If Tina and her Pony sounds more like a children’s book series than an indie-folk duo, Tina Collins and Quetzal Jordan make a great case for whimsy and animal aliases. In fact, Collins and Jordan (but especially Jordan) are so at ease on stage and in their music and, seemingly, in their individual skins, that it would be hard not to go along with any idea or musical arrangement they’d set forth.
Opening for Sweet Claudette’s sold-out show at The Altamont Theatre last weekend, the duo (currently based in Asheville, by way of Taos, by way of Asheville) was all about immediacy. From their hers and hers vests to their warm stage banter to way their voices blended, it was a love at first listen situation. Collins and Jordan perform an array of old-time and folk tunes as well as originals, all of which are run through the filter of the Tina and her Pony sound. So, a cover of Uncle Earle’s “Walkin In My Sleep,” comes off as rootsy and road-weary (as it should), but there’s also the way that Collins and Jordan perform, almost breathless, as if they’ve just discovered for the first time how they can harmonize and intuit each other’s moves.
On “Far Away,” Jordan played bass progressions on the cello, the lyric, “Don’t you know I’ll love then break you” sung more dreamily than sadly. Jordan’s voice, as well as her musicianship, is unusual. In a good way. She’s probably a contralto, her vocal deep and rich and able to hold onto low notes without going gravely. But Jordan’s range is impressive, occasionally sweeping into a clear upper register. The elasticity of her vocal — her ability to sing a so-called male or female part, combined with her unorthodox cello, gave the song’s folkiness a modern feel.
On “Medicine,” a song about wild-crafting, Jordan bowed her cello, creating a dark and poignant mood. And then, with a quick switch to plucking the strings, the song switched to a textural slow-build.
Collins is just as talented — the duo is a well-matched partnership. Playing mostly ukulele and guitar, and singing the high harmonies, she gave a lightness and buoyancy to songs that could have felt heavy in less skilled hands. They introduced the last song saying, “We have a lot of ex-girlfriends and this is a song about one of them.” Breakups and exes and lost love have provided inspiration for probably like 75-percent of all songs ever. But Tina and her Pony managed a fresh take: “I drove all day and I drove all night / didn’t stop to look at the tourists sights.”
The duo plays at City Lights Cafe in Sylva on Saturday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m.