Classic Records/Sugar Hill
l SUG LP-3985
label website | artists' website
Every now and then, a quiet elegant gem manages to slip under my music radar only to surface several months if not years after initial release. The Graceful Ghost is one such album. These wonderfully recorded bittersweet songs draw from the rich American tradition of country, folk and gospel music. Sure, that's nothing new. However; I cannot remember an album that so eerily recreates another place and time as what is heard here. The Band's self-titled record is the only one I am aware of that managed this rare feat. In this instance, it evokes the post Civil war era not just lyrically but oddly enough via the song arrangements, too. Picture musicians jamming on a cabin porch in the Appalachians around 1850 and you will have a good idea of what Graceful Ghost is about. While hailing from the big city of Los Angeles, De Lisle with guitarist/husband Murray Hammond, bassist Sheldon Gomberg and multi-instrumentalist/producer Marvin Etzioni create a set of delicate and finely crafted songs all wrapped in an otherworldly atmosphere featuring acoustic guitar, banjolin, autoharp, stand-up bass, music box, celeste, harmonium and even yodeling. Incidentally, De Lisle received a Grammy this past February for her album Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster (remember "Oh! Susanna", "Camptown Races" and "Old Kentucky Home")?
The lyrics are standard country themes; love, loss, sin and redemption, albeit arranged and delivered in a far more authentic manner than what passes for country music these days. However, this is not some mere posing or empty posturing. It all sounds incredibly heart-felt and completely honest. Instrumentation is sparse but the emotion and sheer vibe in these stark songs is palpable. Songs are originals except for the covers of Stephen Foster's "Willie We Have Missed You" and Margie Bainbridge's and Dorothy Lewis' "This White Circle On My Finger".
Recorded sound quality is exceptional and certainly adds to the earthy atmosphere conjured in these grooves, complete with the odd dog bark, train whistle and roll of thunder far off in the distance. This is no surprise as Graceful Ghost was recorded in De Lisle's living room on vintage i.e. toob equipment. This lovely packaged 180gm vinyl release includes a DVD documenting the making of album, a limited edition 45rpm 7" single-sided disc of Stephen Foster's "Willie We Have Missed You", a poster and a postcard.
Like the Band, De Lisle and company have created a plaintive yet poignant masterpiece of American traditional music that sounds completely unlike anything else you will hear on the radio. Even if country music is not your cup of tea, this record will both surprise you and enhance your musical life.