Artist: Marley's Ghost
Album: The Woodstock Sessions
Label: Sage Arts
Release Date: 07/15/2016
Time always seems to stand still when Marley’s Ghost comes to visit. Resisting modernity with an almost Amish sensibility, these West Coast traditionalists stubbornly cling to the past in a new smorgasbord of Americana called The Woodstock Sessions.
Versatility is their stock in trade, as these old hands can play anything on a variety of instruments, from folk and gospel, to old-time rock ‘n’ roll and vintage blues, and even country and bluegrass. Their latest effort drinks deeply from those same wells, making for a warm-blooded body of song that takes liberties with traditional standards and offers a smattering of satisfyingly authentic originals to boot. This album is a celebration of 30 years of music-making, given the stamp of approval by producer and Grammy winner Larry Campbell, who’s played with Bob Dylan and Levon Helm, among other greats.
With a bounce in their step, Marley’s Ghost softly croons “Run On for a Long Time” – a jumpy gospel number that also goes by the names of “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” and “Run On” – and gives it the glowing ambiance of a candle-lit room, similar to the amiable, sashaying honky-tonk feel of “Field Hand Man.” In their capable hands, the cold, mournful dirge “In the Pines” warms itself by a campfire of luminous harmonies and sly slide guitar licks, and they add some Cajun sizzle to “Ain’t That Trouble in Mind,” a lively ode to alcohol-fueled revelry.
Turning Helm’s studio, where The Woodstock Sessions was recorded, into an old, dilapidated country church, Marley’s Ghost gracefully floats on lonesome fiddle through a spare, haunting recording of their own “Oh Sweet Wind.” The rich, evocative folk tune “Blind Fiddler” – with its tale of hardship and woe – gains biblical poignancy thanks to sawing violin movements. Meanwhile, the hardscrabble folk-blues of “Alabama John Cherokee” and “Prodigal Son” shuffle along as if beaten down by the Man.
Ever true to the spirit and tone of their source material, Marley’s Ghost is a virtuoso ensemble that takes authenticity very seriously, almost to the point of being slaves to it. However, their humility and easy, lighthearted approach almost completely erases any misgivings.
– Peter Lindblad