Currituck County

Ghost Man on First

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If one is going to release an album with songtitles like "Requiem for John Fahey" and "Dedication: Fred Neil," it's clear that the bar is already being set pretty high when it comes to acoustic experimental folk. Kevin Barker (aka Currituck County) acquits himself very well on Ghost Man on First, thankfully; if purists look askance at him given his work in Aden, they haven't actually taken the time to listen directly. His ability on guitar is clearly audible throughout, while his additional performances on percussion, flutes and sitar, among other instruments, make for fine arrangements. This said, at times things seem a touch clumsy -- opening song "A Raga Called Nina" is a striking, nearly ten-minute-long piece musically, but the singing and lyrics are a somewhat random pastiche of obvious tropes and pseudo-Indian vocals that gets irritating by the end. He finds a better balance elsewhere, happily -- on "A Raga Called Pat Cohn," his soft, more gently drawn out vocals provide a lovely counterpoint to the gentle cascade/mantra of the main melodies and filigrees, while the final song, "I Truly Understand," is a joyful burst of '30s style Appalachian folk that works wonders. His straightforward instrumentals make for the best moments on the disc, as the brief but extremely beautiful Fahey and Neil tributes make clear. No question which song wins on the most unexpected tip, though -- "The March of People Who Do Not Know You" is all fast tempos and distorted heavy metal riffing, a wonderful way to completely upset all expectations about Ghost Man on First before its conclusion.

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