Kristen Grainger and True North – Ghost Tattoo

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 5/5

There’s a touch of velvet ingrained in the songs on Ghost Tattoo, where each performance is treated to polished and uncluttered instrumentation with Kristen Grainger’s arresting voice serving as the proverbial cherry on top.  Dan Wetzel and Martin Stevens’ guitar and mandolin sparring is as tight and intuitive as the very best in the Bluegrass genre, with plenty of room for invention and flirtation.  Completing the quartet is Josh Adkins, whose un-intrusive bass runs maintain a joyful rhythm throughout.    

You can often judge a band simply by the covers they choose to play, especially when the original material stands up measure for measure to the songs written by others.  Ghost Tattoo features no less than four non-originals, by the likes of Peter Rowan, whose soaring banjo-led “Lonesome L.A. Cowboy” evokes the spirit of the Free Mexican Airforce of yore, then there’s the brooding melancholy of the Secret Sisters’ bluesy “Mississippi”, the delicious harmonies of Cahalen Morrison’s “Down the Lonesome Draw” and most notably some fine duetting on Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott’s superb “When No One’s Around”.  Of the original songs, “Keep the River on Your Right” provides the perfect opener, with some homely advice, whilst “Ghost of Abuelito” questions the very existence of home in a heart wrenching song of child separation. This is a first rate album.

Choice Track: Keep the River on Your Right (NSV 504)