RACHEL RIES—GHOST OF A GARDENER

rachelries

Chicago artist Rachel Ries first reached a wider audience on a collaborative 2008 EP with Anais Mitchell called Country EP. However, her solo work doesn’t ring with as much twang as that title would suggest. Over the course of her career she’s shed more and more standard country forms, stretched out her storytelling into impressionist verse, gained confidence as a piano composer, but she’s smartly kept the focus on her spectacular voice. Her newest full-length, Ghost of a Gardner, supports that voice with a range of impressive instrumentation–from lush chamber arrangements to sparse guitar-percussion to this album’s version of a rocker, “Mercy.” A voice like Ries’ could send most pop songs back down their singer’s throat with shame, but though the voice is the center of this album, the arrangements are allowed to be weird and assertive, and you can feel a lot of smart voices at work. Several of the songs here appeared in sparer forms on her 2012 EP Laurel Lake, and to me the expansion wins in all cases. But if this album is a little busy for you, I would still highly recommend her (freely available) earlier albums. Ries’ kind of pop music looks to the likes Regina Spektor, Patty Griffin, Patsy Cline, Dennis Wilson, Harry Nilsson and does great by them. A theatrical album that satisfies as deeply and reliably as a folk one.

Time

Mercy

Willow

Find all of Ries’ music at her bandcamp. Track her touring at her website and her Facebook.

Author: Mike Ostrov

Mike Ostrov relays the history of popular song on message boards and under rocks.