Monday, 11 March 2013

The Holy Ghosts

One of the advantages of paying so much attention to the Scottish Alternative Music Awards over the last few weeks has been the discovery of The Holy Ghosts who were nominated for Best Newcomer and which they duly won at last Friday's Awards ceremony in Garage Glasgow.

They're a cool blend of Folk, Rock, Bluegrass and Blues that have Buffalo Springfield, The Stones, CSNY, Oasis and a smattering of Cadillac Sky infused into their music.  It's country Jim but not as we know it.....and they had this to say to Ralph after their award presentation.....

 " We're very thankful to those that have supported us and voted for us and the SAMA's team- they gave us a platform to shout about our music as well as putting on a great  awards show at the Garage".  They go on to say..... " The award offers us recording time at Gorbals Sound Studios, which we're looking forward to.  We've got loads of new song's that we want to put out there so the award also came at a perfect time.....the day before the release of our second EP 'Voodoo Shakedown'.  So we're hoping to reach out to a wider audience"   They finished with....." We would like to congratulate all the winners, it takes hard graft to get notched and to keep on writing quality tunes - it doesn't come easy! "

This Edinburgh 5 piece formed in 2011 and were tipped in 2012 to take the Scottish music world by storm. Well they have now truly come of age and their unique live sound should make them the darlings of the festival circuit for years to come.  

The Holy Ghosts are Jack Sandison on acoustic guitar/vocals, Jon Mackenzie electric guitar/vocals, Rory Penman drums, Jonny Rapeseed bass/vocals and Andy Barbour on harmonica/keyboards and pedal steel.

They've recently released the 'Voodoo Shakedown' EP to great acclaim and when Ralph's main man in Scotland, Malcolm Parry caught their live set as they supported The Travelling Band in The Electric Circus, Edinburgh just prior to their SAMA win his ensuing review backs up Ralph's assertion that they're a force of nature when they hit the with that in mind here's their summer gigs.....

The Holy Ghosts Electric Circus gig review by Malcolm (anorak) Parry

The first of two supports at The Travelling Band gig was local country/rock pop stars in the making The Holy Ghosts.

Really looked forward to finally catching these guys live, after hearing the word on how good they are live.  Also after they were nominated for best newcomer at this weekend's SAMA Awards, to be held in Glasgow this Friday.

As the 5 -piece storm the stage and bounce straight into 'Damned If You Don't' it's clear to me these guys are buzzing after the awards nod. Receiving a hero's welcome from this Edinburgh crowd - like the 'good ole boys' are back in town!

Singer Jack Sandison, denim clad, armed with acoustic guitar and the moves a young Paul McCartney would have been jealous of  warmed us up through the first couple of in your face country rock/pop bangers. 

Lead guitarist Jon Mackenzie looked the part in stetson, boots and les Paul hung low, churning out melodic country rock licks like he's just come off a Gram Parsons '70's tour.  We get infectious sing along choruses.  All tunes that would go down a storm at this years festivals and gain them a wider audience.

Jack takes pity on the older rockers in the audience (including me) 
by slowing things down (for what could be a beefed up country ballad of 'Stand By Your Man') in the shape of new tune 'Could Be There'.  It's the keys man Andy Barbour's  turn to take the limelight playing harmonica. Giving a real Americana Neil Young-like edge.

They pick things back up with the hilariously titled 'Don't Come A 
Knocking On My Rock 'n' Roll Coffin' which was a stand out tune for me.  A monster rockabilly number, guaranteed to wake the grateful dead.  Eddie Cochrane would surely be tapping along to this one from inside his resting place. 

Jack was on fire with this number, making the most of the intimate stage, almost, just almost, shaping into a Chuck Berry duck walk, Marty McFly would be proud of!!!  By the end of the set I've been transported to a bar, downtown Memphis, Tennessee. The barman asking "What's your poison?" to which I'd have to reply "Make mine a double Jack!". 

Talking to bassist  Johnny Rapeseed (a rock star name) afterwards, he shone a light on the origin of their band name.  "We took a line from much respected local musician  Willy Douglas's song 'Touched by a spirit, you got to do the most for The Holy Ghosts'.   
Well guys - you certainly touched me this evening with your country/ rock/pop tunes.  Now where can I buy a stetson??

Malcolm has also been good enough to review the EP.....'Voodoo Shakedown'.....

So after enjoying my first live experience of The Holy Ghosts I jumped at the chance of reviewing their second EP with this new 4 track package.
First up we get 'When we were King'. Beginning with a count in by lead man Jack Sandison to an intro which reminds me of Del Amitri's 'Kiss this thing goodbye'.  Jack's vocal delivery and the bridge section come across like the country pop of The Levellers,  with infectious sing along vocals and melodies all backed up by Jon MacKenzie’s intricate country licks.  With it's rousing chorus it guarantees a future festival anthem in the making.  A great start.
We move in to more classic rock n roll territory with the hilariously titled second tune 'Don't go a knockin ' on my rock n roll coffin'.  A monster mash up of Chuck Berry's 'Johnny be Goode', early Beatles and a hint of The Rolling Stones 'Route 66' thrown in for good measure.  Jack takes the listener into an imaginary Grateful Dead bar featuring classic country and rock n roll stars still partying hard.  We get Joplin and Cash bopping on the dance floor while Cochran is doing the mash potato in the kitchen sink.  A perfect homage to all the greats with it's tongue firmly in it's cheek.  A live favourite, best enjoyed with a spirit or two (make mine a JD and coke)
Track 3 : We're in good country company with the Johnny Cash 'Folsom Prison blues' sounding 'Let it Die'.  With it's Train on the Tracks rhythm and lead, moving in to a more modern chorus with rock riffs, harmonica solo and 3 part harmonies chorus.  For me the weakest out of the four, a tune more appreciated live.
Lastly we get the pure country ballad sounding 'Flippin out fifties' Jack doing his best Hank Williams impression singing his heart out while the minor sounding notes of a violin ring out, creating a deep south edge. The band taking the listener to a Honky-tonk bar in down-town Tennessee,  while playing out to a packed bar full of country loving good 'ole ' boys n gal’s all clad in denim, steel tipped boots smooching on the dance floor.  Anyone know the theme to Rawhide?
All in all a thoroughly entertaining listen, one that deserves repeat plays. From Americana tinged rock, traditional rock n roll and country, all with a modern indie band attitude. These boys have a lot of influences to play with, many touched on, much more to come, bring on the album.

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