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Ghosts & Men

You ever try to discourage anyone from doing something you don't want them to do? I do it all the time. It's a simple matter of I write reviews, people want me to write one. So we dance. I have an album. Would you write a review? I don't take submissions. Well, I (we) think it's pretty good and we like what you're doing with your site. The reason I don't take reviews is that I write only about the music I like. I (we) think you might like this if you give it a chance. But I can't promise anything. I only write about the music I like. Could I (we) send you a copy anyway? I (we) think you'll like it. Okay, I suppose, but no promises. No promises. I (we) understand.

They don't, though. They don't know the emotional wrangling that goes on when I receive an album which I either don't like or don't really know how to write about. I know that these albums they asked me to hear are their babies. I know that they have sunk money, emotions and sweat into them and that they think they have something. The last thing I want to do is pick up their baby and smash its head against a rock.

Well, a few weeks ago, Beth Wimmer wanted to send me her child. Ghosts & Men, it is called, and she was relentless, or maybe I should say persistent. I buckled. When it came in the mail, I was so far behind I didn't have the time to listen. It sat for a week. When finally I made the time, I understood her persistence. Ghosts & Men is one of those albums which when you find, you wish you'd found earlier.

Wimmer is an expatriate living in Switzerland and through a series of circumstances ended up recording in Italy with Damiano Della Torre. Wimmer had the songs. Torre had the touch. Together with a handful of session men (including The Mojo Monkeys' outstanding percussion man Dave Raven), they lay out eleven rocking to soft-rocking beauties--- some a little more beautiful than others. I say that because here and there Wimmer has a tendency to step outside the circle, as on Blame Yourself with the strange combination of only electric rhythm guitar and a Hammond organ playing what seems to be 21st Century radio soap opera background music. It shouldn't work, but it does in an eerie kind of way. The song itself, by the way, was written for Beth's sister, who had the unfortunate experience of being with her father when he unexpectedly died, something a child should never have to see.

Beautiful Friends is one of Wimmer's contributions to the Americana world, a medium slow melodic tribute to a passed love and a passed lover. Easier Life also, it having a slight Amy Speace feel to it (I heartily recommend you check out Speace's latest, Land Like a Bird--- it's a beaut). I would say Lover On the Run, but it is not Americana as it is straight rock with pretty fringes.

Wimmer places two standout tracks in front of us--- one a standard, a cover of CCR's Bad Moon Rising. While it is a song I usually can do without (I think I've just heard it way too many times), Wimmer slows it down and Damiano Della Torre grits it up with such class slide work, I find myself actually liking it. I asked her what made her arrange it that way and she replied that “what possessed me to grit up Bad Moon Rising is a couple things. see, i play gigs over here in Europe. and i go to gigs. i saw that over here the 'crowd' really likes Bad Moon Rising. ('it's got a good beat and you can dance to it') ;)  one night i was unfortunately listening to a bad rendition of BMR done by a band, and his bad pronunciation was making me aware of what the lyrics really are. this song was written 40+ years ago and the words were premonitory of the intense, natural disasters happening today. i started playing the song at my gigs, but way slowed down and finger-picked, and the audiences were really responding to it. i would always preface the song by saying 'you all know this song', and i'd start to play it upbeat and annoying. they'd all bob their heads and tap toes. but then i'd stop the song after the 1st chorus and i'd say, 'now have a listen to the message...' (this was right around the time of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan). and i'd play it slow, with thought and intention for the words. as i said, the audiences were really loving it and telling me so. i was inspired to put it on the album and make it my own, new message, if possible...” Fine by me. First time in decades that I didn't cringe when I heard the song.

The other standout is a song titled For the Living. While the others live in the seventies pretty much, For the Living steps into the eighties--- Stevie Winwood's eighties. The slight ska beat and the shifting background vocals reminds a lot of certain songs on Winwood's Back In the High Life, the intertwining rhythms giving it an energy beyond, if you will. Again, Wimmer explains it: “For The Living is my exulted message on how we can accept life, share life, and fully live life. i'm very happy you like it. i have a very-professional musician friend who really wanted me to put that song in the middle of the CD, to 'bring up the energy'. i tried it, but just couldn't go with it. i opted for what felt good and right to me with this collection of songs.” In this case, I would side with Wimmer. It is the perfect capper on a solid album.

Some things just happen for a reason, I guess. Wimmer could just as easily have accepted my initial rebuff, if rebuff it was, or I could have stood my ground and simply said no, but it didn't happen that way. Like I said, sometimes things happen for a reason. I would say that this might very well have been one of those things. Nice work, Beth. May others hear what I hear.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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