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One Horse Shy

Watching Cris Kelly and Manda Bryn, bicker about their music reminds one of the old June Carter, Johnny Cash days of singing "Jackson." The duo, the front singer/writers for budding alternative-country band "One Horse Shy," have a distinct passion for their trade.

"I wish we could use the term 'country' in the old sense," said Kelly, citing a number of influences for the band's direction stretching across every spectrum of the last century of recorded music. "We are somewhat contemporary, yet pleasantly antiquated," said Bryn.

The duo found one another roughly a year and a half ago after pursuing their own solo careers in various realms of folk, before settling upon the country track.

"The challenge is to come up with a sound for people in their 50s, but also will still be considered 'cool' by people in their 20s," said Bryn. "Then we, with the band, come up with imagery that will resonate"&

166; it can be quite a challenge, having a specific genre to work within."

"Actually, I much prefer having a structure to work within," said Kelly. "A frame to work with, even if it's broad. I know when I'm getting it right and when I'm not."

So far, the band's mainly been headlining local venues, particularly the Jefferson State Pub and the Standing Stone as well as Johnny B's in Medford. Just this month they've began spreading out to Portland, Eugene and a few places in-between.

"There are too few opportunities for people to be excited about music around here," said Bryn. "But the audience reaction to us gives me a lot of hope." "There's a sort of dismal music scene (here)," said Kelly. "There's the music and the talent; they're here, but there's like three venues. I wish Ashland would raise its' voice."

Abandoning their solo liberties to merge as been an art unto itself for these fledgling would-be stars.

"If our job was just to sit around all day, writing and playing, we'd be happy," said Kelly. "It's not just a financial goal, it's an emotional goal."

"I guess, whereas most people dread the stage"&

166; since childhood, I felt was 40 percent more attractive and intelligent when engaging with an audience," said Bryn. "I can let go of the crap in my life; I feel like I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing in life; like a cartoon character of myself in every positive way. I feel golden."

"When I finish a song, I feel like I've made a good decision in life. I feel success," said Kelly. "But it doesn't last long. I'm almost immediately start writing again."

This presents a dichotomy between the two, as Bryn takes much, much longer in the writing process and finds her shine under the spotlights.

"I'm the opposite; I'm very selfish," said Bryn. "I write for closure. Connecting with the audience helps me relate. (Feeling) that my ridiculous, dramatic life is actually pretty normal. It helps me understand it."

Helping facilitate these dreams are recent band addition, Mysha Caruso, on bass, and Bryan Helfrich, on drums. Helfrich has a vast lexicon of music at his disposal, having toured with gothic metal industrial bands, and dabbling in Brazilian music as well.

"He's an enigma, that Bryan," said Bryn. "With him on board, we took a quantum leap," said Kelly. "And we're lucky to have Mysha for sure." "He's a great singer/songwriter,' said Bryn.

And so the band plays on, seeking attention and connection with the heads that bob across Rogue Valley venues. Finding inspiration along the way, and playing minstrel to their muses with voices sweet as the honey they're always singing about Kelly and Bryn may yet find that train stop along the country highway they seek. Just don't expect them to stop the bickering.

"We had to switch sides (while performing) because I was always whacking her with my guitar," said Kelly. "Let's just say I was reluctant to switch sides."

For more about the band, or CD information, check out .