First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2006, Volume 13, #5
Written by Tracy M. Rogers
Very little has changed in Jeffrey Foucault’s music since 2004’s Stripping Cane. To be certain, Foucault’s sophisticated blend of folk and Delta blues remains intriguing and edifying, and his major influences are still Nebraska-era Springsteen, inimitable Texas storyteller Guy Clark, and John Mellencamp’s Midwestern Americana. Yet, Ghost Repeater, Foucault’s latest release, finds the singer-songwriter adding twang-y elements reminiscent of Steve Earle’s more folk-oriented work as well as a down home charm that owes much to producer Bo Ramsey, who is, perhaps, best-known for his recent work with Lucinda Williams and Pieta Brown. The result is an album that belongs to the dusty, open spaces of the Great Plains, a minimalist folk record that is sparse in its production values yet lyrically rich. However, it somehow isn’t enough to rival Stripping Cane.
Thematically, Ghost Repeater is a stunningly personal outing that seemingly hinges upon Foucault’s love affair with his wife, singer-songwriter Kris Delmhorst. The title track finds Foucault delving into spirituality with vivid imagery and plaintive, rough-hewn vocals, while Americans in Corduroys and One for Sorrow are wistful tales of newlywed life. The latter evokes the blues-y folk of Patty Griffin’s two most recent records — as does the modern-day prodigal son tale Train to Jackson. The acoustic blues of Wild Waste and Welter, meanwhile, would not be out of place on Pieta Brown’s 2005 CD In the Cool. City Flower is a stripped-down, folk-pop ditty in the vein of John Mellencamp, while Tall Grass in Old Virginny and Mesa, Arizona find Foucault pondering the downside of living like a touring musician. The closing Appeline is the only straightforward love song on the album, and it sets its lyrics, which are reminiscent of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings’ work, against Eric Heywood’s sublime pedal steel, Ramsey’s tremolo guitar, and Delmhorst’s breathtaking backing vocals.
While Ghost Repeater contains some superb musical and lyrical moments, its multiplicity of styles creates a collection that is uneven and somehow disconcerting in its heterogeneity. At the same time, the album is too slow at points, too soft at others. Consequently, the middle songs become strikingly monotonous, especially in comparison to the effort’s opening and closing tracks. To be certain, there is depth and allure to Ghost Repeater; however, the outing still fails to measure up to Foucault’s work on Stripping Cane. ½
Ghost Repeater is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box