Scott Kelly and The Road Home –
The Forgiven Ghost In Me
Scott Kelly’s solo material has always resonated with a soul crushing barrenness in its delivery, such is the result of one man tortured and hardened by personal and musical tragedies and when left alone and equipped only with his acoustic guitar. The Neurosis man has always been the inimitable craftsmen in everything he does. Each Neurosis record is a timeless musical journey in itself, and ask anyone that has experienced the band live and they’ll regale tales of stunning and numbing intensity that no other band could hope to accomplish. Unsurprisingly when Scott Kelly released his first solo album “Spirit Bound Flesh” in 2001, that intensity, albeit of a different breed, was there in spades. Furthermore, his solo live shows are emotively sombre affairs as one man sits alone on stage, just him and his guitar while his coarse croon reverberates around the room. This dichotomy between solo and band experiences are certainly what makes Kelly a man, artist and musician unrivalled.
Constantly yearning for musical evolution, it comes as no surprise that Scott Kelly has evolved once more for his third solo album, in a time where he’s enjoying some unusual prolific output having already released “The Songs of Townes Van Zandt” earlier this year with his fellow Neurosis craftsman Steve Von Til and Saint Vitus doom legend Wino. Paying tribute to Townes Van Zandt and his colossally influential country music that has been a cornerstone of country and folk music for decades, the three men respectively tackled classic songs with nothing but diligence and respect, Kelly’s cover of “Tecumseh Valley” being one rather imposing standout.
Full after the jump!
Fast forward a couple of months and we arrive to “The Forgiven Ghost In Me”. What immediately stands out from Kelly’s prior material is the banner under which it has been released – Scott Kelly and The Road Home. It is indicative of the new path he is treading. Allowing a collective of other musicians into your deeply personal space is a perilous move at times and one that runs the risk of compromising the intended vision. Kelly is still very much in control though but his desolate sounding folk music has flirted with a wide array of nuances that make for, simply put, a breath-taking listening experience.
Kelly’s gravelled voice immediately greets you when this trek begins with the seemingly jovial line of “I love you like a flower loves the sun” entering on “A Spirit Redeemed to Sun”, but followed by dark dancing chords; the air descends to more solemn realms. The title track following makes the transition complete, with the conversely dark lyric “leave my body to the sea”. Soaked in melancholy, the song’s stunningly powerfully chorus couldn’t be more palpable, with its hair raising beauty and solemnity.
Photo: William Lacalmontie
As the album progress, the members and collaborators of The Road Home slowly begin to unfurl. The seven minute “Within It Blood” acts as something of a turning point for the album. Deathly slow acoustic passages eventually give way to very subtle flourishes of electric guitars that gloss over the track, giving it a creepy, spectral vibe unlike the three songs that preceded it.
Fellow Neurosis members Noah Landis, Jason Roeder and Josh Graham (also of A Storm of Light) have furnished us with their crafts on this brutally harrowing record too. Landis’ keyboards hauntingly wash over the forlorn surroundings, his influence is subtle in every sense of the word and subtlety is a constant theme of this album. On “The Field That Surrounds Me” we hear the first beat of drums on a Scott Kelly solo album as Roeder taps slowly along to deep strums of Graham’s guitar and the reverberating patterns, while gentle and tranquil, are emotionally heavy and punishing.
The influence of Townes Van Zandt, of course, has infiltrated this record again as many of Kelly’s acoustic dirges lay as elegy to the fallen icon, not just in his covers, but his own material, which make his inspiration all the more powerful. Powerful is exactly what “The Forgiven Ghost In Me” is, and it’s an album that takes you to new places every single time, and often leaving you not wanting to return.