New millennium trad country fans have been fortunate; there has been a slew of young women who have been turning in stellar recorded performances that draw on country music's roots-rich folk and gospel traditions. Grey Delisle from Los Angeles is the latest addition, but like fellow Angelino Gillian Welch, she comes at history in a different, almost antiquated way. With husband/producer/guitarist Murry Hammond (of Old 97's), stringed-instrument enigma Marvin Etzioni, and bassist Sheldon Gomberg, DeLisle crafts a chamber country gothic sound that feels like a mountain Flannery O'Connor writing for a young Dolly Parton in a string band for the Louvins fronted by a woman. Her songs, all of them, offer visions of romantic loss and longing, sin and redemption. The topics may be typical, but the performance is anything but. From the look on the front cover to the warm, reedy analog production to the songs themselves -- Delisle claims they are all about a then-long-distance engagement between herself and Hammond over phone lines from Nogales to Los Angeles -- there is nothing common, mundane, or biz as usual in this brutally tender set. The emotion here is quiet and purposeful, offered in starkness and recalling an America that communicated its heart directly with little adornment. This is country music out of space and time, reeking not one bit of revivalism or gimmick or artifice. This is a song cycle that is held fast with honesty and artistry, and there isn't a nod or a wink in the proceedings. Graceful Ghost is a very special album; it will appeal to anyone who has ever taken American traditional music seriously and will blow away anyone who has ever considered the craft in songwriting to be a lost art -- the Grail is here.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek