Red River Dialect - Abundance Welcoming Ghosts - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Red River Dialect - Abundance Welcoming Ghosts

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2019-09-27
Red River Dialect - Abundance Welcoming Ghosts
Red River Dialect - Abundance Welcoming Ghosts

This is a wonderous and dramatic folk album.

But wait. Prog magazine sometimes has a small article called It’s Prog, Jim but Not as We Know It,” which is illustrated with a drawing of Mr. Spock, of Star Trek fame.

Well, the same thing could be said with this album: It’s folk, but not as we know it.

“Blue Sparks” begins with a gentle piano. Then a jazzy bass and percussion slowly groove, while the vocals cruise deep waves that are not dissimilar from Stuart Staples and his Tindersticks, except this is much more acoustic in its promise. A guitar butts the vibe, while Ed Sanders’ violin looks for a landing site on the moon. The deep bleary vocals continue to waver. And it’s all very dramatic, in a very folky sort of way.

This is folk music with heavy brush strokes. “Two White Carp” chants like a prayer with the violin that now sadly circles the globe. The vocals spring from some ancient campfire and welcome nearby ghosts. The piano haunts the tune. “Snowden” continues the deep vocals, while the violin saws through tough time. And yet another musical prayer pushes quietly against the Sound Barrier.

But wait (again). “Slow Rush” begins with an acoustic guitar. And a lovely acoustic guitar at that!  David Morris’ voice yearns its melody. This song treads lightly with time standing still beauty, a beauty that flows into the next song, “Salvation.” This is up-tempo stuff with a passion as the various instruments merge and temper the sound with an almost Liege and Lief Fairport folk-rock tapestry.

By the way, singer David Morris said the band’s name is taken from the mix of “Scots, Gaelic, Cree, and Ojibwa spoken by a few descendants of the Metis people who settled the Red River region in Manitoba.”

Well, that certainly explains “Red River,” a song of immense history. It bleeds with Native American blood, which is a far cry from West Wales, where all of this was recorded. This song simply rivets its pulse to passion, once again, with Full House Fairport David Swarbrick fiddle intensity. Oh, Simon Drinkwater’s guitar work is also potent and matches the violin’s fire.

“Piano” returns to stark and simple sound. Now it’s really a strange thing to say, but this song echoes the light acoustic touch of, say, a prog band like King Crimson used to juxtapose their Crim-heavy tendencies. The acoustic clarity does conjure the Larks’ Tongues folky respite of songs like “Book of Saturday or “Exiles.” So, sure, this is very progressive folk music.

By the way (again!), the title, Abundance Welcoming Ghosts, is taken from an Eleventh Century Tibetan spiritual master Machig Labdron, who said, “In other traditions, demons are expelled externally. But in my tradition demons are accepted with compassion.” Two ideas: Wasn’t that the condensed point of Jon Anderson and Yes’s Tales from Topographic Oceans? And yes, this album oozes compassion.

Now, to return to original Star Trek reference, I must confess a guilty pleasure for Mr. Spock’s Vulcan harp playing, especially with Uhura’s singing; and I do believe that Spock, after his Katra (which had been implanted in the mind of Dr. McCoy) was reunited with his body, would really enjoy this music (what with his affinity for whales and all things good for dear Mother Earth), and hope that it will “Live long and prosper.”

That said, the final two songs are a weird combo. “My Friend” is a strange melodic brew. The bass and percussion jump and dance, and the tune ends with an almost jazz finale.  Then “BV Kistvaen” slows the tempo and sings a blues that any folk lover can appreciate. An acoustic guitar is strummed; vocals plead with decency, and that violin creates a folk votive candle, that again, welcomes old spirits.

This is folk music that glances into the darkness of deep tradition with a wide-open heart. It’s melodic meditation without fear. It’s a beautiful pause that finds an antiquated silence, just like the drama in a Thomas Hardy novel that begs compassion. And that’s what this record does: It cuts various voiced confessions from the soul of humanity—Scot, Gaelic, Cree, and Ojibwa--that speak, and sing to the very human heart. This is a very beautiful and very spiritual record.

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