by Mely Duong
Sparkle Pony is a Philadelphia newgrass, bluegrass, folk band that surpasses labels and objectives. They cultivate and work more in depth on each aspect of song so that the final product for the audience is much more intricate than bands of a similar genre. Sparkle Pony consists of Valentina Raffaelli as the lead singer, Elizabeth Cary on fiddles, Nick Salcido on upright bass, and Lewin Barringer on guitar.
Each person brings some unique quality to the table further expounding on the band’s sparkle. Raffaelli has a soulful, powerful voice that adds much emotion to the songs that she often writes while Cary brings some influences of Irish and classical music into her folk and bluegrass solos. Salcido provides a strong foundation for the entire song to rest upon and climb with Barringer tying the whole song together on guitar, filling in the missing parts. Although the band members have been friends for a long time (Raffaelli and Barringer actually are married), the band was not created until approximately two years ago.
“Sparkle Pony was the name of the only horse that ever threw my grandfather off it’s back (thus our logo). As a result, he sold the horse to a woman who ended up being my grandmother. She rode Sparkle Pony for many years in rodeos all over what was then called the New Mexico Territory,” states Barringer.
This story is reminiscent of and parallels the love that the members have for creating storytelling music filled with emotion. They truly paint a picture with their original songs. Their lyrics are drawn from personal experience or are stories intended to pull on the heart strings.
“Fiction is an incredibly liberating thing for a songwriter, you can go anywhere and do anything in those tunes. It’s awesome,” says Barringer.
Having perfected their craft for a significant amount of time, the band’s sound over the years has become much more polished as expected, furthermore the cohesiveness of the band as one unit has strengthened as they continue to ride down this path together. What makes them unique is that they view themselves as a brotherhood, all in it together and infusing various influences towards similar goals and aspirations.
There is no recipe to the magic created here. Sometimes music is written first by Barringer and sometimes Cary comes in with a written melody. It’s a collaborative effort with Raffaelli as the main lyricist. For a prime example of their skills, listen to their song “80 Years”. At the time, Barringer was helping an elderly woman clean and move out of her home. He found a letter her deceased husband had left to her which she had never read. A heartfelt line from the letter stated “Life gives back what it takes away and gives you something else to hold” and thus the song was born.
Sparkle Pony will be opening for Splintered Sunlight on June 18th at Ardmore Music Hall and will appear at the Robin and Beth Fest 11 this weekend in the Poconos. Look for the band around the Philadelphia area this summer, too and check out www.sparkleponyband.com for updates. They will continue writing music and pushing themselves further. “Thank you so much for your continued support,” Barringer adds for all the fans. “We truly appreciate you all and we really hope to see you soon!”
This article will also be appearing in our upcoming Summer print issue!