Whiskey Tango Ghosts is without a doubt Tanya Donelly's most simple album of her career. It is also most likely her bravest. Unlike her guitar-friendly work with Belly and Throwing Muses, Donelly eases up on the electric riffs and builds on the sweetness found on 2002's Beautysleep. There isn't a clear-cut theme lingering throughout these 11 songs other than Donelly's own charming appreciation for Stephen Sondheim and some of country music's more classic sounds. She listened to a lot of Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, and Lucinda Williams and a bit from Wilco and Neko Case during the recording of Whiskey Tango Ghosts. If there was any kind of influence stemming from those particular artists, it's reflected in Donelly's streamlined approach to this album. The soft beauty that's made her a star all these years is the fruit of these songs. Her girlishly sweet vocals are as good as ever and all instruments are bare bones. Most of the time it's only Donelly and an acoustic guitar or it's her and the stylish chill of her backing band, husband Dean Fisher (guitar/bass/drums), Elizabeth Steen (piano), and Rich Gilbert (pedal steel/guitar). From the mauve-colored love song "The Center" and the jazz-like comfort of "Divine Sweet Divide" to the bittersweet melodies of "Just in Case You Quit on Me" and "The Promise," Whiskey Tango Ghosts finds solace in finding a place in life regardless of how much it changes. And as much as it is lovely, there's a hint of gray hovering over Donelly's signature musical purity. "Story High" and "Whiskey Tango" exude such somber tones. Much like Neko Case did with Blacklisted, Donelly's effort in keeping the instrumentation as simple as possible in order for the lyrics to cast a spell of wonder is exactly what makes Whiskey Tango Ghosts the enchanting album that it is.
Whiskey Tango Ghosts Review
by MacKenzie Wilson