Ghost of the Untraveled Road
8th Street Studios
Difficult to Express Emotions Somewhere Between Regret and Resolve.
I like it when artists use the EP format to do something different, perhaps release a few songs that really don’t fit on any oth album they have, but still fit together, the misfit songs, maybe even one that’s out of character for the artist. After The Graceless Age, John Murry released Califorlornia, an EP with a few sensitive songs mixed in with “The Murder of Dylan Hartsfeld” which is scary/devastating in a way similar to Suicide’s “Frankie Teardrop.” Murry’s song wouldn’t have worked on the album that came before or after but on an EP it somehow made sense.
At times it’s also refreshing to just hear an EP from an artist rather than an entire album. Nowadays albums are, sadly, becoming passé, as no one hardly buys CDs anymore and vinyl is such a niche market, and many albums are becoming just filler. When an artist chooses to just release a single, is one song enough for a listener to make a decision on whether there is something musical worth pursuing? Practically anyone can record at least one good song, but what about three or four? Remember acts like Jesus Jones, Simple Minds, or Joan Osborne? One worthwhile song was pretty much all they had.
Now, after seven full albums, we have Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Annie Keating releasing Ghost of the Untraveled Road, a five-song EP of love songs, longing, memories, and dreamy what-ifs. At times Keating’s voice reminds me of a time-worn and breathier Tanya Donnelly, at others a huskier and softer-voiced Nanci Griffith. Whichever, Keating makes the most of her voice with wry melodies over top understated acoustic guitar.
Keating isn’t blazing new trails into uncharted territory here, but that’s okay, as this is country-folk, not Sgt. Peppers. Mandolin, fiddle, and pedal steel all add support to these tunes, weaving in and out from one another to form a fine netting around Keating’s guitar and voice. Personally I feel that perhaps a little more variation on the instrumentation from one song to the next might have made things a bit more interesting, but I get the impression this EP is meant to be representative of Keating’s live shows. We’re getting the living room treatment here, which is fine.The title song, Ghost of the Untraveled Road, sets the pace here with a song about wondering what the past may have been like if only she’d done things a bit different:
“Should I think of you fondly, or not much at all?/Shall I cherish confessions of bury them all?”
But Keating still sees a glimmer of fond hope here, a wish that perhaps this dream can still be realized. “Sting of Hindsight” utilizes a fun, bouncy melody and carries the theme of longing for the past even further. “Forever Loved” is a well meant toe-tapper, and “Kindness of Strangers” is purposely languid, but it’s the closing song, “Forget My Name” which hits me as the best song here, mainly because of its bite. There’s real pain here, you can hear it in the crack in Keating’s voice from the very first line, the longing referenced in the earlier songs now replaced by a difficult to express emotion somewhere between regret and resolve. A darker tone to the pedal steel and some knife thrusts from the guitar help drive this tune home—if home is a dark and possibly dead end street. I’m hoping Keating goes for more of this next time, as this one stands out from the other songs on this EP, fine as they are.
Review courtesy the legendary Mr Roy Peak.
Released 25th May 2018