ALBUM REVIEW: Cecile McLoren-Salvant – Ghost Song
Written by Dylan Davies on March 17, 2023
Cecile McLorin-Salvant’s Ghost Song is a folk-jazz album that samples as many different genres as it does moods and methods of songwriting and storytelling.
The album’s opening track, a haunting, eerie cover of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights, is what introduced me to the album and McLorin-Salvant. This cover largely does away with the original’s theatrics, and seems more attune to the original story’s ghostly nature. Opening with a fragile wail and creepy wind noises, the song is almost unrecognizable for the first half. That is, until the bass literally drops and things really kick in. This is such a cool way of remaking a song that is already incredibly cool and iconic. I loved the rest of the album but Wuthering Heights remains my favorite track of the album and one of my favorite songs of 2022.
McLorin-Salvant sprinkles cover songs throughout Ghost Song. She takes from traditional and contemporary sources but completely transforms the original every time. She also has a number of interesting new songs that make up the whole of the album. The titular Ghost Song feels like it should be a cover of a traditional piece, with its repetitive refrain and slow pace bringing to mind a folk ballad. The transitions straight into Obligation, sounding more like a highly complex beat poem put to tense jazz music.
Throughout the album, McLorin-Salvant attempts a number of different sub genres and styles within jazz. You never know whether the next song will be funky, melancholy – simple or complex. Some songs sound like 1920s musical numbers while others could come from a smoky jazz bar. Some feature eerie electronic noises, such as Wuthering Heights and I Lost My Mind, others feature a full band of guitars and drums, like Thunderclouds and Ghost Song, while in some songs, such as The World is Mean and Until, McLorin-Salvant even opts for orchestras of pipes and flutes. There are also songs such as Trail Mix and Dead Poplar which just feature McLorin-Salvants voice and piano, or Unquiet Grave, another haunting ballad featuring only her voice.
All in all, Ghost Song by Cecile McLorin-Salvant is an interesting, stimulating album that traverses a wide range of jazzy genres while never losing its cohesion or seamlessness.
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