SONGS FROM THE GHOST ROAD
Emily Jones || 28th March
Lifting the needle on your favourite record is a feeling that cannot be described, but I shall try my best to do just that for you here. Picture this: you've been hunting for an album for some months and you finally find it in your local record store. Or maybe you come across it when flicking through your own collection. You remove the album from its sleeve, sliding it out of its wallet, placing it on your turntable and lowering the lever, before waiting for what feels like forever, for that familiar opening riff or introduction to come through your speakers. And when it does, a warmness spreads outwards from your heart, as you fall in love all over again with the sound of vinyl. It's a feeling you can only experience when listening to vinyl and one band who know this feeling more than anyone, are The King's Pistol.
The King's Pistol is a dark, mysterious Americana/folk band, with an equally dark and mysterious front man, throwing in a slice of something completely unique that is hard to put your finger on. It's because of their love of vinyl, why Julian Casewell, Andy Shardlow and Jim Farmer decided to save up and produce a limited number of vinyl copies of their two albums 'Long Was The Road, Dark Was The Night' and their current album 'Songs From The Ghost Road’.
Released in November 2016, 'Songs From The Ghost Road' is a remarkable album. Featuring seven songs, three on side A and four on side B (something that Casewell is very particular about) and recorded live to tape in just seven days, 'Songs From The Ghost Road' is one of the most important albums to have been released, locally, in the last 12 months. Let's not forget that this album was nominated for Best Album at this years Music Awards Of Staffordshire & Cheshire. They may not have won, but you know from first listen that what you're hearing is award winning quality. You're best listening to this album on a cold, dark evening, with the wind whistling, the fire crackling and the turntable spinning alone in the corner. So grab a whisky and put yourself in that moment, as I give you a run down of the album from head to toe.
Side A consists of 'Paperback Road', 'Pistol Blues' and 'Psalm 51', three songs that sit comfortably on many a KP set list. You can practically hear the passion being pushed through your speakers, as Casewell's distinctive vocals bounce off the edges of each song. 'Paperback Road' brings you back down to earth, putting you in the present moment and rooting your heart to the acoustics of the song. 'Pistol Blues', a song about the pistol himself (Casewell), picks up the pace of the album, leaving you foot stomping enthusiastically in the final minute of the song, as Farmer (drums) unleashes the full force of his hidden slide guitar talent. 'Psalm 51' pulls at your heartstrings with every strum of Casewell's guitar, beginning quietly with a somber and hushed feel to it. An uncredited and as yet unidentified female vocalist adds a haunting ghostlike melody to the track, adding more mystery to the album and rounding off Side A perfectly.
Side B opens with 'Dancing Days', a personal favourite and one that features a bass line that will be stuck in your head for days on end. As it flows in and out of tempos, 'Dancing Days' has you swooning over the KP's sound, making you wonder where they've been all your life and why they're not already sitting pretty in your record collection.
'Wedding Song', the fifth track on the album and the lead single, is the most heartbreaking of the bunch. It's slow, honest and beautifully simple and it makes you feel all kinds of things. The emotion in Casewell's voice is what really makes this song stand out from the rest and as it flows into the final few seconds, 'Wedding Song' lingers in the air as you wait for the end that never actually arrives. It's like hearing the gun and waiting for the bullet - a fitting way to describe a song about adultery and the pain that goes with it.
The penultimate track on the album, 'High Plains Drifter', pulls you out of your 'Wedding Song' gloom, grabbing you by the collar, giving you a good shake and putting you back into this moment. It's not a song you'd necessarily find yourself dancing too, but you'd be a fool to play any of these songs at a party. Rounding off the album is 'Hammerhead Blues', a song that will never be included on a set list. This is much the same for the bands' first album, another rule set by Casewell. It means that no matter how many times you've seen them live, you've never really heard everything until you purchase a copy of the album and that's pretty damn clever, if you ask me.
'Songs From The Ghost Road' is an understated chunk of an album, from a band who are driven by their love for making music. The production is just as breathtaking as the musicians themselves, making you feel, at times, like they're performing only to you. Casewell's crisp vocals pull the songs forward, alongside his acoustic guitar which hums and buzzes, as a way to prove its live authenticity; Shardlow's bass bubbles away underneath each track, as smooth as silk, and Farmer's simple yet effective percussion as well as the added bonus of his wiry slide guitar, make this album what it is.
The King's Pistol are a band like no other and are fast becoming a staple of the local scene. With albums three and four no doubt already in the mix, the only thing we can do is spin our vinyl and wait for the pistol to ride out once again.