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By now you already know I'm a big fan of the style that I call "dark Americana." I use that as an umbrella term for a vibe more than a particular genre, but it includes mostly folk, country, blues, and a little bit of rock. Neurot is a label that's been at the forefront of this sound, releasing solo albums from Neurosis legends Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly, among others.
The Forgiven Ghost in Me is the latest of these offerings, and the third Scott Kelly solo full-length. This time around the artist is identified as Scott Kelly and The Road Home, referring to the presence of backing musicians. Which is not to say that prior album The Wake was only acoustic guitar and vocals, but all of them were handled by Kelly himself. Now there is help from others, and the difference is quite positive.
Until now I've held Kelly to be on a lower level from similar artists. His voice simply has less variation than that of Steve Von Till or Nate Hall, and as a result a full album of his work could become tiresome. But the additional musicians have brought him to the next level. It remains at its core a man on a stool with a six-string and mike, but better ornamented. The difference is of the same kind, but not quite as stark as, Johnny Cash's transition from American Recordings to Unchained.
The man and guitar could still perform these songs, and they would sound like any of his prior dark folk music. "In the Waking Hours" seems to be directly inspired by his cover of Townes Van Zandt's "Tecumseh Valley," and anything else could have appeared on The Wake. The mix is such that you can still feel the simple song, and forget about the accompaniment if you want. It works mainly on a subconscious level: Drums, keyboards, droning/twanging electric guitar, what sounds like saxophone, and quiet vocals from Josh Graham (not all in the same song).
The Forgiven Ghost in Me is the best solo work I've heard from Scott Kelly, and a marked improvement from The Wake. It's still not the record I'd use to initiate a newcomer to the sound, but I can firmly recommend it to existing fans.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/
Scott Kelly, the man, the myth, the legend. Partially responsible for bringing the world Neurosis, being one of the founding members and, obviously, a strong driving force behind their output. Anyone familiar with Neurosis should know that the band members are not slouches. Although it usually takes extensive time between Neurosis albums, the members keep themselves busy with an overabundance of side projects and solo endeavors, and Scott Kelly is no exception to that rule. Kelly has been active in Blood & Time, Shrinebuilder and Tribes of Neurot, in addition to his solo output and his work with Neurosis.
"The Forgiven Ghost in Me", Scott Kelly's third solo full length album, released under the moniker of Scott Kelly and the Road Home, continues his perpetual output of quality releases. "The Forgiven Ghost in Me" fits perfectly next to Kelly's previous efforts, "Spirit Bound Flesh" (2001) and "The Wake" (2008). Much like the predecessors, "The Forgiven Ghost in Me" presents very bleak and dreary American folk music, delivered with Kelly's deep crooning and a single acoustic guitar.
Kelly's voice is just pure excellence here, but it's definitely not your typical folk style. His voice is gruff, deep and throaty, sounding much like Douglas Pearce on Death in June's more recent work ("Peaceful Snow / Lounge Corps"). Brimming with bleakness, Kelly's vocals sound like hardship and despair vocalized. The guitar work is all acoustic, showcasing slowly strummed chords interlaced with small extrapolations and bridges. The guitar lines are bleak and slow, but laced with an emotional depth only obtainable with acoustic guitars.
The only changes come when Noah Landis (Neurosis) plays a very subtle, spacey keyboard line in "We Let the Hell Come" and when Josh Graham (A Storm of Light, Neurosis) adds some additional vocals here and there. Jason Roeder (Neurosis) plays a slow, plodding drum line on "The Field That Surrounds Me", and surprisingly, does not sound out of place. The departure of the drums for the rest of the album doesn't seem out of place, either. The additions subtly add depth to the music, but maintain their distance, allowing Kelly and his acoustic guitar to stay in forefront.
"The Forgiven Ghost in Me" is more of an emotional experience than other folk related acts. There is nothing groundbreaking or new here, at all. Everything on this album has been done before, but Scott Kelly's emotional outpour and unique approach make this a great and captivating listen. Forty-one minutes of a man and his guitar: it doesn't get much better than that.
Written for The Metal Observer