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Ghost Town

Marley's Ghost

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Album Review

The quartet of multi-instrumentalists, singer/songwriters, and amateur folklorists known as Marley's Ghost got its start in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late '80s. They usually balance their repertoire between traditional tunes and originals written in a traditional manner, and are known for arrangements that can veer from folk-rock to reggae while dropping in plenty of gospel, blues, country, old-time music, bluegrass, Celtic, and the odd sea shanty along the way. They've been trying to get some national attention for their music for a long time, and although they've been a major draw at folk festivals for more than a decade, the average music fan has remained vaguely disinterested. Perhaps that's why they decided on a change of direction this time out. They've added a drummer to give the tunes a little more punch, and much of the album was recorded with Cowboy Jack Clement in Nashville with arrangements that stick close to country, albeit mostly acoustic country in a more roots music than Nashville style. "My Love Will Not Change," a Shawn Camp/Billy Burnette tune, is midway between a country two-step and a zydeco hoedown and includes some splendid pedal steel from Ed Littlefield, Jr. and sprightly fiddling from guest Hoot Hester. "Love and Happiness for You," an Emmylou Harris tune, has a laid-back Tex-Mex feel, with new member Jerry Fletcher's piano and sideman Jerry Mishkulin's accordion adding to the tune's melancholy feel. John Hartford's "Here I Am in Love Again" and Don Williams' "Which Way Do We Go" get straightforward country arrangements, the latter with a piano part that recalls Floyd Cramer's work on Hank Locklin's "Please Help Me I'm Falling." The band's originals are a bit more adventurous. Mike Phelan's "Should I Be Singing the Blues?" is midway between a '40s torch song and a mellow bit of Texas swing, while Dan Wheetman's "Don't We All Feel Like That" has a slight Latin tinge in its rhythm and brings to mind the southern Appalachian rhumba of Jesse Winchester. The Ghosts show off their usual multi-instrumental dexterity throughout, but it's possible that this change of direction may alienate old fans without necessarily bringing in any new country and Americana listeners. ~ j. poet, Rovi

Biography

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Marley's Ghost is an eclectic unit steeped in everything from gospel to bluegrass to old-time to Celtic to country — even reggae. The group originally came together in 1986 when Danny Wheetman was invited by his friend Ed Littlefield Jr. to work on a solo effort in Littlefield's studio in Arlington, WA. Jon Wilcox and Mike Phelan came up from California to help out. (The three had been playing together since St. Patrick's Day of that year.) While working on the solo effort, the three began...
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Ghost Town, Marley's Ghost
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