Jaida Dreyer, ‘Half Broke Horses’ – ToC Critic’s Pick [Listen]
'Half Broke Horses' is a song many songwriters would be afraid to record. Jaida Dreyer's single is rooted in difficult memories. There's no mistaking the pain in her twang as she tells the story -- and it is a wonderful story. The problem with recording such songs is they often turn out brilliantly, and fans want to hear you sing them again... and again... and again. Blake Shelton knows this -- it's why his wife Miranda Lambert cut 'Over You' instead of him.
So in a way, Dreyer has cursed herself. She'll be singing this song for the rest of her life, and hopefully she'll soon be hearing it on the radio. Her story, her performance and her approach leave no emotion unexposed. It's rare to find an artist this young who can be so efficient and effective as a storyteller, but perhaps because it's her own story of heartbreak, in two different forms, it came to her easily. Or maybe she's just that good?
Time will tell.
The first verse details the day her father left Dreyer and her mother. "An empty pack of Marlboro reds sittin' by the bed / I can still see mama crying on the phone / And I sorta still remember who I was that September / Before she told me he was really gone," she sings, before adding this devastating couplet:
"I ran and got my plastic ponies, but he just kept on going / I thought he'd turn around but I know better now."
Because "blood is thicker than water," Dreyer finds herself on the wrong end of abandonment during the second verse, as well. She shares these memories with no lingering bitterness. Instead, she shoulders part of the blame for trusting 'Half Broke Horses.'
"Ooh, you can't fence 'em in / Ooh, they were born to run and then / You think you got them where you want 'em / Then they leave you all alone / Half broke horses, they never come back home," Dreyer sings during each chorus.
Finally, at the end she's watching her daughter play with her plastic ponies. "Those plastic ponies are a story, she's gonna have to hear someday," she adds during the verse. Dreyer doesn't have kids yet, but one wouldn't know it. The bridge is a satisfying dagger to the heart.
'Half Broke Horses' is similar to 'Strawberry Wine' by Deana Carter, a song that's rarely been matched in terms of effortless nostalgia. Dreyer's voice is similarly built to handle the longing, and she turns in an inspired performance. At the end you feel like you know her like a sister, which is the ultimate compliment for a singer-songwriter.
Listen to Jaida Dreyer, 'Half-Broke Horses'