|Ginger Wildheart - 'Ghost In The Tanglewood' (PledgeMusic)|
|Written by Ben Hughes|
|Tuesday, 14 March 2017 04:30|
"Some of the best of me plans have been laid, and some of me best moments used" - 'Geordie In Wonderland' circa 1994.
He may well have used some of his best moments by 1994 but, 23 years later, Ginger Wildheart is still penning songs as good, if not better than when he was in his Twenties, albeit as a solo artist rather than in The Wildhearts.
The man has talked about recording a country/folk album for some time and it finally dropped without any warning recently through PledgeMusic as an instant download. The vinyl was pre-ordered immediately, a whiskey poured and the headphones donned for the latest offering in my favourite songwriter's ever expanding discography, 'Ghost In The Tanglewood'.
The biggest surprise to me is that 'Ghost In The Tanglewood' is not really a country album nor is it a folk album...it is in fact a Ginger Wildheart album, pure and simple. Yes, there are country and folk influences aplenty, but this is certainly not The Pogues or Hank Williams, not to me anyway. If you are familiar with his back catalogue, then the easiest way I could describe this album would be 'Valor Del Corazon' meets 'Market Harbour' with Howling Willie minus the filth (is this the first Ginger related release with no swear words I wonder?)
But more than the music and melodies, this album is about the lyrics, more than anything he has ever released this is Ginger at his most open and most fragile. Stripped back and bare, without the distortion or anger to hide behind, this is an album that will reach inside your soul and resonate with anyone who has suffered from mental health problems, loss or just missing loved ones. And if you are sat there reading this thinking what a depressing album this sounds, you could not be further from the truth. I don't know if it's the acoustics or the sparse instrumentation but somehow Ginger Wildheart has managed to make these themes sound so damn...nice.
'Daylight Hotel' gets things going in the most upbeat of ways, like a ray of sunshine after the storm, bringing a sense of hope in times of desperation. An uplifting tale of going through rehab/getting well/a place of refuge, or maybe a sanctuary within your soul.? You see, I feel you can take a song to mean what you want it to mean, take from it what you will to fit your own situation, that to me is the beauty of great songwriting and maybe why so many relate to the writing of Ginger. I mean, 'Paying It Forward' with its country-tinged dobro style guitar, is a love letter to his fan base for helping him through the bad times maybe?
Mournful slide guitar and lonesome fiddle cannot take away from the upbeat power pop melodies that burst from the likes of 'The Words Are Gonna Have To Wait' or the folky anthem that is 'Golden Tears'. These come on like a Geordie version of a traditional arrangement with hints of The Levellers and The Pogues. Even the dark subject matter of 'The Reaper' is delivered with such energy and gusto that it is easy to shrug off the inevitability of it all. Surprisingly short and surprisingly upbeat, it just leaves you thinking "Fuck it, what will be will be, let's enjoy the now".
Taking things right down, the haunting 'Phantom Memories' is as close to a dark Northern folk tale as you could probably get, exorcising ones own personal demons with the unmistakable Geordie accent ever present. If you want a song to tug at your heartstrings? 'Minus You' will certainly do the trick. His heart on his sleeve, a love letter to his child from a man who chose the life he leads and has to deal with the consequences and if the lyrical content and the feel of this song don't make you well up inside then album closer 'Don't Say Goodbye' will surely tip you over the edge.
A cover of Steve Earle's My Old Friend The Blues' is simply stunning, what a countrified ballad, much in the style of 'Sky Chaser High', it just fits the album perfectly and is the one song that is constantly spinning around in my head after a week of playing this album...sublime.
'Ghost In The Tanglewood' is a deeply personal and honest album that will resonate with many, and while I have never suffered from depression or mental health issues, I have, like many others suffered loss in recent months. As Ginger continues to battle his own demons, he has produced an album to comfort those who also battle theirs. For me, his lyrics have always been personal and easy to relate to, but this, this is on another level. His most personal and heartfelt album to date and given time to sink in, one that could/should go down in history as a classic.
With lyrical themes of mental health, loss and missing loved ones it seems quite fitting that 10 per cent of all profits go to Samaritans. To be completely honest, if you haven't shed a tear or two by the end of this album then you have no soul...so maybe it is a country album after all.
‘Ghost In The Tanglewood’ is available now via PledgeMusic. It will receive a general release on 31 July.
Photo of Ginger Wildheart © Paul Harries.
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