Miles Maxwell – Red Ghost
You can tell when a band was never meant to do anything outside of the recording studio. Some artists have a command of the stage, others have a command of the soundboard, but very rarely have I found artists who possess both. These days, thanks to the explosion in technological advances that have allowed the recording industry to expand out of Los Angeles studios and into people’s private homes, I tend to find more artists whose music simply isn’t conveyable in a live setting. Some of my fellow critics have started to interpret this trend as the beginning of the end for live music, but I don’t think it’s quite as bleak as all that. At least not when I listen to an album like Red Ghost, that is. Red Ghost is the new record by the recent upstart Chicago outfit Miles Maxwell, and even though it was indeed recorded within the confines of four studio walls, it nevertheless manages to capture all of the ferocity of a band that has conquered the local circuit and is looking to take their sound national.
The term “raw power” comes to mind when listening to Red Ghost,their approach to recording is very DIY in its design. Miles Maxwell are, undisputedly , musician’s musicians. For them, this is less of a career path and more of a lifestyle that was never inspired by a motivation to get rich or become famous on any level. This is about expression, emotion and self-realization. In other words, this is a lot more like a religion for them than it is anything else, and that seriousness is reflected in Red Ghost. The band zealously dispatches nine tracks in almost rapid fire succession, and while I ignorantly waited for the weaker tracks to fill in the gaps between the obvious star songs on the record, those tracks never came. There isn’t a single song, from the opening “Snapdragon” to the eponymous title track which brings the record to a conclusion, that isn’t a hit here. Red Ghost is anthological and might be tough to top when Miles Maxwell returns to the studio to work on a sequel.
Country music fans are going to get hooked on “I Can’t Be Myself” and “Something New.” Blues and rock fans will get their fix of sizzling riffage in “Terrible Song” and “Snapdragon.” And frankly, anyone who listens to “Jenever (in Acquia)” will probably forget about every other new band they’ve heard this year. As unfortunate as it may be, the reality is that you just don’t find records that are as jam-packed full of compelling content as Red Ghostis anymore, and this record is something that really does deserve to be cherished. Music is being reshaped and redefined right now in new and exciting ways that we could have never imagined as little as twenty years ago, and it’s thanks to bands like Miles Maxwell the essence of classic Americana continues to survive in this creatively volatile time in history.