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Grey Delisle
The Graceful Ghost

Sugar Hill
2004
B



don’t think Grey Delisle would mind the tardiness of this review. I think she would actually prefer it. I think she would be perfectly content with The Graceful Ghost not being reviewed at all, but would favor it being dug up a century from now from a figurative time capsule lodged deep in the earth of the American south.

I don’t know how else to describe Delisle’s actions as an artist besides labeling them as astutely and wholly anachronistic. With no regard for current musical climates or general trends, she’s abstained from even giving her traditional mountain country tales a glossy finish or a “hot” “young” producer like a certain, no doubt influential, daughter of a coal miner.

Instead, at a time when the closest thing to a country music revival is the hick-bravado of “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” and Tim McGraw collaborating with Nelly, Delisle channels the ghosts of Clinch Mountain, not only in storytelling spirit, but in recording techniques as well. Her friends and she have created an unabashed dusty country record straight from the porches of early settlement America.

With a voice like Dolly Parton and the lyrical vision of the spirit of Flannery O’Connor via Leonard Cohen, the voice of Delisle provides enough twists and turns to keep even those uninterested, or unimpressed with country music to perk an ear. Lovers of a good story will find an abundance of beauty and charm in her often dark, sometimes morbid, but always spine-shiveringly emotional vignettes of a bygone era.

The Graceful Ghost is seemingly thrown through an irony filter. There are no winks or hidden gestures in the music. Although Delisle is a native Los Angelesian and no stranger to the glamour of Hollywood (she’s one of the more prolific cartoon voiceover artists), she has an honest love for traditional, God-filled backwoods country music. Her attempt at recreating the porch-sitting sound of past is done out of a wholesome respect for the aura that emanates from the now anachronistic techniques and instruments of the genre.

Gothic southern tales abound, from the story of a wrongly declared dead soldier’s wife who is forced to wed her husband’s brother (“The Maple Tree”) to the funeral narrative for a young wife (“Walking in a Line”). Delisle knows the art of country storytelling, and doesn’t attempt to stretch or distort it, but represent it with a loving honesty.

There is a time for dancing, there is a time for deafening noise, and there is a time for head bobbing and a time for joyful pop. But there is also a time to lay back in candlelight and listen to a good story set to music. There’s a time when you’re driving through the planes of a predominantly rural state when melancholy characters in song are all you want to hear. You could scarcely do better this year than The Graceful Ghost.



Reviewed by: Gentry Boeckel

Reviewed on: 2004-10-11

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