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David Lewis - Ghost Rhymes

Ghost Rhymes

David Lewis

WOW5

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker
(progdawg@hotmail.com).

Not only does this guy have the right influences (Duncan Browne, Nick Drake, the Strawbs, etc.), but he's become favored of a number of top-flight musicans like Peter Buck, John Wesley Harding (Wes Stace), and Al Stewart, recording with all three. His personal music, though, is unusual in the constance of not only its mellifluity but vocal tenor as well, gentle and almost childlike. This makes for a CD of lullabies and wistful reminiscences. Stewart has always shown great taste in his choice of sidemen (Isaac Guillory, Shot in the Dark, Peter White) but Lewis is the cat who comes closest to the famed minstrel's early oeuvre (Orange, Love Chronicles) in tone. He also embraces most closely the obscure first solo Browne: Give Me Take You, in '68, a compendium for romantics, Goths, and enthusiasts of fragile pop.

Much of Lewis' material has that fairy tale feel wedded to modern happenstance, a good deal of it lamentive and existentially curious. The choice of a dominantly acoustic atmosphere serves his intent well, wispy, gauzy, sleepy, and sparsely lush, expressive of spaces and earth. Some of the songs here also recall Tom Rapp and his marvelous Pearls Before Swine, a 70s group which suffered from excess grace in a time when sturm und drang were the order of the day. I suspect Lewis will likewise have to content himself with a cult following for the same reasons, though I hope elsewise. Had Edu Lobo, who also traced out a more innocent path than his contemporaries, written like Lewis, he would've been much more appealing.

Follow Her Down, the eighth cut here, is extremely Al Stewart-ish but also carries a tang of early Strawbs, an uncredited organist coloring the background more in the way of a Mick Weaver, a Matthew Fisher, or a Levon Helm than a Rick Wakeman. I'll suspect the mystery musician is Robert Lloyd, who looks like a not-so-grey Ralph Towner and provides keyboards throughout the CD, a valuable contribution along with an extremely fetching mandolin.

Though Lewis sings very calmly, there's a good deal more to the lyrics than is at first intoned:
A fading future is the saddest sight to see
It can keep the distance ever great
A broken smile will drain the colour from your dreams
You will stand where you don't want to be
But you won't need a secret
That eats away the stars
You could rest at the sign of the journey's end
Stay with me, unguarded friend
Take me into your confidence
Take me into your confidence again
…as Confidence readily shows. My favorite cut, though, is Fever Dream, a tune worthy of Nick Drake, mild and rolling but bountiful in its hypnotic charms. Things become a bit surprising, then, when the follower crashes in like Neil Young, but even pacific folkies enjoy a little turmoil and pulse now and again, just as Stewart showed in Eyes of Nostradamus. In the final analysis, Ghost Rhymes is going to be powerfully attractive to aficionados of the period Lewis himself most favors: the late 60s / early 70s golden era of offbeat folk blent with subtly rootsy rock in a contemplative tone.

Track List:

  • Something Real
  • Water Well
  • Whole Again
  • Gost Rhyme
  • Hidden Heart (Lewis / Harding)
  • Tricks with Time
  • Waterwheel
  • Follow Her Down (Lewis / Harding)
  • Confidence
  • Fever Dream
  • Trying to Remember a Dream (Lewis / Harding)
  • Black Pig (John Owen)
  • Lullaby
All songs written by David Lewis except as noted.

Edited by: David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2008, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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