CLAYTON, CA—For Clayton residents Nathalie Archangel and Mark Montijo, the pandemic has taken them back to their roots in country music and led to the release of their first album together – Revel.
“The pandemic made it clear that in order to keep our sanity, we needed to focus on something other than what was going on in the healthcare world,” Archangel said, “and music is the most of what I am, who I am. I needed to express that again.”
In December, they released the album, which has country western music at its heart with threads of outlaw country and ’80s alternative rock. They say they were influenced by classic country singers like June Carter, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. The 10 songs are personal and reflect their life experience – but all with an upbeat vibe.
What’s in a name?
The band, consisting of six core musicians and five guest musicians for particular songs, is named Nineteen Hand Horse. The term refers to the size (19 hands from foot to shoulder) of some of the largest horses. Montijo, who grew up on a horse ranch near Bakersfield, came up with the name.
“One summer, the Budweiser Clydesdales pulled through town,” Montijo said. “The truck was having mechanical trouble, and they asked if they could use our pastures while the truck was being repaired. The horses were so beautiful and iconic and strong. I wanted that image for the band.”
Archangel, who wrote most of the songs and sings on the album, and Montijo, who plays guitar and sings, had accomplished musical careers before working in health care. During the ’80s and ’90s, Archangel recorded with Frankie Valli and Howard Jones and earned a double-platinum record for a song she wrote for Bette Midler. Montijo was in a trio called Dogs on Fire, singing and playing guitar in honky-tonks in the Antelope Valley. They landed the opening act for Duran Duran’s concerts at the Los Angeles Forum.
The couple met in Los Angeles and married in 1995. They raised three daughters while Archangel worked as a nurse practitioner and Montijo as a clinical psychologist. After moving to Clayton in 2008, they formed Nineteen Hand Horse in 2009 with several other Bay Area musicians. They played locally at clubs and bars and began working on Revel in 2018.
“I hadn’t done any serious writing in 15 or 20 years,” Archangel reflected. “But suddenly it was there again. I was inspired by long-time country musician Ray Wiley Hubbard, who said, ‘The good days are the days I keep my gratitude above my expectations.’ ”
She said focusing on music helped, especially as she saw what so many colleagues were going through during the pandemic.
They look forward to a day, post pandemic, when they can play their music in person or open for a bigger act. They are also producing a YouTube show called “Horsin’ Round @ The Songbird Lounge,” a cross between “The Marty Stuart Show” and a 21st century West Coast “Hee Haw.”
Their music is available on Apple, iTunes, Spotify and Amazon. To hear a sample, visit nineteenhandhorse.hearnow.com.
For more information go to nineteenhandhorse.com.