There are two ways a band can be considered “good.” They can either be great at what they do (read: a particular genre, like chamber folk or psychedelic rock) or they can be a band that wholly reinvents the way music should sound like. While the former is often not as interesting to hear, one of the exceptions to this maxim is Blue Moon Marquee, formerly AW Cardinal.
Cardinal first came to the blog’s attention with the excellent Stainless Steel Heart, which fully revived a genre that has influenced a slew of modern music—the old timey blues, the type you’d hear in the Mississippi Delta. While the name of the act has changed, the music definitely hasn’t, and that’s a good thing.
The band itself never goes too heavy on the instrumentals on Lonesome Ghosts—it’s usually a pleasant mix of brushed drums, double bass and keys, with the odd bit of strings. It creates what the band calls “Gypsy blues,” which combines blues song structures with a touch of alt-country. The blues is very apparent, as the song arrangements often use the twelve-bar blues structure popularized during the 20s and 30s. At times, the material seems to be winking back to that era, especially in the stellar “Trouble’s Calling,” with references to the devil who seems to be riding a “dead black horse.”
Otherwise, the songs touch on standard blues subjects—alcohol (“Scotch Whiskey”), women (“Gypsy’s Life” and “Sugar Dime”) and the workman’s life (“Pipeliner Blues,” a cover of a Moon Mullican song). Cardinal’s raspy vocals anchor the songs to the listener’s attention.
Just like Stainless Steel Heart, the song lengths are kept in check and breeze by in a flurry of bass and keys, but there’s at least a few songs where the songs take on a slightly different tone. “Bishop Street” is another highlight, which gives off a kind of happiness that is, well, the opposite of the blues. The title track, which also closes the album, is forward-looking optimistic despite the spooky subject.
The band’s self-described “Small town Alberta” home base should be glad to have this band, which glances backward for inspiration but remains thoroughly, thoroughly forward.
Top Tracks: “Trouble’s Calling”; “Bishop Street”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)