I can tell you this much right off the bat. Musicians should be picking up on Our Ghosts Will Fill These Walls because it is packed with just enough skill and chutzpah and creativity to warrant the once over. And I can tell you that once will not be enough for most of them. I mean, you can learn things from this album. As simple as some of this music seems, it isn't. That damn Jesse and Jacquie write like demons, swear to God. They cut verses off short, they piece together the damndest chord progressions and toss guitar breaks around like chaff in a high wind. Their voices meld rather than blend, the harmonies not really harmonies yet perfect for what they want to accomplish and what they want to accomplish evidently has something to do with dragging us all through bizarre scenes of their own concoction. Fine by me. In fact, I dig it.
Musically, they play a strange mix of twenties and thirties and forties and even fifties but not really those, either. You can hear a little vamp, a little jazz slink, a little folk and a whole lot of electric—what? I'm not sure most of the time but since hearing it the first time, I'm convinced every musician needs to hear it just to hear what is possible when everything clicks on all levels. Okay, it is Americana, if that means anything (and to me, it doesn't), but it is a hybrid Americana of the best kind wrapped up in a rock blanket. It's not making sense, is it? Maybe what I want to say is that in this case the music does not necessarily dominate, the musicians do. And on the other hand, maybe it is the other way around. If you find that confusing, imagine how confused am I.
It should be easy, locking down sounds and genres, but these guys make it tough. I would love to be able to point to comparisons but I don't know any. All I can say is it is Jesse and Jacquie. And it isn't because they don't play in a variety of styles but because they do it so well that they OWN the songs. This is great stuff! I mean GREAT stuff! I haven't heard anything quite like it.
For example, there is this one song (Wells), a choogling little upbeat almost-ditty with this guitar riff I can't get out of my head and it downright makes me happy and I feel myself breaking into a smile every time I hear the chorus, which is "Chopping wood" over and over again until the end of the chorus when they take it over the top with "Chopping wood, HEY". If nothing else, it is the last hammer on the nail. It feels like The Dead only with tuned guitars and a better attitude.
One thing before I kick myself to the curb. There is some serious musicianship going on here. Jesse and Jacquie are very impressive on the variety of instruments they play (and they play plenty of them) and the people they invited in for the sessions nailed every part they were handed. If Jesse is responsible for the guitar like it says on the jacket, he has earned my utmost respect because that is some topnotch picking and strumming going on. Topnotch.
Whew! I owe Jesse and Jacquie another review—one which nails down what is really going on on the album. One which people can read and tell what kind of music this is. And I will do it as soon as I can shake this brick wall which separates me from the words. Until then, I will have to settle for the music and that is not settling at all, I guarantee you. Slide this one right in there with the ton of other albums vying for album of the year as far as I'm concerned. A huge winner.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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