record reviews august 2018


Among The Ghosts (Liberty & Lament)

61W5N-CYqhL. AC US436 QL65

Marking the band’s 20th anniversary, founding members Ben Nichols, Brian Venable, Roy Berry and John C. Stubblefield, alongside Rick Steff (who only has 12 years on the clock), look back to their Southern alt-country roots , mingling them with shades of gospel and R&B. anyway. Recorded live in one room at the legendary Sam Phillips studio in Memphis and produced by Matt Ross-Sprang who conjures a sound akin to his work with Jason Isbell and Drive By Truckers, it captures the energy of the sessions on songs that take family as a narrative thread.

Opening with a brooding tribal guitar riff, the growingly sung rock-dynamic title track was loosely inspired by Nichols’ young daughter and being out on the road away from home (“the first word she said to me was goodbye”), that sense of separation also at the heart of To My Dearest Wife, although the song itself, founded on reverb acoustic guitar, was actually inspired by letters written home by Civil War soldiers and interpolates a snatch of Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Given their Southern gothic sensibilities, it’s no great surprise to find many of the numbers swathed in darkness: Bottom of the Sea a driving ringing guitar number about drowning, the giddy swirl of Everything Has Changed with its echoey vocals recounts a meeting with the devil, Always Been You a divorce-themed piano slow waltz ballad and the swaggery Cover Me, with Nichols adopting a Springsteenesque-husk, details a shoot-out. Things get particularly spooked on the drawled blues and grunge of Back To The Night that comes replete with a spoken word passage by Michael Shannon that sounds like its haunted by some desert spectre, the song title coming a line in Nick Tosches’ biography of Jerry Lee Lewis.

There is light, however, Loving a simple acoustic guitar and piano ballad as Nichols sings “I want to be good enough for you” while the album closes in full throttle mode with For The Lonely Ones, a Springsteen-styled rocker riding a driving drum beat, heads down guitars and R&B horns that sends it off on fireworks of hope.

Mike Davies


Plea For Peace (King Forward)


An indie-folk trio from Amsterdam comprising frontman Frank Bond, Ferdinand Jonk on guitar and banjo and Louis van Sinderen, this is their third album, one which pitche sits musical tent somewhere between the heady psychedelia of the summer of love and 90s indie pop. Opening with the steady march beat title track with its vaguely baroque infuences, it shifts the pace up a notch with the catchy pop-psychedelics of The Comedy of Distance which suggests while Red Herring, Game Over,Love Song #7 and Melancholy Lake suggest they’ve spent considerable time poring over late-60s albums by the likes of The Chocolate Watch Band, Moby Grape, The Association, Clear Light, Strawberry Alarm Clock and Deja Vu era Love. Song For Nick Drake pretty much speaks for itself. There’s a sizeable market for such retro-inspired bands, and this should prove a very welcome new arrival.

Mike Davies 2020