Ghost of the West [Original Soundtrack]

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In 2012, post-spaghetti Western, neo-psych outfit Spindrift, led by guitarist and vocalist Kirpatrick Thomas, played a tour of Western ghost towns and had underground filmmaker Burke Thomas document it. Ghost of the West is a studio album that serves as the film's soundtrack. Of the 15 tracks performed here, only four are originals. The rest are cowboy and Western songs. Thomas' obsession with the Old West is pervasive, but it is read through a musical view inspired by everything from the great Italian composers of the spaghetti Western genre (Morricone, Nicolai, Cipriani, et al.), 1967 and 1968-era psych, Dick Dale's aggressive brand of surf music, and the exotica of Les Baxter. The presentations of songs by Tex Ritter ("Buffalo Dream"), James N. Low ("Hangin' Me Tonight"), Everett Cheetham ("Blood on the Saddle"), Utah Carl Beach ("Wanderers of the Wasteland"), Lead Belly ("When I Was a Cowboy"), Bob Nolan ("Cool Water"), and others is self-consciously theatrical. While Spindrift deliver their sonics in an interesting fashion -- reverb, space and fazed effects, etc. -- and play well, everything is just too deliberate. The most successful efforts here are the originals. "The Matador & the Fuzz" employs nylon-string guitars, mariachi brass, fat upright bass, handclaps, electric guitars played in vintage surf style, and a soaring wordless vocal chorus to fantastic effect. Likewise, the cosmic "Paniolos on the Range" features mariachi guitars, Sasha Vallely's high, siren-like vocals, maracas, a wood flute, and hand percussion all loosely wrapped inside an echo chamber the size of a canyon. "Mudhead"'s tight interplay of acoustic and electric guitars -- which do their own take on cowboy-style swing with beautiful improvisational touches -- creates the set's most solid groove. Of the cover material that does work, the reading of "Hangin' Me Tonight," with its layered, multi-tracked vocals by Vallely (a real star in this band), Telecasters, whining pedal steel, and percussive effects seems to step outside nostalgia while simultaneously being drenched in it. The neo-rockabilly-cum-easy-listening take on Charles Dick's "Navajo Trail" is another beaut. Pluses aside, Ghost of the West is so overwrought in indulging its obsession that it comes dangerously close to parody.

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