SPOOKED • Marley's Ghost
Man alive, there are an awful lot of good old timey albums coming out these days. Who could have predicted it. Not only that, but many that come out are either on reputable small or midsize labels, or otherwise propelled into the marketplace with good publicity and radio promotion.
What greatly distinguishes Spooked is that its creators, Marley's Ghost, are a band of lifelong music veterans that have cut eight albums together and played with each other for many years. Their harmonies have a very cultured sound, for instance, that honors decades of vocalizing this kind of material. These are not young upstarts making arty runs at old music or whispering vocals.
Marley's Ghost includes multi-instrumentalists Ed Littlefield, (who owns Sage Arts Recording in Arlington WA, where Spooked was cut), Mike Phelan, Dan Wheetman, and Jon Wilcox. David Jackson on bass and Don Heffington on percussion (including jews harps in every key, one is led to believe) are a sterling rhythm section, and Phil Salazar shines on fiddle.
And songs! Great songs, like Paul Kennerly's James Brothers classic, "High Walls." And we loved their version of the hilarious "Last Words," by the very whacked genius Mark Graham, whom we first heard about in our interview with Danny Barnes. There are sea shanteys, a reggae song, and many old timey and old school country grooves.
But the crowning touch to this recording is that the ship is expertly piloted by the legendary producer/arranger Van Dyke Parks, who is an old friend of the band and also plays piano and accordion on the record. Another old friend, R. Crumb illustrated what promises to be one of the best CD packages of the year. Multi-instrumentalist Dan Wheetman was also a member of Crumb's string band The Cheap Suit Serenaders.
Unfortunately, he doesn't solo, but Bill Frisell does make a cameo appearance on "Cowboy Lullaby" as well as another Northwest luminary, Buell Neidlinger, on upright bass.
This is a different spin on an old timey record, and we encourage readers to sample clips on the Listen page. It's a very classy outing, by veterans who have played this music all their lives. It's what you'd call a modern old timey classic.