The Ghost in the Choir
Working in the rootsy Johnny Cash/Flying Burrito Brothers/ Wilco vein, Fletcher Harrington (who splits time between fronting Cowboy Buddha and working as a solo artist) has previously crafted some nifty, cinematic tales of the Old West, replete with gunslingers; whores; and other prickly, unsavory characters. His splendid Eyes on Fire & Knuckles Sore disc of 2001 was a prime example of what he does best. But one of OC's Americana/ alt.-country heroes turns dour with his new The Ghost in the Choir. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as Harrington looks inward with a dozen somber, more personal tracks, the common thematic threads of which are loneliness, longing and betrayal. Although the album opens with the twang-riddled "At the Train Wreck" and the early-Neil Young-like "One More Lesson," these two catchy, up-tempo numbers quickly give way to slower-moving, emotionally painful ballads. In "Too Close," the reedy-voiced Harrington lashes out with the line "Every pose that you put me in felt so contrived"; in the title track—another love-gone-bad number—our protagonist seems resolved to a kind of sad indifference ("Maybe it's you/Maybe it's me/Maybe it's just mixed up"). Sonically, Harrington, multi-instrumentalist Brit Collins, trumpeter Sarah Kramer, assorted members of Cowboy Buddha, and particularly guest vocalists Patti Pannell and Tanya Gallardo add color to an otherwise darkly textured palette. "Private Joke," for instance, offers an unexpected—and welcome—dip into jazz and blues that's remarkably right-on. Though this collection may lack the character-driven imagination of Harrington's earlier material, its bittersweet undercurrent would surely do Gram Parsons proud.
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