On August 12, 2014, Holy Ghost Electric Show released its debut full-length album, The Great American, on what may be becoming my favorite record label, This Is American Music. It comes on the heels of 2012’s EP, Fire on the Mountain, which catapulted a Kickstarter campaign to land the band in the studio, from the abandoned log cabin in Corinth, MS that birthed the sextet’s jagged, folky sound. The band is comprised of brothers -- by blood not just music -- Cody and Jake Rogers (rhythm guitar, vocals, songwriting/guitar, banjo, respectfully), plus Will Shirley (guitar), Conner Wroten (bass), Austin Wheeler (drums), and Jesse James (trombone and keys). Finding a comparison might take you all week . They convey a sound that is equal parts New Orleans street fair, Mississippi blues-infused, hill–stomp party-rock, a bit of Woody Guthrie meets Husker Du folk-noise-pop, with plenty of sad. Did I spark your interest yet?
Upon first listen, I was unsure as to whether I was into The Great American or not, truth be told. But, now I can’t seem to steer away from it for the past month. It’s a gilded breath of fresh air to an Americana scene that can sometimes feel a bit cookie-cutter. This may be due in part to an average age of 22 years, between the HGES’s six core members, paired with admitted influences of Topanga Canyon and Elephant 6 Collective. Their sound comes off long in the tooth despite such a young core. There must be something in the water of Northeast Mississippi, or maybe a healthy diet of the region's legendary blues howlers and rich musical history. Whatever it may be, Holy Ghost Electric Show has procured a tasty stew of musical influences and placed them into an impressive freshman effort.
The Great American opens with “Highway Towns”, immediately setting the tone with the brass-backed, banjo-riffed tune that, by song's end, probably just started a thrasher of a Mardi Gras party. All that may need to be added is topless women and a few hurricane drinks. The pace is settled down moving into “Let The Waters Rise”, a trombone-tinged, harp-fueled folk rocker. HGES brings ruckus rock with horns into a beautiful ballad highlight, “Phantom Engineer”, complete with haunting guitar riffs that will not leave your head for the day. Cody Roger’s lyrics are extremely powerful and well-thought for such a young man. They are truly wise beyond his years. “Elizabeth”, “Tin Man”, and “Kerosene Heater Blues” are a few more gems on the dozen-song record.
This Is American Music never disappoints as a label. It should be commonplace at this point for anyone who frequents No Depression to pick up whatever new record they may be releasing -- case in point, yet again with HGES’s The Great American. I, personally, would thoroughly enjoy a chance to see these young fellows live, but for now the shows are primarily in the Southeast. If that meets your geographic necessity, make sure you check out their website for dates. Grab a copy of the record at any of the outlets below, truly a pleasurable musical journey.
+Words: Scott Zuppardo+