentle and, although laden with sadness, is ultimately sweet and uplifting. It chronicles what is happening to Apfel’s father, whose memories, because of Alzheimer’s, are fading into the shadows of his mind, reflecting a sad resignation to his ultimate fate.
Letting go of expectations from an Americana and folk singer and songwriter will allow listeners to give the EP a fair chance. Tracks are available for streaming on Bandcamp. More information about the artist can be found on his Facebook page.